The 5 Best Fish to Catch in Michigan this Summer

A black streak along the gum line of the Chinook Salmon gives them the alternate name of blackmouth.
© Martin Rudlof Photography/

Written by Crystal

Updated: May 2, 2023

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Are you planning on fishing the Great Lakes this summer? Michigan has some of the most exciting angling opportunities. Various species and habitats make this a must-visit location for every fish enthusiast.

In this fishing guide, we’ll highlight the smartest species to target. We’ll also provide you with a few angling tips you won’t want to miss. Here’s a chart to get you acquainted with the available fish:

Keep reading to discover the 5 best fish to catch in Michigan this summer!

1. Chinook Salmon

A fisherman with a Chinook Salmon caught in Canada. They typically measure about 3 feet long and 30 pounds in weight.

Chinook is one of the 7 species of salmon in the Pacific Ocean.

©Crystal Kirk/

There are 7 species of salmon in the Pacific Ocean. There’s the chinook, coho, dog, sockeye, pink, amago, and masu. Of all the species, chinook has earned the name “king salmon” because of its massive size. It can grow to weigh over 90 pounds! Commercial anglers in Michigan have reported even larger catches.

Named after the Chinookan Tribe, the chinook is an important food fish. It starts life in freshwater creeks and rivers and only takes a year to mature. Chinook usually stays near the bottom when they come to river deltas or nearshore bays.

Fishing Tips

Successful anglers target shelves and humps where the chinook would find prey. This type of salmon likes feeding on candlefish in eel grass flats. If you can work the bait fish into a frenzy, you’ll get some great action. The activity can drive the chinook closer to the surface for a tasty snack. If you start noticing diving birds, it’s a good indication the baitfish are near the surface.

While you’re around these high activity areas, try bouncing jigs off the bottom in 100 feet of water. You can use a similar technique to catch blackmouth bass in Michigan too.

2. Coho Salmon

Largest Salmon - Coho Salmon

Coho salmon will bite any color of lure.

©Keith Publicover/

Chinook salmon is only the beginning. Coho salmon is also one of the best fish to catch in Michigan this summer.

The moment coho enter the river, they have one thing on their mind–procreating. This puts them in a jumpy, tense state. They’re ready to lash out at any perceived threat, no matter its color. A jig, or spinner, is all you’ll need to get these fish mad.

Fishing Tips

Do you have a steelhead rod? How about a few jigs and spinners? Then you’ve already got the gear you’ll need to go coho fishing.

There was a myth that pink was the best color for catching coho, but it’s not true. The reality is that cohos are impulsive and aggressive feeders. They’ll take any color lure you present, so don’t limit yourself. Avid coho-ers suggest using a variety of lure colors.

Keep a close eye on the water, and you’ll soon know where the coho is hanging out. They’re splashy and social. When you find one jumping around the surface, there’s more nearby.

Don’t leave a hotspot once you find one. Coho travel in pods. Cover all of the water before moving on. 

3. Steelhead Trout

Steelhead trout on white background

Steelhead trout respond to small offerings in low water.

©Edvard Ellric/

The best word to describe catching a steelhead? Thrilling. It’s a memory you’ll never forget.

This type of trout is one of the most sought-after catches throughout Michigan. Summer steelhead usually weighs between 5-55 pounds. They enjoy riverine environments that let them easily travel and feed. They’re popular for chasing down flies, baits, and lures.

Fishing Tips

Once you hook one, get ready for a big fight. Trout are athletic and acrobatic. They can leap out of the water numerous times, getting more air with each jump. It’s definitely the type of fish you target when you’re looking for a challenge.

Assess the water conditions to pick the best gear for each opportunity and bring a lot of different lures. Since you’re fishing in the summer, you’ll be able to offer the steelhead a variety of lures.

Using a heavier line and heavier leaders with large offerings works well in high water conditions. If you’re fishing low water, use smaller offerings.

4. Walleye

Walleye fish - catch and release.

Walleye swim around sandbars, mudflats, and rocky points.


Where are all the walleye hiding? In Michigan! Walleye can be found in rocky points, sandbars, humps, reefs, mud flats, and aquatic vegetation. These fish don’t follow a rulebook, but their behavior can sometimes be predictable.

Fishing Tips

If it’s an overcast day, the lowlight conditions will make the walleye more active. You’ll be able to catch them at various depths when it’s not bright out.

As long as you’re looking around areas where walleyes would eat, you’ll be successful. They enjoy feeding on insects, crustaceans, and mayflies.

You can try a few different presentations but focus on mastering one before moving on. For instance, you could try trolling crankbaits. Trolling helps cover the most water, and it works great along rocky shorelines. You can also troll successfully around reefs.

Jigging is another reliable walleye method. Use a minnow or worm on a jib to catch walleye that are deep in the water.

5. Summer Panfish

With vivid colors, the bluegill is all but common throughout the USA. Its a great sporting fish, with healthy populations found in lakes, ponds and rivers.

Bluegill is a type of summer panfish.

©Stacey Ann Alberts/

Last on our list of the best fish to catch in Michigan this summer is the summer panfish. The slow-growing panfish are abundant.

Summer panfish include a variety of species swimming throughout Michigan during the summer. There’s bluegill, sunfish, white bass, crappie, and pumpkinseeds.

Panfish are one of the most highly sought-after freshwater species by United States anglers. You could dedicate your entire fishing trip to panfish and never get bored. There are a lot of them available, and they’re willing to bite. Finally, panfish also make great table fare. It’s always fun when your hard work can turn into a meal.

Fishing Tips

To catch more panfish in the hot weather, you’ll need to cover a lot of water. They cluster up when the waters are warm. Move quickly from one spot to the next until you find a school, and go deep. The deep water is cooler, which panfish love. You could easily find giant bluegills hanging out in a vast school in the chill 30 feet deep waters. Finally, use a depth finder.

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About the Author

Crystal is a dedicated writer at A-Z Animals, focusing on topics related to mammals, insects, and travel. With over a decade of experience in the world of research and writing, she also fulfills the role of a skilled video and audio engineer. Residing in sunny Florida, alligators are Crystal's favorite animal.

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