Great Lakes Salmon Fishing

Did you know that Michigan is home to over 150 different species of fish? Bass, walleye, pike, perch, and more can be found in the state’s waters year-round. However, for many anglers, salmon is the ultimate catch. Luckily, you can find salmon in the tributaries of the Great Lakes throughout the year.

Four Types of Salmon in Michigan

Chinook Salmon

Chinook salmon, also known as kings, are the largest of the Pacific salmon and have been thriving in the Great Lakes for over 50 years. These fish prefer cooler temperatures and are typically found in deeper waters. You can start targeting Chinook in late summer when they begin their upstream migration. By mid-August, you can usually find them in catchable numbers. With some Chinook weighing over 20 pounds, they truly live up to their name. Popular spots to catch them in the fall include Lake Michigan piers, streams along the Lake Michigan coast, and inland streams like the Manistee (Tippy Dam), Pere Marquette, and St. Joseph rivers.

Coho Salmon

Coho salmon played a significant role in establishing the Great Lakes salmon fishery. They can be caught in Lake Michigan all year round, but the best fishing opportunities on the east side of the lake occur in early spring, late summer, and early fall. If you’re looking to catch Coho, try fishing in late October at the Manistee River or the Platte River in northern Michigan. Migrating fish can also be caught in the St. Joseph River as late as Christmas. In the Upper Peninsula, check out the Anna River for Coho fishing.

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Pink Salmon

Pink salmon, the smallest of the Pacific salmon, made their way into Lake Huron in the 1950s. The best places to catch them are in the Lake Huron tributaries, the Carp River in the southeastern Upper Peninsula, and the St. Marys River. It’s interesting to note that pink salmon typically spawn every two years, but enough one and three-year-old salmon spawn to make annual spawning runs. The largest runs occur during odd-numbered years.

Atlantic Salmon

Originally from the North Atlantic Ocean, Atlantic salmon are known for their jumping and fighting abilities. Torch Lake is a popular fishery for Atlantic salmon, where fly fishers have success fishing at the mouths of tributaries as the fish prepare for spawning. However, the primary location for Atlantic salmon fishing is the St. Marys River. You can also find them in Lake Huron and even the St. Clair River. The salmon begin spawning in mid-summer, and fall fishing from October to December can be quite fruitful.

Tips for Catching Salmon in Michigan

  • Chinook Salmon: Many anglers prefer fishing for Chinook during low-light periods, such as in the morning or evening. Some even have success targeting them after dark using glow-in-the-dark spoons. Artificial bait is the go-to choice for appealing to this species, but salmon eggs are also popular.
  • Coho Salmon: Spinners, spoons, and plugs are commonly used when fishing for Coho salmon.
  • Pink Salmon: Anglers have good luck trolling with downriggers or jigging with spoons in the deeper waters of the St. Marys River before the fish make their way into the rapids.
  • Atlantic Salmon: When targeting Atlantic salmon, anglers often troll using downriggers. Some also drift in the current below the rapids, casting with streamers or soft-plastic jerk baits.
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For more information on fishing regulations, records, and reports, check out the fishing section on the Hook’d Up Bar and Grill website. Get ready to reel in some impressive salmon in the Great Lakes!