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With the name derived from the Ojibwe word that means “great water”, Lake Michigan lives up to that moniker. It’s one of the five Great Lakes of North America and the only one of them that is entirely within the United States. Lake Michigan is bordered by Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.

Lake Michigan has a water volume of 1,180 cubic miles and surface area of 22,404 square miles. It also has an impressive depth and a seafloor worth exploring.  With this much water, the aquatic life in Lake Michigan is flourishing. Countless of species of fish thrive in Lake Michigan, some of them being rare finds. This makes Lake Michigan an exciting destination for anglers. This is especially true considering just how many species call Lake Michigan home.


What Kind of Fish can you Catch in Lake Michigan?

Fishing is a relaxing and rewarding hobby. Many enjoy catching game with their friends and families. It’s a great way to bond with the open waters and the people you love.

So, what species of fish are in Lake Michigan? Here are some of the popular aquatic life that you can catch.


Atlantic Salmon

Atlantic salmon are known for their leaping and fighting ability. This makes them an exciting fish to catch. The Atlantic salmon were named from their home range in the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

They are among the largest salmon species in the world. At the adult age, Atlantic salmon average at 71 to 76 centimeters in length and 3.6 to 5.4 kilogram in weight. The heaviest Atlantic salmon recorded was netted in 1960 in Scotland. It weighed 49.44 kilograms. The longest fish that was caught was in 1925 in Norway, measuring at 160.65 centimeters in length.

Atlantic salmon provide a challenge to fishermen. They are known to jump, make a fast escape when hooked, and even walk on the surface of water by its tail. To catch them, bait, hoochies and coyote spoons that are three to four inches in size are popular choices. According to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Atlantic salmon stay close to the shore. Therefore, fishing in the shallow waters along the shoreline may be ideal. You may also see them jumping or finning on the surface of the water.



Lake Michigan thrives with both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Bass can be found in both freshwater and saltwater. The largemouth bass flourishes more on shallow bodies of water while smallmouth bass prefers rivers and rocky habitats. Both can still be found in the lake.

Both largemouth and smallmouth bass are popular game fish among angler. The largemouth bass is the largest species of black bass. The largest recorded largemouth bass reached the length of 75 centimeters and an estimated weight of 11.4 kilograms. For smallmouth bass, the largest recorded is approximately 27 inches and 12 pounds heavy.

The largemouth bass is known to put up a fight when hooked. This fish may jump in their effort for freedom. However, it’s believed that the smallmouth bass can beat them. Many anglers catch largemouth bass with lures, spinnerbaits, crankbaits, and jigs. When it’s cloudy with little to no sun, bass comes out of their shelters. This would make the best time to fish for them. When it’s sunny, they’re likely to hide in their shelter. In spring, when the water temperature is between 55 to 65 degrees, it’s the time for pre-spawn. Largemouth bass can get close to the shore at around this time, making it easier to catch them.

For smallmouth bass, spinnerbaits and buzz baits are a popular choice for anglers. Big smallmouth bass will position themselves in areas where they can easily find food. They may stay where the current will push their food. Bigger lures can also catch bigger smallmouth bass.


Brook Trout

The brook trout is Michigan’s state fish. Legislators chose the trout as the state’s fish in 1965, but this was only specified as the brook trout in 1988. Fly fishermen call the brook trout as the gentlemen trout for being more active during the day. At average, the brook trout can grow between 25 to 65 centimeters and 0.3 to 3 kilograms. The largest brook trout recorded is 86 centimeters and 6.6 kilograms.

The brook trout was popular to anglers during the colonial times. Their population decreased in the 19th century around the urban areas. Today, anglers release brook trout after catching to preserve its population.

Brook trout are known biters. This means they are easily caught by live bait like worms and bugs. Small spinners are also good choices to catch brook trouts. Brook trouts feed most during the early mornings or dusk, making these times the best time to fish for them.


Brown Trout

The brown trout is native in Europe and Asia. Their species was first imported to Michigan in 1883. The brown trout grow up to 20 kilograms and 100 centimeters at average. In 2013, the largest brown trout was caught. It weighed 42 pounds and 1 ounce.

The brown trout is a popular game for anglers in Michigan. Brown trouts also have good eyesight, therefore the lightest line is advisable. They are known to put more of a fight during sunny weather. So if it’s a challenge that you’re looking for, it’s best to fish for them when the sun is up.

Spinners and spoons are popular baits for brown trout. Using bait with similar colors as the brown trout will also work, given that bigger trouts eat the small ones. Often, brown trouts will eat any kind of live bait as well. The colors orange and yellow make for the best bait as well.


Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon are known as kings for being strong and difficult to catch. They were introduced into the Michigan waters in the 1870s. Since then, they dominated over the salmon species within the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan.

