The premier gamefish of the Great Lakes, salmon offer great table fare and a terrific fighting fish all in one. These fish are capable of topping 30 pounds and are acrobatic enough to make tail-walking leaps, putting them four to six feet above the water. Two strains of salmon are typically caught in Lake Michigan waters; Cohos and Kings (also called Chinook). Most often, King Salmon are larger than Coho Salmon and are identified by their dark mouths and tails filled with spots. Cohos, on the other hand, have white gums and a less spotted tail. Salmon fishing typically starts just after ice-out and lasts until October, when the fish move into the rivers to spawn.
In addition, a variety of other fish can be caught using the same methods employed to target salmon. Steelhead, the hard fighting, fast swimming trout species offer a challenge to any angler. Their population has taken off in the waters off the West Michigan coastline, much to fishermen’s delight. Steelhead are the open-water version of the Rainbow Trout and can make reels scream and line strain with their unbelievable runs and leaping ability. Often topping ten pounds, it would be hard to find many that would argue against calling these guys the pound-for-pound best fighting fish in the Great Lakes.
Brown Trout are another species of fish often encountered in the Great Lakes. They’re a formidable fighter and have made a comeback as of late in western Lake Michigan. While most browns are under ten pounds, these fish can grow as large as King Salmon given the right conditions. The name “Brown” trout can be misleading, as the lake-run version of this species is often silver with very distinct dark spots on the upper half of the body.
The grandfather of the Great Lakes is certainly the Lake Trout. It’s likely that these fish have inhabited the Great Lakes longer than any fish but the Lake Sturgeon. Their long lifespan and nearly limitless growth has them often tipping the scales at over 20 pounds. Lake Trout love cold and deep waters, often residing in depths over 150 feet of water. Often using their weight as leverage and staying deep while fighting, these brutes offer up a great fight. They are easily identifiable, in large part due to their green backs, orange bellies and white-tipped fins.