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Lake Michigan is as mysterious as it is majestic. Its influence over the lands around it are so significant that every ebb and flow of this titanic lake affects them in so many ways, including the weather. A hot day that would otherwise toast the denizens near the lake can turn into a cloudy, drizzly, and more importantly, cool afternoon.

The lake provides hundreds of recreational venues, both for open water fishing and swimming, so a lot of people wonder how safe the waters are, and how safe the fish are, both for eating and swimming with.


Are there Sharks in Lake Michigan?

There are two stories as to why this is always asked. Before that, let’s confirm some facts.

  • Sharks can only be found in salt water

This means the ocean and everywhere else that has large bodies of saltwater, short of the dead sea. Even if someone is cruel enough to put a live, healthy shark in the lake, the poor thing would not survive for more than a day. There is an exception, however.

  • Their survival has something to do with “Osmoregulation”

Sharks drink through the skin of their cells. They have mechanisms in their body that ensures only water passes and the salt is kept somewhere else to be dumped off. A bit of salt is kept to ensure that they keep the water in their bodies. The balance of water inside them and the salt outside them is called Osmoregulation. If a shark is placed in freshwater, their bodies will take in too much water and not enough salt, overhydration occurs and kills them.

  • The exception are Bull Sharks.

Bull sharks can rapidly adapt to a freshwater environment. Their kidneys can adjust to the salinity of the water, or lack thereof. Some bull sharks can be found thriving in estuaries, where salt and freshwater mix. It’s somewhat possible for a bull shark to swim through the St. Lawrence river and make its way to Lake Michigan. The chances of it, however is so low.

The two stories, (among a few others) behind it was the one where a young gentleman, George Lawson was attacked by a shark while swimming in the lake back in 1955. The bite was definitely ugly but it was non-fatal, and it’s still unconfirmed if it’s indeed a bull shark.

The other is about someone who caught a 3,000 pound shark in Lake Michigan. Supposedly a 3K pound Great White Shark. The shark was apparently responsible for hundreds of people who disappeared in the lake. First of all, 3000 is thrice the normal weight of a Great White, and unlike bull sharks, they can’t survive in the fresh waters. Great Whites hunt by rapidly swimming upward, directly below the prey. So if it does exist, people would definitely not miss a titanic great white shark bursting up the water along with it’s unfortunate, and horribly surprised prey.

The story was axed from the website where it was originally posted, but the cool and scary myth lives on. So, are there bull sharks in Lake Michigan? No, and if there was ever one, it wouldn’t be in fighting form, let alone hunting. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’d be impossible to encounter dangerous sea life in Lake Michigan. Either way, don’t fall for tricky video edits that show (or talk about) dangerous sharks in Lake Michigan – it’s just sensational fear mongering:


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Are there Whales in Lake Michigan?

There’s a chance that you’ve seen tourist websites about whale-watching in Lake Michigan. The majestic and awe-inducing experience of seeing these leviathans swim and breach the lake surface, creating a splash unrivaled by any human cannonball diver.

For one, there were whales in the Lake, except, they are below the sediments, below the ground and exists as petrified bones. There was evidence that during ancient times, the entirety of Chicago was still under the ocean and whales happily called it their home.

Presently, there are no whales in Lake Michigan and if you did see a website, it’s a delightfully well-made fabrication, as confessed by their still-giggling creators. Whales can only be seen in the ocean and the only exception is the freshwater dolphins, which is a bit of a genetic drift away from whales. So you’re not going to spot a whale in Lake Michigan, just like the girls in the following video discovered:


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The reason why whales cannot live in freshwater for long is the same way sharks can’t, due to the way their bodies are adapted to the saltwater. Furthermore, a great majority of their diet, like krill and plankton, are only found in huge bodies of saltwater.


What Fish is in Lake Michigan?

There are hundreds of species of fish in this huge, magnificent lake, but we can tell you the popular ones, ones that you’d like to see, catch, and perhaps, eat.


Are there Salmon in Lake Michigan?