Chinooks are often caught in deeper water. The adult chinook salmon can grow between 24 to 36 inches and 4.5 to 22.7 kilograms. The largest chinook salmon that was recorded weighed 57 kilograms.

Most anglers catch chinook salmons not for their size, but for their meat. When finishing in Lake Michigan, it’s best to fish for them in late summer or early fall. Chinook salmon are predators, so they will attack the lure. With these type of salmon, it’s important to put the lure low enough for them to spot.


Coho Salmon

Coho salmon are also known as the silver salmon. They were first introduced in Michigan in the 1960s. They flourish in Lake Michigan all year, but the best time to catch them on the east side of the lake during early spring, late summer, and early fall.

Mature coho salmon can grow up to 28 inches and 3.2 to 5 kilograms at average. The largest coho salmon that was caught measured 42.75 inches and weighed 15.4 kilograms.

Most lures are likely to work on coho salmons. For better chances, the color orange is advisable. Minnow baits work as well. The best times to fish for coho salmon are early mornings and late afternoons.



Sunfish are found nearly in every body of water in Michigan. With the lakes rich in sunfish, they’re often the first fish that anglers would catch. Bluegills are the type of sunfish that is more abundant and most often targeted by anglers.

There are plenty of types of sunfish. Most grow up to 7.9 to 11.8 inches in length. The largest sunfish recorded to be caught was in 2014. The fish weighed 5 pounds and 12.8 ounces, measuring at 17 inches long.

For most days, sunfish prefer to be in shallow parts of the water. This is most likely the case during spring and summer. During colder seasons, they may reach into deeper waters. When catching sunfish, the most effective way is by using a bait and a rig. Live baits such as worms and small leeches are good choices. Leeches may be a good idea if you’re aiming for larger sunfishes.


Pink Salmon

This species of salmon was accidentally introduced in Lake Superior and spread throughout the other Great Lakes. This includes Lake Michigan. At average, they weigh 2.2 kilograms. The largest pink salmon that was recorded weighed 6.8 kilogram and 30 inches.

Pink salmon are grown in fish farms for their meat. Spin fishing is one of the most effective ways to catch pink salmon. Pink salmon usually gather in a moderately slow or still water. Using bright pink lures can also increase the chances of catching pink salmon. Their jaws can develop thickly, so keeping the hooks sharp is ideal.



Whitefish are farmed and caught for their meat. Lately, however, they have become popular targets for recreational fishing within the Great Lakes. Whitefish that flourish within freshwater lakes are often called as humpback fish. This is coined because of the fish’s small head in comparison to their long bodies.

On average, they can grow up to 31 inches and weigh only 4 pounds. The largest one that was caught was 15 pounds and 6 ounces.

A hook and worm combination is one of the most popular ways to catch whitefish. With their small heads and small mouths, small baits are ideal for catching whitefish. Whitefish love cold temperatures. In early summer, they can be found in shallow areas. When the temperature rises, they move deeper.


White Bass

The white bass love to roam. This makes them difficult to spot in open waters. But once spotted, they become easy fishes to catch due to their tendency to group together. White bass is known to be biters as well, making them it easy to catch them with baits. However, they can be easily frightened. In such case, white bass may be reluctant to bite.

A mature white bass can grow up to 10 to 12 inches, but they can grow up to 17 inches. The largest white bass was caught in 1989 and in 2010, both weighing at 3.1 kilograms.

One of the best times to fish for white bass is during early mornings or late evenings. At these times, white bass would feed in groups near shallow waters. While they’re feeding, it’s easy to lure them using live bait or tail spinner. But as mentioned, white bass are easily scared. When a school of white bass is spotted, it’s best to toss the line beyond where the fishes are. Then, slowly reel in to enter where the school is.


Yellow Perch

The yellow perch is one of the most frequently caught fishes in Michigan. They’re native to North American freshwaters and are often caught for their meat. The name perch is from early Greek language that means “becoming gold”.

At their adult stages, yellow perch can grow between 3.9 to 11.4 inches. The largest yellow perch recorded was caught in 1865. It was 18 inches large and 4 pounds and 3 ounces heavy.

To catch a yellow perch, live bait is often the most effective way. Yellow perch are active biters, so live baits and even artificial lures can do the trick. But yellow perch are known to steal baits from the hook. It’s best to keep the bait on the tip of the hook to get better chances of catching them.


These are only some of the specie that you’ll find in Lake Michigan. With its abundance of aquatic life, fishing is truly a great activity in Lake Michigan. Along its 1,660 miles of shoreline, there are plenty of great fishing spots in all states that the lake reaches. But before you hit the waters, make sure to check with your state’s fishing regulation to avoid any potential problems.

Whether you’re looking to catch some prize, something to put on the table, or catch for sport and return the fishes back to the water, the Great Lake promises variety and excitement. If you’re heading out, make sure to bring along one of our Michigan Fishing Boat t-shirts to show everyone you mean business.