Best Places to Fish in Michigan Without a Boat

The Mitten state has long been known as an angler’s paradise, and a boat makes getting to the hotspots easier. But, boats are expensive, and not everyone has one or wants to tow theirs on vacation.

So, where can you go in Michigan to fish without a boat? Let us take a look at some locations.

The Grand River

The longest river in Michigan, the mighty Grand, flows over 250 miles from its source in Hillsdale County to its mouth in Grand Haven. There are numerous opportunities for shore fishing along the river, many at state and local parks.

The Grand River is popular with steelhead and walleye anglers in the fall, and bass anglers all summer. 

While it would be impossible to list all of the good fishing spots on the river in this article, I will spotlight the most accessible ones. 

Millennium Park

This 1500-acre park straddles the Grand River for nearly three and a half miles, including nearby Johnson Park. The riverbanks are accessible from Veterans Memorial Drive on the north side of the river, and Indian Mounds drive on the south.

Both roads offer easy access to the water with few parking restrictions. Built on old, flooded gravel pits, Millennium park has multiple lakes and ponds with ample parking and trail access for off-river fishing heavy on the bluegills and bass.

City of Grand Rapids

Named by Field & Stream as the sixth-best fishing city in the USA, Grand Rapids hosts multiple fishing opportunities. If you are downtown, nearly the entire length of the river passing through is accessible to fish. 

Fish Ladder Park is a popular downtown fishing spot, so is the Sixth Street Dam, one of several low-water dams meant to smooth out the rapids that gave the city its name.

Below the dams are a popular spot for wader-equipped anglers during the salmon and steelhead runs, but are very dangerous during high water times.

The dams are slated for removal in stages after 2020 in an effort to restore the rapids and improve habitat. Riverside Park is another good spot, offering a mile of accessible river frontage and a barrier-free fishing pier on one of its ponds.

Grand Haven Pier

The terminus of the Grand River, the piers at Grand Haven present shore anglers the opportunity to catch Whitefish, Salmon, Steelhead, and Walleye fresh from Lake Michigan.

Extending 100 feet into the lake the catwalk and lighthouse of the southern pier offer great photo backdrops when showing off your catch. Check the weather before you go, the piers are hazardous during storms and high winds. 

The Kalamazoo River

Best Places to Fish in Michigan Without a Boat

My home waters for most of my life, the Kalamazoo River is nearly 180 miles long and flows through eight counties before discharging into Lake Michigan.

Home to small and largemouth bass, trout, salmon, walleye, panfish, and my favorite – northern pike, the Kalamazoo offers any gamefish you could want to pursue in Michigan.

The piers in Saugatuck are known for producing whitefish, lake trout, and walleye but are a hike to reach from Oval Beach State Park.

Allegan State Game Area

What makes the Kalamazoo River great for shore anglers is that for most of its flow through Allegan County it is bordered by the Allegan State Game Area, a block of public land offering unfettered access to the river.

Most of this shoreline requires some hiking to access, but if you like to wilderness camp or just like solitude, then this is your place. 

The areas downstream from the Allegan Dam offer excellent Salmon fishing in the spring and good fishing for bass and panfish year-round.

If you own pair of waders the Ottawa marsh offers both bass and bowfishing opportunities. The Ottawa Marsh is a large wetland coming off the south side of the river northeast of Fennville, a small town known for its Goose Festival, apple orchards, and Fenn Valley Vineyards.

The Ottawa marsh is accessible by foot from Old Allegan Road and has several backwaters that join the river. It is a popular duck hunting spot, so fall fishing can be a bit noisy, but summers find it quiet and a favorite haunt of bass anglers. 

Eastern Lake Superior 

The shores of “Gitche Gumee” (the Ojibway name for the lake) offer a good opportunity for the boatless angler. Using a seven-to-ten-foot rod with a three-quarter ounce or heavier spoon like the Kastmaster will put you in front of big fish like Coho. 

There is little structure along the rocky shore, but a northwest wind will push the warmer water up near the land and the fish with it. Fish close to the river and creek mouths since these are a continuous buffet for predator fish like walleye, pike, and salmon.

A pair of knee or hip boots will be your friend here since the water in Lake Superior stays cold year-round. 

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Best Places to Fish in Michigan Without a Boat

The first of four national lakeshores, Pictured Rocks was established in 1966 to preserve the unique beauty of this area. The park is over 42 miles long and nearly 6 miles wide, with 110 miles of trails allowing access to six major lakes and several minor ones, plus many streams and beaches.

Trout, salmon, perch, smallmouth bass, walleye, and pike are all common in the park. Brook trout are a favorite for the fisherman in the streams, and the Coaster Brook trout were stocked here to build a sustained population.

There are six major beaches in the park for shore fishing. Of the six, only Sandy point beach is handicap accessible, the rest are reached via tall staircases. There are plenty of camping opportunities at the park for extended stays, and the views alone are worth the trip.

Grand Island

Grand Island is like the little sister to Pictured Rocks, always in its shadow. The 13,000-acre island sees only 10,000 visitors a year and is accessible only by a short ferry ride from Munising.

It is a backpack fisherman’s dream with abundant trails and impressive views. 

Echo Lake sits in the middle of the island and produces panfish, bass, and pike, while Murry Bay and the surrounding waters are known for rock bass, walleye, lake trout, and salmon.

There are no stores on Grand Island, so bring what you need with you on your adventure.

Detroit

The motor city is surprisingly very fishable. Multiple streams are flowing through the city, in addition to the Detroit and St. Claire Rivers. The fishing is reported to be very good on the urban waters.

The Fishbrain app has taken off here as a way to connect local anglers with local hotspots. 

Belle Island

A 980-acre park hosting an aquarium, nature center, and conservatory, Belle Island is considered the “Jewel of Detroit”. This jewel is also home to multiple lakes plus two fishing piers on the St. Claire River. The lakes produce largemouth bass, pike, panfish, and channel cats regularly.

Detroit River

Best Places to Fish in Michigan Without a Boat

The river seems to have many productive spots in town. The Aretha Franklin Amphitheater, Hart Plaza Riverwalk, and Delray Park are reported hotspots for bass, walleye, and catfish. These parks are right downtown or within minutes thereof, making it possible for a lunch-break casting session.

Anywhere in the Winter

Wintertime in Michigan, especially northern Michigan, provides endless opportunities for hard water fishing. No longer limited to the shore, anglers can set off on the ice to the best spots on the lake. 

My preferred method of ice fishing was using a tip-up (a device set in the ice with a minnow on the line, when a pike grabbed the bait, a flag would pop up), but one can also jig for panfish or spear pike from inside an ice shanty.

Dress warm and test the ice with a drill or heavy “spud” bar as you walk to stay safe and dry.

Conclusion

Michigan has enough fishing opportunities to keep someone busy for a lifetime. The water awaits, and the fish are biting somewhere. Good Luck!