Ottawa National Forest


With over 500 named lakes and nearly 2,000 miles of rivers and streams, the Ottawa National Forest simply awaits your first cast. Stream fishing is excellent throughout the forest, while lake fishing is concentrated on Lake Superior and in the southern half of the forest. You can deep sea fish on Lake Superior for lake trout and salmon. You can cast dry flies for speckled trout in clearwater streams or cast for walleye, large and smallmouth bass, northern pike, and muskellunge on any of the numerous lakes in the Ottawa National Forest. State of Michigan fishing licenses are required to fish anywhere in Michigan.

The Michigan Fishing Guide, published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, is available wherever fishing licenses are sold. The guide lists fishing license fees, seasons, minimum size, and creel limits for all species throughout Michigan. Additional copies may be obtained from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, P.O. Box 30028, Lansing, MI 48909. Follow state law requirements regarding personal flotation devices. Boating regulations are available from the Law Enforcement division of the MDNR at the same address.

When to Fish
In the Upper Peninsula, the Michigan trout season runs from the last Saturday in April to September 30. Later seasons are set for bass, walleye, northern pike, and muskellunge. (See the MDNR Fishing Guide for exact dates.)

Generally, spring (May-June) is the best time for lake fishing on the Ottawa; summer (July-August) is somewhat slower; and fall (September-October) is somewhere in between. However, by knowing the temperature requirements of the species you seek, you can locate the depths where the fish are in midsummer.

Stream fishing for lake-run salmon and steelhead usually picks up around April 1 in streams with an extended trout-salmon season, such as the East Branch of the Ontonagon River North of M-28, or those with no closed season, such as the Black River. The best fishing on these anadromous streams starts around mid-September and lasts until the snow flies.

Stream fishing for resident trout is generally best near the end of the legal season, especially for brook trout which start upstream migration at this time.

How to Fish
Walleye and crappie tend to bite under low light conditions (early morning, late evening, or on overcast days). Fish for bass, crappie, pike, and panfish near logs, brush, or weedy areas. In bright sunlight, and after storms or cold snaps, most fish tend to go deeper and are harder to get to bite. Use live bait, and fish deeper and slower under these conditions. "Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them," available from State of Michigan, Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division, Box 30028, Lansing, MI 48909, is an excellent guide.

Baits You Might Want to Try:
Walleye - live leeches fished on slip-sinker jigs; crawlers on crawler "harnesses" work well, too.
Smallmouth Bass - twisted tail jigs bounced over rocky drop-offs.
Largemouth Bass - surface plugs, or poppers on warm, calm, summer days.
Northern Pike - bronze and red-white spoons.
Muskellunge - surface plugs.
Yellow Perch & Bluegill - tiny feathered jigs with red worm.
Lake Trout - lightweight spoons (trolled).
Brook Trout - try spinners, or flies for the skilled flycaster.
Steelhead & Salmon - yarn fly or spawn bags, usually drifted using one or two split-shot.

Live bait, although messy, hard to care for, and difficult to fish, generally works best. "Tough-to-catch" species such as walleye, crappie and smallmouth bass are those that most often require live bait. However, even these species will fall for the right combination of bait and presentation.

Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication



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