Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Overlooked walleye waters

(Photo courtesy of Kenny Darwin)

By Kenny Darwin

Contributing Writer

 

Michigan offers fantastic walleye fishing and trophy fish on a monumental scale. Don’t overlook the big fish available in Bays de Noc, Saginaw Bay, Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie and other hot spots. Walleyes have fast become Michigan’s most popular game fish species, and savvy anglers are always looking for new hot spots producing excellent catches. Here are some additional productive waters that serve up top-notch walleye action.

Gun Lake

One of my favorites is Gun Lake found in Barry County. Gun is over 2,600 acres of prime walleye habitat located in the Yankee Springs State Recreation Area. A regular stocking program has helped the walleye population grow and there is excellent access, which makes Gun a premier walleye water.

 

There are two main basins on Gun Lake; east basin has deep water, islands, points and an abundance of walleye holding structure. Chicago Point on the southeast corner is a walleye hot spot.

 

Don’t overlook the sleepy little town of Colon, found south of Battle Creek in St. Joseph County. Colon has an active conservation club that stocks walleyes in three lakes: Sturgeon (249 acres), Palmer (450 acres), and Long (220 acres). 

Palmer Lake

Palmer has a sloping contour, gravel bars and water up to 40 feet deep all supporting healthy a walleye population. The 20-foot hole close to the boat launch on the southwest corner provides steady walleye action. Locals drag crawler harnesses along the drop-offs on the west and east shores.

Diamond Lake

Diamond Lake in southwest Michigan is loaded with walleyes as the result of stocking. The lake is large (1,020 acres) and is one of the most popular lakes in southern Michigan.

 

Diamond Lake has an abundance of points, ideal walleye structure, and the maximum depth is over 60 feet. Drop-offs, weedlines and diverse bottom contour attract fish. Hot spots include: Drummond Lake Beach, the north end of Drummond Island, the deep water off Sandy Beach, and ever changing bottom on the east shore. 

Tittabawassee River

The Tittabawassee River hosts one of the best river walleye fisheries in Michigan. Once the opening day crowd thins out you can still expect limit catches from the pools, runs and other walleye-attracting waters. 

 

My recommendation is to try the lower Tittabawassee. Launch in Saginaw at the Center Street ramp or downtown at the Rust Boat Launch off Lee Street. Motor upstream and concentrate on the deep holes and runs from M-46 to the mouth of the river. Jigs bounced along bottom tipped with a minnow or crawler will guarantee strikes.

 

When water temperatures reach 50 degrees use nightcrawlers. Savvy anglers also drag bottom with 1⁄8-ounce jigs tipped with a crawler and use electric motors to pull the offering over gravel bars and sand runs where multitudes of walleyes are holding. Don’t overlook the deep holes found slightly upstream from M-46 at Shields and downstream from State Road.

Long Lake

Cheboygan County’s Long Lake has long had a history of producing great catches for those using live bait and finesse tactics. Live bait rigging with long fluorocarbon leader material works like dynamite here and anglers rely on 3⁄8-ounce Lindy Rigs to get crawlers, minnows and leeches into the strike zone. 

 

While the St. Joseph River is best known for its fantastic skamania steelhead fishery, there is a growing army of walleye fishermen enjoying impressive catches. 

 

There is fantastic fishing above the Berrien Springs Dam where the water slows and walleyes congregate in the swirling water. Most anglers concentrate on the large spawners migrating up the St. Joe from Lake Michigan. This river provides great fishing almost all year long.

 

In the early season, anglers will be plying the prime holes with jigs tipped with minnows. As the water warms the crawler bite turns red hot. 

 

Most anglers anchor their boats above deep holes and runs and cast downstream, working their jigs upriver, making a crank or two and allowing the offering to drop down to the bottom.

Lake Macatawa

Lake Macatawa near Holland offers explosive walleye fishing nearly all year long. This large lake has been heavily stocked, plus it gets a run of spawning walleyes from Lake Michigan in early spring and each fall. Some call it the most productive inland walleye water in southwest lower Michigan. 

 

Shortly after ice out the fishing is on fire but anglers must wait until the opener, the last Saturday in April, before they can wet a line.

 

Walleyes back down many Michigan rivers when spawning chores are complete in May. They stop and adjust to the cold water of Lake Michigan at pier heads. Anglers line the cement breakwalls at sunset and by midnight there is standing room only as hundreds of big walleyes are hooked and landed. Most cast shallow diving stickbaits into the frothing swells and strikes frequently occur near the cement structure. Hot spots include Muskegon, Manistee, Saugatuck, Pentwater, White Lake, the mouth of Portage Lake, and Manistee.

 

If you’re looking for a new walleye hot spot and willing to expand your fishing horizons, take a peek at these suggested locations.

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