Michigan Fishing Seasons

Winter

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Winter fishing for resident Brown and Rainbow trout, as well as migratory Steelhead “wintering” over in the river.

December

The month of December can be very good fishing for both resident Brown and Rainbow trout, as well as steelhead, especially in bigger, tailwater rivers, which take longer to cool down than smaller, spring fed streams. Trout are still active when water temperatures stay above the magical 40 degree mark and it’s common to find fresh steelhead in some river systems. Weather patterns often dictate how well fishing activity will be later in the month, as winter truly sets in at this time. Lack of fishing pressure can make for some beautiful and peaceful days on the water.

January
Typically we’re on the front end of the colder temperatures of the year as we hit mid-winter in Michigan. With low water temps, fish tend to be somewhat lethargic, although sunny days can warm the water a bit as radiant heat making it to the dark river bottom can  warm up insects, get them moving a little and turn the “bite” on. Winter steelheading and resident trout fishing can still be good in early January, but as water temperatures drop, fish activity can slow down.

February
One of our “transition” months for both rivers and fish.    The beginning can be very cold, but by the end of the month water temperatures can begin to rise and when it does, trout activity picks up and steelhead fresh from lake Michigan enter their respective rivers in preparation of their annual spawn.   Trout fishing can be quite good in February, as fish will congregate in runs and “lies” that are attractive holding water for this time of year .  Nymphing for them with lighter rods, lighter tippet and small flies can produce both good fish and good numbers of fish for the dead of winter.  Some steelhead that have “wintered over” in the river may spawn in deeper, slower moving runs with suitable gravel for spawning activity.

March

Chilly mornings can lead to rather pleasant afternoons as we get our first glimpse of spring. Winter holdover steelhead are spawning and new spring fish are coming into larger west Michigan river systems from lake Michigan. Conditions on smaller rivers such as the White river, Rogue river & Pere Marquette river can change quickly at this time of year as water levels can rise quickly and spur fish migration.

Spring

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Spring brings migratory Steelhead out of lake Michigan on their annual spawning run.

April
This is the peak month for our spring steelhead season in west Michigan.  Rivers have the most fish and fishermen at this time of year. Fishing can be very good for both spring steelhead and resident trout.   Trout activity picks up considerably once river temperatures rise above 45 degrees.  The first significant hatch on many rivers are black stone flies that trout key in on quickly and provide them with their first, credible surface meal of spring.

May
Probably our best month overall for streamer fishing.  Steelhead are nearing the end of their spring run and spawn, however we typically have a very good fish to angler ratio the first couple weeks of the month as river traffic slows considerably.  Early morning steelhead hunting followed by an afternoon of stripping streamers for trout and dropback steelhead is a popular plan for the day in early to mid May.  Insect hatches really pick up with cinnamon Caddis leading the way, along with a few late stone flies mixed in.  Nymphing with lighter rods and lighter line behind steelhead spawning areas can produce great  trout  as well.  Both resident and migratory suckers are amidst their annual spawn and can attract large trout, which post up behind then to feed on tiny sucker eggs.  Sight fishing for these large trout  is not out of the question and can excite the senses like no other !

Summer

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Summer is prime dry fly fishing for resident Rainbow and Brown trout.

June 
Our best month for dry fly fishing hands down. Hatches are at a peak, water temperatures are optimal and in general, river conditions at their best. Dry fly fishing, nymphing or streamer fishing, all tactics apply for June. The BIG bugs arrive as well, from drakes to hex’s in some northern rivers, ‘tis the time for large trout surface snacks !  The Muskegon river has a great Caddis hatch that bring heavy shouldered trout to the surface for their first reliable hatches of the summer.  Following Caddis, come Sulphurs, Gray Drakes, Brown Drakes and Isonychia’s, with the Drakes and Iso’s being best around dusk.  Gray drakes are the bug of choice for dusk – dark dry fly action on the Muskegon river, with opportunities at some of the bigger trout year being caught “on top”.

July 
Trout fishing still quite good up to and through most of July, depending on how quickly water temperatures rise.  Once our primary hatches wrap up, it can be a mixed bag of some “terrestrial” activity, mostly ants, but small hopper patterns work as well.

As water temperatures warm, the Smallmouth bass fishing really picks up, but  we can have a day where we’ll fish to selectively rising trout early in the morning, mostly on Trico’s and BWO’s, but when that tapers off we’re off chasing smally’s !

Some king salmon begin to show in lower stretches of certain rivers such as the little Manistee river and Pere Marquette river in July.   Skamania steelhead are a summer run fish that find their natal rivers mouths at some point in July and early August and can provide some epic battles with these “whale tails”.

The Muskegon river is coming into prime time for Smallmouth Bass during the month of July and beyond.  These scrappy fish are arguably one of the best fighting fresh water fish, pound for pound.   AND willing biters on top of that !  Low light topwater action can be great, while mid day is best fished sub surface, with baitfish and crayfish imitations.

August 
The month of August can start out with the river at its warmest temperatures of the year, so trout fishing tends to take a back seat to more warm water species.  Not only are the Smallmouth very active, but we also see some Walleye and Northern pike show up to make it a mixed bag of fishing in Augst on the Muskegon river.

Spring fed systems such as the Pere Marquette river will stay the coolest during August, while big tailwaters such as the Muskegon river and Manistee river will run a bit warmer and being the size they are, don’t have great terrestrial fishing, but flying ants and green inch worms are somewhat common on the bigger rivers.  Chinook salmon numbers increase in certain river such as the Pere Marquette river and the upper Manistee river, providing an opportunity for early big game fishing.

Fall

Fall is our longest season for Great Lakes big game fish as the migrate up the river. Starting with the Chinook salmon in late August and followed by fall Steelhead up to Christmas.

September 

Chinook and Coho salmon take over as they return to spawn. In most smaller rivers, kings are at their peak of numbers, bigger rivers will go into October for salmon. Trout fishing still good, resident fish begin to pack on the feedbag in preparation for fall, dropping river temps and the onset of winter.

October 
Chinook and Coho salmon have peaked in the smaller rivers. They’re just getting into their prime on big rivers such as the Muskegon and Manistee. Trout fishing can be very good by targeting spawning salmon and fishing behind them with floating line and indicator rigs. Fall steelhead numbers increase throughout the month.

November
Steelhead are the targeted species come this time of fall and with one of the longest “fall/early winter” steelhead seasons in the Midwest, the Muskegon fishes good for steelhead for well over 100 days, spanning from October – December. With ample supply of high protein salmon eggs and other insects  flowing down the river during this time, steelhead are in their fighting prime.  Some late salmon are still around and quite feisty for late arrivals.
Trout fishing can be very good through the month and preferred techniques include floating line/indicator nymphing and swinging streamers.

Call Jeff at (616) 560-3195 with any specific questions about any “season” or fish we pursue during each -or- send Jeff an email by clicking HERE.