Michigan Fishing Seasons
Fishing seasons for Steelhead, Salmon, Trout & Smallmouth Bass in Michigan.
December – Early to mid December fishing is often still quite good, as river temperatures in a large tailwater fishery such as the Muskegon, don’t cool down as fast as smaller, spring fed rivers. Trout are still active and it’s not uncommon to find fresh packs of steelhead come into the river from lake Michigan in December. How long “good” fishing lasts is most often dictated by river temperatures and weather fronts. The colder the water, the more river fish are affected by changes in winter weather patterns. Light river traffic can make for a great day on the river when fish and weather cooperate.
January – Tyipcally on the front end of the “heart of winter”, the month of January can start off fishing good, but slow quickly if we get our first good blast of arctic air. Fish still have to eat, but they will eat less when their metabolism slows down and finds them fast approaching “winter mode”.
February – This can be one of our “transition months” when going from one season into another, involves changes in river levels and temperatures. Many west Michigan rivers that get a spring steelhead run, will start seeing new fish arrive from lake Michigan early to mid month, with the latter part of it being when changes in weather and rivers prompt steelhead migration.
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.
April – This is the peak month for our spring steelhead season in west Michigan. Rivers that get such a run, have the most fish in them at this time of spring….but also heaviest fishing pressure. 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 – This is the month with the most options for the Muskegon river angler, as spring steelhead are still present, optimal streamer fishing conditions can be had and the first good and reliable hatches of the year take place. Steelhead can be fished up to mid month most years, river levels and temperatures dictate how long the run can last. As steelhead wrap up their spawn, both resident Red Horse and migratoy Northern Hog suckers are next to spawn. Resident Brown and Rainbow trout are quick to key in on this supply of easy, high protein food and can be sight fished to at times behind spawning suckers. With any quick change in river levels early to mid month, streamer fishing can be very good and as we get closer to the end of May, our hatches kick into gear with Caddis starting things off, followed by Sulphurs and maybe early Gray Drakes.
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 can apply for June. The BIG bugs arrive as well, from drakes to hex’s, ’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. Although we do have some Hex’s above Croton dam, they’re not present in the river below it to where they are significant to trout.
July – Trout fishing can still be good when river temperatures remain moderate. Once our primary hatches wrap up, hoppers, ants, beetles and other “terrestrial” activity picks up and provides trout with great mid-summer meals. Some king salmon begin to show in lower stretches of certain rivers such as the little Manistee river and Pere Marquette river. Skamania steelhead are a summer run fish that find their natal rivers mouths at some point in July 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 – Muskegon river temperatures climb to their warmest of the summer in August and this makes resident trout lethargic, but turns Smallmouth bass on and we can see some of our best fishing of the summer for them, along with some Northern Pike that make it up river during the “dog days of summer” in August. Several rivers in west Michigan will see legitimate number of Chinook salmon entering the river in preparation for their annual spawning run. These are often fished in the lower reaches of the Pere Marquette river, close to the port town of Ludington.
September – Chinook salmon take center stage some this time of early fall, as most rivers that get migratory salmon runs, will see fish numbers rise as the month progresses, with some rivers seeing peak numbers the latter part of the month. The Muskegon river will have fall run salmon “staging” in deeper pools and runs as they prepare for their eventual spawn in October. Late summer Caddis hatches can bring trout back to the surface for their last round of top water insects to feed on.
October – The fall run salmon numbers will be their greatest on the Muskegon river in the month of October. Resident Rainbow and Brown trout will be posting up down stream from spawning salmon to feast on the loose salmon eggs and come the end of the month, we’ll see the first of our fall steelhead show up on the Muskegon river as well. Weather changes quickly this time of fall, so any given day can find you with either a 60+ degree, sunny day or 40 degree, drizzly, nasty weather, but ’tis what we’re used to in Michigan during the fall season.
November – The best fall steelhead month for the Muskegon river by far, November finds the last of the spawning salmon, good river temperatures and steelhead all “juiced up” on salmon eggs ! Resident trout are also strapping on the feedbag and lake run Brown trout are also available at this time of fall. Peak fall steelhead fishing runs through the end of November and into December.