The Largest Fish Species in Michigan: Angler’s Guide to the Best Catch

largest fish in michigan

Michigan, known as the Great Lakes State, is home to a diverse aquatic ecosystem teeming with fascinating fish species. Among these remarkable creatures, some stand out for their impressive size and captivating presence. In this article, we delve into the world of the largest fish species found in the waters of Michigan, showcasing their remarkable characteristics and the importance of their conservation.

1. Lake Sturgeon (Acipenser fulvescens)

lake sturgeon
Source: tnaqua.org

The Lake Sturgeon holds the title of the largest fish species native to Michigan. These ancient giants can reach lengths of up to 7 feet and weigh over 200 pounds. Lake Sturgeon have elongated bodies, armored plates called scutes, and a long snout that they use to search for food on the lake bottom. These majestic creatures have played a significant role in the ecological history of Michigan’s Great Lakes, and efforts are underway to restore and conserve their populations.

2. Muskellunge (Esox masquinongy)

Source: britannica.com

Known colloquially as “muskie,” the Muskellunge is an apex predator that inhabits the waters of Michigan. These freshwater game fish can grow up to 6 feet in length and weigh over 60 pounds. Muskellunge are characterized by their elongated bodies, sharp teeth, and distinctive color pattern. Anglers often seek the thrill of catching these powerful and elusive creatures, contributing to their popularity in sport fishing.

3. Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha)

chinook salmon
Source: fisheries.noaa.gov

Michigan’s rivers and Great Lakes are home to Chinook Salmon, also known as King Salmon. While not the largest fish in terms of length, Chinook Salmon are famous for their remarkable weight and strength. These salmon can exceed 40 pounds, with some exceptional individuals reaching 50 pounds or more. These impressive fish species are highly sought after by anglers, attracting fishing enthusiasts from around the world to Michigan’s waters.

4. Channel Catfish (Ictalurus punctatus)

channel catfish
Source: ohiodnr.gov

The Channel Catfish, a native species in Michigan’s waters, deserves mention for its impressive size. These catfish can grow up to 40 inches long and weigh over 40 pounds. Known for their barbels, which resemble a cat’s whiskers, Channel Catfish have a wide distribution across the state’s lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Anglers appreciate the challenge of catching these large catfish, making them a popular target for fishing expeditions.

When it comes to targeting the largest fish species in Michigan, anglers should take cues from Iowa’s biggest fish species, as highlighted in our article.

Top Tier Fishing Spots in Michigan

Knowing what the largest fish species in the state are is not a bad start. However, a true angler must also know exactly where to go in order to catch it. Here are some of the best fishing destinations in the state to try:

1. The Great Lakes

great lake
Source: explore.com

Michigan’s access to the Great Lakes provides unparalleled fishing opportunities. Lake Superior offers excellent trout and salmon fishing, including the chance to catch lake trout, steelhead, and coho salmon. The most famous, Lake Michigan, offers world-class salmon and trout fisheries, attracting anglers in pursuit of chinook salmon, lake trout, brown trout, and steelhead. Lake Huron offers similar fishing opportunities, with a focus on walleye, lake trout, and salmon. Finally, Lake Erie is known for its outstanding walleye and perch fishing, as well as smallmouth bass and steelhead.

2. The Au Sable River

The Au Sable River is widely recognized as one of Michigan’s premier trout streams. It is a designated “Blue Ribbon” trout stream, characterized by its clear, cold water and diverse insect hatches that make it a fly fisherman’s paradise. The river provides an abundance of brown trout, rainbow trout, and brook trout. Anglers can choose between wade fishing or drift boat trips to explore different sections of the river and enjoy the tranquil beauty of the surrounding forests.

3. Lake St. Clair

lake st clair
Source: lakestclairlodge.com.au

Lake St. Clair, located between Lake Erie and Lake Huron, is known for its exceptional bass fishing. It is considered one of the best smallmouth bass fisheries in the country, with anglers targeting trophy-sized bass. Additionally, muskellunge, walleye, northern pike, and yellow perch are abundant in the lake. Anglers can explore the extensive weed beds and rocky structures for productive fishing opportunities.

4. The Pere Marquette River

The Pere Marquette River is a renowned destination for salmon and steelhead fishing. It offers a scenic and peaceful setting, making it a favorite among fly fishing enthusiasts. The river hosts seasonal runs of Chinook salmon, coho salmon, steelhead, and resident brown trout. Anglers can enjoy casting their flies or using traditional spinning gear to target these migratory fish in a picturesque environment.

Most Commonly Fished Species 

The largest fish species are not always the ones anglers catch or even the ones they aim for. If you are wondering what the most commonly caught fishes are, here is the list: 

Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu)

smallmouth bas
Source: bcinvasives.ca

Smallmouth bass are highly sought after by anglers in Michigan. They are famous for their aggressive strikes, fighting ability, and acrobatic jumps. Smallmouth bass lives in various lakes, rivers, and streams throughout the state, with popular destinations including Lake St. Clair, Lake Michigan, and the Au Sable River.

Walleye (Sander vitreus)

Walleye are prized for their delicious white flesh and are among the most popular game fish in Michigan. Anglers target walleye in lakes, rivers, and reservoirs, with notable fishing spots including Saginaw Bay, Lake Erie, and Lake Gogebic.

Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides)

largemouth bass
Source: aquaticcommunity.com

Largemouth bass is another favorite among anglers, known for their aggressive strikes and powerful fights. They are abundant in lakes, rivers, and ponds throughout Michigan, with excellent bass fishing opportunities in locations like Lake St. Clair, Lake Gogebic, and inland lakes across the state.


Michigan’s aquatic ecosystems harbor a diverse array of fish species, with some growing to impressive sizes. The Lake Sturgeon, Muskellunge, Chinook Salmon, and Channel Catfish represent the largest fish species in Michigan, capturing the awe and fascination of both anglers and nature enthusiasts. As these remarkable creatures play vital roles in the ecological balance of the state’s waterways, it is crucial to ensure their conservation and sustainable management for generations to come. By appreciating and protecting these majestic giants, we can preserve the natural heritage and beauty of Michigan’s aquatic ecosystems.

All Posts


Related Posts