It’s impossible to go anywhere in Michigan where you don’t have a body of water that’s not a great fishing destination. And after all, isn’t that the idea of planning a family fishing getaway?
Although Long Lake near Traverse City is best known for walleye there are plenty of smallmouth in the lake, too.
Most Michigan families think about heading north when they’re planning a family fishing vacation. If you live in the big city, spending some time lounging on the beach, enjoying a picnic, canoeing, sitting around the campfire and getting a little fishing in may be the prefect way to unwind and the ideal remedy for getting away from hustle and bustle of the urban life.
Others, who already live in the northern woods of Michigan, might think just the opposite. Planning a family fishing getaway might mean heading to the big city to shop, go to a museum, take in a sporting event, go to the zoo or sample some exquisite cuisines and sites that you just can’t find in northern Michigan. But regardless of which way you decide to go, there’ll be plenty of great fishing opportunities when you get there. It’s impossible to go anywhere in Michigan where you don’t have a body of water that’s not a great fishing destination. And after all, isn’t that the idea of planning a family fishing getaway?
Following is a selection of family fishing destinations that you’ll want to consider when planning your vacation this year.
LAKES CADILLAC AND MITCHELL
Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell are an ideal location for a family fishing getaway. For one thing, the lakes are connected so you have lots of options. If you get tired of fishing on one all you have to do is go through the channel at Mitchell State Park and you have a whole new lake to fish. The lakes offer diversity and convenience. You can camp right at the state park and keep your boat in the water. Call (231) 775-7911 for reservations though. The park is popular and gets busy in the summer time.
Though very similar, lakes Mitchell and Cadillac are also very different. Lake Mitchell, at 2,580 acres, is bigger, but shallower than Lake Cadillac. The deepest spot on 1,150-acre Lake Cadillac is close to 30 feet on the lake’s east end. You won’t find many spots over 20 feet on Lake Mitchell and most of it averages 10 to 15 feet. Both lakes have plenty of weeds and finding holes in the weeds or edges is key to finding fish.
Finding hard bottom areas that attract spawning panfish is key early in the season until mid June. Bluegills and sunfish that have completed spawning chores will still be hanging around the bedding areas. Look for gravel areas in the northeast corner of the lake and along the south shore. Bobbers suspending an ice fishing teardrop baited with a wax worm will entice the hungry panfish. Usually you can get enough for a good fish fry. Later in the summer try along the deep weed edges off Big and Little Coves. The biggest bluegills then come on leeches. Crappies up to a foot long prefer tiny shiner minnows. Larger minnows are likely to interest some of the jumbo perch in the lake or walleyes. Casting stick baits or top-water lures early and late in the day can be great fun for both largemouths and smallmouths.
Lake Cadillac has more structure than Lake Mitchell. Because of this, it’s a better lake for walleye and smallmouths and families looking for bigger game. Try the drop-offs on the east end of the lake with crankbaits or live bait rigs. Openings in the weeds in the south-central portion of the lake is a good place to anchor, throw out some bobbers and fill a fish basket with panfish.
If you tire of fishing there’s plenty to do in Cadillac. You can canoe down the Pine or Manistee rivers, play one of the areas outstanding golf courses, visit the Carl T. Johnson Hunting & Fishing Museum, play putt putt golf or cool off in a water park. For information on other fun things to see and do in Cadillac contact the Cadillac Convention & Visitors Bureau at www. cadillacmichigan.com.
Personally, I can only think of two reasons to travel to Monroe, Michigan. One
is the fabulous walleye fishing available on Lake Erie’s Western Basin. The other is the 220,000-square-foot Cabela’s store in nearby Dundee. Those alone are enough to make me want to spend a family fishing vacation near Monroe. Actually, there’s lot more to do in and around Monroe than most people think, if you can tear yourself away from the walleyes.
Lake Erie walleye numbers are flourishing and families should have no problem catching lots of walleyes if they visit.
