Lake St. Clair voted best bass fishery in the nation

Birmingham Ala. — The results are in. According to the May 2013 edition of Bassmaster Magazine, Michigan’s Lake St. Clair is, hands down, the best bass-fishing lake in the country.

St. Clair was 13th on last year’s inaugural list, but moved to the top due to its legendary trophy smallmouth fishery and an emerging largemouth fishery.

“I think what did it for Lake St. Clair is that is has always had a storied smallmouth fishery and now the largemouth fishery has come on so strong,” Bassmaster Magazine editor James Hall told Michigan Outdoor News. “You can fish for two different species of bass and have a chance to catch trophy-class fish of each species on Lake St. Clair. You can’t say that about very many lakes.”

Elite Series pro Jason Christie won last summer’s B.A.S.S. event on Lake St. Clair with a three-day total (15 fish) of 67 pounds, 4 ounces, for an average of nearly 4.5 pounds per fish. But what was most surprising was that 135 of the 147 pro anglers (92 percent) caught five-fish limits every day, with more than 2 tons of bass being weighed.

Lake St. Clair is a connecting water on the Great Lakes. Lake Huron drains into Lake St. Clair through the St. Clair River. The water flows out of Lake St. Clair into the Detroit River and eventually into Lake Erie.

“I’m not surprised,” said Mike Thomas, a fisheries biologist stationed at the Michigan DNR’s Lake St. Clair Fisheries Research Station on the western shore of the lake. “It is a spectacular smallmouth bass fishery and the habitat is well-suited for smallmouth bass. The fishing characteristic is that the lake is very catch and release-oriented, so you end up with really good survival. That results in older fish, which is what people get real excited about.”

St. Clair is a large, relatively shallow lake with 430 square miles of surface water, and an average depth of 11 feet. The deepest portion of the lake is the shipping channel where the water dips down to 27 feet. Besides bass, the lake supports a trophy muskie fishery and good numbers of walleyes, yellow perch, rock bass, bluegills, sunfish, northern pike, catfish, smelt, steelhead, lake sturgeon, a few trout, and occasionally a salmon or two.

“It has cooler water than a lot of the inland lakes, and a riverine environment with a lot of water flowing through it,” Thomas said. “That riverine environment is conducive to smallmouth bass.”

The metrics used to create the lake rankings included catch rate and shock data from state wildlife agencies; a survey of B.A.S.S. Nation conservation directors and presidents based on tournaments held across the country; and a survey of 3,500 B.A.S.S. members across the country to detail non-tournament lakes. To finalize the rankings, Bassmaster enlisted a panel of outdoor writers, Elite Series pros, and fishing industry insiders.

“The process is as all-encompassing and data-driven as we can make it. Our goal is to identify the hottest lakes in the country so fishermen don’t have to worry about doing the research,” Hall said in a release. “An angler can look at this list and know that the lakes are very healthy, and the odds of having a fantastic day on the water are high.”

Hall said he was surprised last year’s top lake, Falcon Lake in Texas, slid down to seventh on the list. He said fishing on the U.S./Mexico border lake has been tough in recent years due to a variety of reasons.

“What has happened there has baffled a lot of people,” Hall said. “They have had severe drought there for a couple of years. There are a lot of hypothesis ranging from overfishing and fish being eaten by Mexicans who fish the lake for food, and there are some monster gar in that lake and some people feel they are eating a lot of bass. Some people think the bass are still there, but they’re suspended because of the lower water. There’s probably some truth in all of them.”

Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir took the second spot on the list of the country’s best bass lakes, while Clear Lake (California), Lake Guntersville (Alabama), and Lake Erie (Michigan, Ohio, New York, and Pennsylvania) landed in third through fifth, respectively. Chickamauga Lake (Tennessee), Falcon Lake (Texas), Lake Okeechobee (Florida), San Joaquin Delta (California), and Toledo Bend Reservoir (Texas) round out the Top 10.

Lake Michigan (Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin) placed 29th, Lake Charlevoix was 40th, and Burt Lake was 81st.

For the complete listing of lakes and details on the fisheries, visit www.Bassmaster.com/top100.

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