What are you waiting for? Get out fishing Lake St. Clair
You’d be crazy to not think about fishing Lake St. Clair this summer – especially when you consider the plethora of opportunities available there and the fact you’re a short distance from modern-day amenities thanks to it being situated in a major metropolitan area. Renowned for its smallmouth bass and muskellunge, this waterbody (situated between lakes Huron and Erie) is billed as one of the most unique systems in the region.
And it should be noted that Lake St. Clair is part of something much bigger. Besides it being situated between two of the Great Lakes, the connection between the lake and the St. Clair River is a diverse habitat with multiple channels and is considered a delta – in fact, it’s the largest freshwater delta in North America.
“Lake St. Clair is a phenomenal fishery,” said Cleyo Harris, a fisheries biologist based in Waterford. “It doesn’t need stocking and provides numerous unique opportunities for anglers who pay it a visit.”
Now you might ask: exactly what are those opportunities?
How about spearing for northern pike or yellow perch during the winter months? Lake St. Clair is the only waterbody in the state open to yellow perch spearing. The season is January first through the end of February and anglers can use a hand-propelled spear, bow and arrow or crossbow.
Additionally the daily possession limits for northern pike was recently switched from two to five, with a 24-inch minimum size limit, on Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River.
“It should be noted that Michigan has about one-third of Lake St. Clair within our jurisdiction and the other two-thirds are under Ontario,” explained Harris. “Canada doesn’t allow spearing at all so it’s important to be aware of where you are on the waterbody when you engage in this type of activity.”
Muskellunge and yellow perch are ideal targets during the summer months on Lake St. Clair as well – along with walleye and smallmouth bass. According to Mike Thomas, a fisheries research biologist stationed on Lake St. Clair – what makes these populations unique here is you can actually target them all on a single day.
You probably have a good chance of catching your limit of walleye and smallmouth bass and also catch a 50-inch muskie and target yellow perch – all in the same day on the same waterbody,” he exclaimed.
Thomas is quick to point out other opportunities the average angler isn’t aware of on Lake St. Clair; including largemouth bass along the shoreline, panfish opportunities in canals and marshes, white bass during the summer, good northern pike presence in the delta, and his personal favorite – hook-and-line fishing for lake sturgeon in the delta.
The hook-and-line lake sturgeon season is open on Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair River from July 16 to November 30 with the possession season being from July 16 through September 30.
“I think this is one of the only places in the state where you have a realistic chance of catching a lake sturgeon,” Thomas said. “Not enough people seem to realize that.”
Being in a major metropolitan area means Lake St. Clair is often quite busy during the summer months, as evidenced by the vast numbers of boats milling about on the water. This activity is facilitated by numerous state-managed access sites to allow all types of boaters an avenue for getting out. This year anglers visiting those sites will likely see one of two creel clerks collecting data on the lake – for the first time since 2005.
“Creel is a big thing for us this year,” explained Harris. “We’ll be looking to collect catch information from anglers after their trips so we can continue to provide the best fisheries management possible for Lake St. Clair.”
Those new to the lake should heed this advice from Thomas in relation to the fact that despite being on average 12 feet deep, if the wind picks up it can get a tad treacherous.
“When you’re on the open waters you’ll just want to be mindful,” he explained. “On a calm day you can feel comfortable in a 14-foot boat, but if the wind comes up quick you could get uncomfortable pretty fast. The delta area of the St. Clair River is more protected and is a good place to fish on days when there’s too much wind.”
There’s still plenty of time this summer to explore Lake St. Clair. For more information, visit Michigan.gov/fishing.