The Western Basin of Lake Erie makes up about one-third of the lake and offers exceptional fishing, especially during the spring and early summer. Many walleyes actually spawn on the shallow reef areas of the Western Basin and hang around the area until warming water temperatures drive them east. Others fan out into the shallows after spawning in the Detroit, Raisin, Sandusky, and Maumee rivers. The post-spawn walleyes are ravenous after completing spawning and can be caught using a variety of techniques.
For angling families trailering their own rigs there are excellent launch facilities at Lake Erie Metropark, Pointe Mouillee State Game Area, and Sterling State Park on Brest Bay and at Hieldenburg Park on the River Raisin in Monroe. There are camping facilities nearby. For more information on bait shops, lodging, camping and other amenities contact the Monroe County Convention & Tourism Bureau at (734) 457-1030 or contact them on the Web at www.monroeinfo.com.
For angling families looking to book a charter contact the Western Basin Sport-fishing Association on the Internet at www. wbsa.us. The Monroe CVB also has a list of member captains. The cost of a family walleye charter is quite reasonable. Limits are the norm. The limit is five fish per angler; minimum size limit in Michigan is 15 inches. The ‘eyes generally run from 1 ½ to 3 pounds, but bigger fish are common. And they are great eatin.’
May and June finds excellent numbers of walleyes within easy reach of Michigan ports on Lake Erie. The fish mull around in Brest Bay in the 12- to 18-foot depths feeding and recuperating after spawning. Anglers can catch walleyes jigging, drifting, or casting, but trolling is probably the most productive way of boxing a bunch of walleyes.
Lake Erie has become much clearer in recent years due to zebra mussels and better pollution controls. As a result, trolling produces better than the time-proven method of drifting. Anglers use flat lines, in-line planers. jet divers and weighted lines pulling Wiggle Warts, Hot-N-Tots and a host of other cranks to target suspended ‘eyes, but more and more anglers are discovering the hot spoon bite. Popular brands include Silver Streaks, Warrior Spoons and Yeck Lures in some outrageous colors. Look for clusters of boats on schools of fish and then skirt the outside edge of the pack. Wise anglers purchase Ohio licenses as well as Michigan fishing licenses. Ohio licenses are available at most Michigan license dealers in the area and on-line.
After you’ve caught your limit of walleye there’s no shortage of things to do and see in and around Monroe. There’s the annual Raisin River Jazz Festival, the Raisin River Independence Festival, the Mayfly Music Festival, Meyer Theater and Center For The Arts, art fairs, and yes Mom, plenty of shopping. Monroe is only a short drive from Toledo, Ohio and the Toledo Zoo & Aquarium where you can take in the African Safari Wildlife Park, Cedar Point Amusement Park, Toledo Museum Of Art, Street Market, Aerial Course Adventure, National Museum of the Great Lakes, or challenge yourself at the High Wire Cycle at Imagination Station. When in Toledo you go to try Tony Packo Café’s famous chili-dogs. You can reach the Toledo Ohio CVB on the Internet at www.visittoeldo.org.
Talk about the big city. It doesn’t get much bigger than downtown Detroit. For those of us that live in the Great White North a trip to Detroit and its skyscrapers is like view-ing awe-inspiring mountains. Well almost. It’s a treat to go to Detroit to visit the Automotive Hall of Fame, walk in Belle Isle Park, take in the Cranbrook Art Museum, see a Detroit Tigers baseball game (once in while they actually win!) There’s Green-field Village, the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame, Motown Historical Museum, Eastern Market, Greektown, the Detroit Institute of Arts, casinos, the Detroit Zoo and eateries galore. For more information on Metro Detroit contact the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau at www.visitdetroit.com.
Detroit residents are lucky to have some great angling right at their back door. Lake St. Clair has fantastic fishing for a variety of species including muskies, yellow perch, smallmouth bass, walleyes and others. The area north and west of Detroit is pockmarked with hundreds of lakes that see only modest fishing pressure. Many are in bedroom communities and the lake property owners themselves rarely fish them. They are home to a variety of species from bass to panfish to pike.
