Michigan Fishing Seasons
Fishing seasons for Steelhead, Salmon, Trout & Smallmouth Bass in Michigan.
December (Winter Steelhead)
Early in the month can be very good fishing, especially in bigger, tailwater rivers, which take longer to cool down than smaller, spring fed streams. Trout are still active 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 truly beautiful and peaceful days on the water.
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 bitt heat making it to the river bottom can turn the “bite” on. Winter steelheading resident trout fishing can still be good in early January, but as water temperatures drop, fishing can quickly slow down.
One of our “transition” months for both rivers and fish. The beginning can be very cold, but by the end of the month water temps begin to rise, 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.
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 (Spring Steelhead Peak Season)
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 (Streamers and the first hatch ?)
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 Caddis and lackb stone flies being the bugs of choice. 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 !
June (Hex Hatch Pere Marquette River)
Our best month for dry fly fishing hands down. Hatches are at a peak, water temps 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, ‘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.
July (Summer Run Steelhead)
Trout fishing still in its prime. 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 (Hoppers and Ants)
Hopper & terrestrial fishing still very good when water temperatures stay on the cool side. Warm nights followed by windy days blow a lot of insects into the river and can set up a nice, relaxed day of trout fishing. 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. King salmon numbers increase in certain river such as the Pere Marquette river and Manistee river, providing an opportunity for early big game fishing.
Smallmouth Bass fishing at its best come the “dog days of summer” and if anglers can deal with the heat, it can be good action throughout the day.
King 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 (Fall Steelhead)
King 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.
Steelhead are the quarry of choice. With ample supply of high protein salmon eggs and other insects flowing down the river, 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.