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“On any given day, the Grand River is one of the best run steelhead rivers in Michigan,” says Werkman. “It gets a fantastic run of steelhead, particularly in the spring!” Although the initial steelhead run happens in the fall, significantly more steelhead participate in the springtime run. Whether you fish from Fish Ladder Park in downtown Grand Rapids, go out on a boat of your own or with a guide, or head up to the Rogue River, there are lots of access points. “Right in downtown Rockford there are a couple of places where you can park and then walk to the Rogue and start fishing,” Werkman explains. If you head to the Rogue River and aren’t sure where to start, you might find success with the other anglers gathered just below the Rockford Dam. Brown trout and rainbow trout are also plentiful in the Rogue, although you’ll have better luck fishing for those upstream. “As the water starts to warm up, you’ll also find more active smallmouth bass and northern pike,” Werkman says. Many area lakes, like Reeds, Lincoln, and Murray, also contain largemouth bass.
Thanks to Michigan’s gorgeous summers, spending time on the water is time well spent. “Fishing becomes a little tougher in the hotter weather because the bass tend to go deeper, so it’s easier to find them if you have a boat,” explains Tom Werkman, owner guide with Werkman Outfitters , which provides specialized guide service on the Grand River and, farther north on the White River and Muskegon River. “On the Grand River in the summer, you’ll primarily find walleye, smallmouth bass and northern pike.” If you’re fishing the inland lakes, Werkman says they might reward you with bass and possibly northern pike, as well as bluegill and perch. If you’re after bluegill in shallow water, Werkman suggests using a hook, line, and sinker with a bobber. The Flat River in Lowell also has good public access and you can catch smallmouth bass and northern pike there during the summer months. “It’s easy to wade into it in the summer but be sure to put water shoes on. It’s pretty rocky!” warns Werkman. When you’re done, head to quaint downtown Lowell to enjoy a beer or burger.
When the air is crisp and the leaves are colorful, the migratory salmon and steelhead are plentiful in the Grand River. “We target those species of fish during the fall,” says Werkman. They’ll put up a big fight and make you work hard. “Your drag can scream and it’s not uncommon to fight a steelhead in the river for five minutes,” he says. “People come from all over the states to fish our steelhead. You could also pick up a northern pike, smallmouth bass and the occasional walleye in the fall.” Another great option is to join the other anglers at Fish Ladder Park , where you can fish the Grand River from shore. If the river isn’t flowing too fast, some ambitious anglers wade out to cast their lines for these aggressive beauties. Just be cautious if you brave the waters–there are plenty of holes and unknown obstacles under the surface. When you’re fishing the inland lakes in the fall, you’re also likely to find some catfish. If you have a boat, Werkman suggests trying Murray Lake. “If you know what you’re doing, you can target musky there,” he says.
Wintertime excitement is seeing a flash of chrome in the cold, dark river! During the colder months, steelhead is your primary target in the Grand River, which you can fish as long as there’s open water. When temperatures have dropped, you’re most likely to have success if you have a boat and can go a little farther down the Grand River. However, you can still cast a line from shore at Fish Ladder Park. Another good river to fish for steelhead during the winter is the Rogue River, again, as long as you have open water. You’ll also find brown trout still lurking there. If you’re into ice fishing on the inland lakes, Werkman says that once you get good, solid ice, you can fish on pretty much any of them. “I typically just go near the other ice shanties,” he laughs.