Weeds in Indian Lake are most predominate in the northwest and western portions of the lake and that’s where you’re most likely to find some of the lake’s jumbo crappies and perch.
Catching fish on Lake St. Clair is not difficult. Get yourself a bucket of native spot-tailed shiners; some hooks and enough split shot to get them to bottom and drift. You don’t know what you’re going to catch. It could be jumbo perch, smallies, walleye, rock bass, white bass, sheepheads, and a host of other species. Something is bound to put a bend in your rod and a smile on your young angler’s face. Concentrate on the 10- to 12-foot depths along the weed lines between Huron Point and 9-Mile Road. To contact Lake St. Clair Metropark call (586) 463-4581 or contact them on the Web at www.metroparks.com. There is a good launch there plus bathroom and picnic facilities.
Anglers can also launch at the mouth of the Clinton River just to the north. For information on boat rental, guides, live bait and tackle contact Lakeside Fishing Shop at (586) 777-7003 or at www.lakesidefishingshop.com.
Traverse City is a vacation destination Mecca for many visitors. People from all over Michigan and other states head to Traverse City during the summer to take in the area’s natural beauty, partake in the culture and activities and wet a line if they get the chance.
The National Cherry Festival in July draws plenty of visitors to Traverse City. The festival features popular entertainers, parades, fireworks, exhibits, cherry creations, and more. Traverse City offers plenty of shopping and fine dining. Your can tour the local wineries. Natural beauty is another plus of heading to Grand Traverse County. You can scale the Sleeping Bear Dunes and stroll the National Lakeshore. Drift lazily down the Boardman River on a sultry summer afternoon. There are Lake Michigan beaches and miles of hiking trails. The quaint fishing village of Leland and Fishtown is a great place to sample some of the best smoked fish on earth. For more information in activities and accommodations in the Traverse City area contact the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau at online at www.traversecity.com.
Long Lake would be a great place as a base of operations if you want to take in the sites of Traverse City and get some fishing in. 2,860-acre Long Lake has received heavy plants of walleyes for years and it’s starting to pay big dividends. Long Lake has lots of ideal habitat for walleyes. A good starting point is near the islands in the middle of the lake. One prime location is right off the boat launch on the north end of the lake. Using a slip bobber to suspend a minnow, leech or minnow is a prov-en tactic. Your offering is likely to interest the lake’s jumbo perch, smallmouths and giant bluegills, too. Concentrate on the 15- to 30-foot depths. Long Lake is extremely clear so the best fishing takes place early and late in the day or after dark.
Big bluegills are a bonus on the UP’s Indian Lake.
Indian Lake State Park and Palms Book State Park are popular destinations for vacationing fishing families because they’re located on Indian Lake and both are within easy driving distance of some of the U.P.’s premier attractions. The state parks are a stone’s throw from Kitch-iti-Kipi Spring, Tahquamenon Falls, the Soo Locks, and the historic town of Fayette, the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Mackinaw Island, the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, miles of pristine northern Lake Michigan beaches and more.
To get a U.P. Travel Planner contact the Upper Peninsula Travel and Recreation Association at (800) 562-7134 or online at www.uptravel.com.
For being such a big lake (8,659 acres) Schoolcraft County’s Indian Lake is shallow. The deepest spot is 15 feet and most of the lake averages 10 feet. But Indian Lake has lots of structure and in-flowing and out-flowing creeks and rivers to keep the water circulating. Rocks and boulders are prime structure in the lake. It’s no wonder that smallmouth, walleyes and perch thrive in the lake. A big rock pile that comes to with-in five feet of the surface in the middle of the lake is a good starting point. Cast a jig adorned with a twister tail among the rocks and hop it back to the boat. The combination is good for anything from five-pound smallies to jumbo perch. Walleyes, bass and perch also frequent the rock piles found along the west shore and southwest corner of the lake. Weeds in Indian Lake are most predominate in the northwest and western portions of the lake and that’s where you’re most likely to find some of the lake’s jumbo crappies and perch.
If it’s a trip to the big city or to the north woods the one thing you’ll find all across the Wolverine State is great fishing.