Yes. These delicious fish, prized by both bear and men swim abundantly in these lakes. They come in several species, some of them were introduced into the lake artificially but soon made themselves right at home. In general, salmons are tastier if caught in saltwater. They go through a transformation when they reach freshwater rivers and often lose their unique flavor.

  • Coho Salmon

Mostly found near the Platte River, but can be caught everywhere else in the entire lake. These were one of the species that was artificially introduced during the 1800s. The attempts failed several times, but eventually, they came to inhabit the lake.

  • Pink Salmon

Perhaps the tastiest of all the Salmon. Their fatty pink meat is fragrant and with proper preparation, can be eaten raw sashimi style. They are mostly seen near the rivers surrounding the lake but can be caught in the open waters. Like all salmons, they go through a rapid transformation just before their mating, but male pink salmons tend to have a humped back and hooked jaw.

  • Atlantic Salmon

These fish are fighters. They will jump, they will resist, they will pull, and they can hit you in the face. Not something a novice angler should tackle, but it could be a rich learning experience. It’s argued that the best place to catch them are near the tributaries, where they begin to gather and prepare for mating. They may be tough, but there’s something tougher.

  • Chinook Salmon

They are often called King Salmon and for good reason. They are the largest species of Salmon in the lake. Their weight and energy has caused many bitter angler tears to drop but provides great sport for those with the energy and patience to reel them in. They are rather photosensitive so only expect them in shallow water if the conditions are cloudy.


Are there Trout in Lake Michigan?

There are several species of trout in the great lake. Most trouts like cool, moving water and are often very particular about the water quality. They are finicky predators, but in general, respond well to artificial bait.

  • Brook Trout

Brook trouts are sensitive to water quality, so you’ll find them clustered in specific areas. You’ll usually find them on the rivers, sometimes close to the mouths that enter the lake. They aren’t hard to catch and respond to a great variety of bait. It’s worth noting that the areas where they are found have strict regulations, so look them up.

  • Brown Trout

One of the more prized trouts, this spotty brown fish swims more along the deeper rivers around the great lakes. They are photosensitive, which means they often hide when the sun is up. They are most cooperative under low-light conditions, or at night, especially during insect mating and hatching seasons such as that of the mayfly. They respond well to any bait that makes a troubled splash.

  • Lake Trout

The dethroned kings of the great lakes. Lake trout were once the alpha predators of the lakes until their salmon competition arrived. Like King Salmon, Lake trout are perhaps the largest among the trout denizens of the lake and can put up a fight. They usually dwell in deeper waters, but on places with clearer, cleaner water, they tend to swim in shallower depths.

  • Rainbow Trout

The prized lake fish of Michigan. Known for the iridescent, oily sheen on its scales. There are two “types” of these fish. One is the actual rainbow trout that makes it’s home and breeding grounds in fresh water. The other is called a steelhead, which migrates to the ocean to mature, then come back to fresh waters to mate and reproduce. They are essentially the same, they just have different lifestyles.


Other Noteworthy Fish

  • Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass

If there was a fish that was so well appreciated for the sport it provides, it’s the Bass. Part of the sunfish family, (no, not the gigantic ocean ones) These fish are known for being attracted to a majority of artificial lures and the fight they give when being reeled in.

One of their cousins, the common sunfish, is one of the easiest fishes to catch. Often it’s the first fish any beginner anglers catch.

  • The Lake Sturgeon

What is the largest fish in Lake Michigan? That’s the Lake Sturgeon. This ancient fish grow at 8 feet long on average and weigh a whopping 200 pounds. Instead of scales, they have a tough carapace, almost like armor. Despite their size and intimidating looks, they don’t have teeth and are happy to suck up food from the gravels and stones.


Is it Safe to Eat Fish From Lake Michigan?

You either fish for sport, or for food. All of the fish mentioned here are edible, provided you prepare them well, and you’re not allergic to them. It’s worth mentioning though that at some time a decade ago, fish were contaminated with chemicals such as pesticides, which reside in their fat. It’s much, much less of a risk now, but for safe measure, many people cut the skin and fat.

But in general, yes, Michigan Lake Sport Fish are safe to eat.