The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says that Lake Michigan salmon fishing is "on fire" right now, especially in the southern portion of the lake. Jay Wesley, DNR Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator, says the alewife population is better than it has been over the last four years, but the lake-wide population is still low compared to the last 10 to 15 years.

Significant stocking reductions in Chinook, lake trout, coho, and brown trout have helped balance the predators with available prey. There also seems to be some better survival of wild fish. From what I have seen this spring, 80% of these nice robust kings have been wild.  The fishery is also patchy. The hot spot was between Grand Haven and St. Joe with the rest of the lake just picking up Chinook here and there. Now those salmon have moved or spread out from Pentwater to Manistee. The bait (alewife) is really packed into this southern Lake Michigan zone. - Jay Wesley

Courtesy Jay Wesley - Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator
The lake-wide population of salmon is still relatively low compared to 10+ years ago, but the fish are healthy. And this is another sign that the lake is in better shape than it was in 2015. Wesley says despite that, only 5 year classes of alewife are being seen, which is a concern as the lake used to have 8 to 9 year classes.

All in all, I feel good about where we are and am glad that the anglers are enjoying these nice sized kings. They have had to put up with a lot of our stocking cuts and it appears to be paying off.

Courtesy Jay Wesley - Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator

The DNR says kings should continue to migrate north as the water continues to warm and will be anywhere from 50 to 200 feet of water depending on where the bait is. Chinook will move into the middle portion of the lake through Ludington, Manistee and Frankfort in late spring and then will become more scattered in the summer. Come late July and August many of the mature kings will start staging in the northern half of the lake while September tends to be better for mature kings in the southern half. The Upper Peninsula offers some great king fishing too with the right water temperatures -- Manistique is a good destination.

Overall, it should be a really good year with improved salmon and trout fishing as the balance between predators and prey continue to improve. Size of fish should also be bigger so be sure to check out that tackle to make sure that it can handle a 30 plus pound fish.


If you are interested in fishing Michigan's Great Lakes areas, but aren't sure when or where to go, check out the DNR's Great Lakes Fishing Roadmaps which provides anglers with information on many fishing sites and times of the year when great opportunities exist.