Top Walleye Fishing Rivers in Michigan: A Comprehensive Guide

The St. Croix River In Minnesota PIC

Walleye fishing is an extremely popular sport in Michigan, thanks to the abundance of lakes and rivers that provide prime locations for anglers looking to catch this highly prized game fish. With an impressive array of fishing spots to choose from, Michigan offers not only world-class walleye action in its rivers but also on big water and inland lakes. Each water body boasts a unique style and potential for incredible fishing experiences that cater to both amateurs and seasoned anglers alike.

When it comes to river fishing, Michigan is home to some of the best spring walleye action in the country. As the season kicks off, anglers eagerly anticipate the opportunity to catch these trophy-sized fish in the numerous prime locations scattered across the state. Some of the most popular spots include the Muskegon River and other rivers that flow through various counties and eventually into Lake Michigan, attracting serious fishermen eager to test their skills and enjoy the thrill of the catch.

Key Takeaways

  • Michigan is home to numerous prime walleye fishing rivers and lakes, offering unique styles of fishing experiences.
  • The spring season offers some of the best walleye action, especially in popular river locations like the Muskegon River.
  • Anglers of all skill levels can enjoy the thrill of catching trophy-sized walleye in Michigan’s diverse river systems.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Walleye Fishing River in Michigan

Water Temperature and Depth

Walleye are sensitive to water temperature and depth changes. Anglers should target areas in Michigan rivers where the temperature is between 45-60 degrees Fahrenheit, as walleye are most active in these conditions. Additionally, keep in mind that walleye prefer deeper water during the day, while they are likely to move closer to the surface and shallow areas at dusk and dawn. This pattern of behavior helps them hunt for baitfish more efficiently.

Structure and Cover

When walleye fishing in Michigan lakes and rivers, it is essential to recognize the importance of structure and cover. Walleye tend to congregate around submerged structures, such as logs, rocks, and vegetation. These areas provide shelter and attract smaller prey, making them ideal hunting grounds. Fishing near drop-offs, points, and underwater ledges can also be productive.

Availability of Baitfish

The presence of baitfish is another crucial factor when choosing a Michigan river for walleye fishing. These fish tend to follow schools of minnows, shad, and other small fish that serve as their primary food source. Anglers should monitor the movement of baitfish in the river and adjust their fishing spots accordingly to increase the chances of attracting walleye.

Fishing Pressure

Finally, fishing pressure can significantly impact an angler’s success when targeting walleye in Michigan rivers. Heavily fished areas tend to have more cautious and scarce walleye populations. By choosing less popular fishing locations or visiting popular spots during off-peak times, anglers may be able to increase their chances of catching these elusive fish.

In summary, to improve their chances of successfully catching walleye in Michigan, anglers should consider factors such as water temperature and depth, structure and cover, availability of baitfish, and fishing pressure. By understanding these aspects, fishermen can make informed decisions when selecting the best river for their walleye fishing adventure.

Top Walleye Fishing Rivers in Michigan

River 1: Detroit River – Description, Location, and Characteristics

The Detroit River, a part of the Lake Erie walleye fishing system, is renowned for its abundant walleye population. Flowing south for 32 miles from Lake St. Clair to Lake Erie, the river provides anglers with fantastic opportunities to catch these prized game fish. The ideal time for walleye fishing in the Detroit River is during the months of April and May, when the fish start moving in for spawning.

The Detroit River boasts a wide variety of underwater structures and varying depths, making it a perfect environment for walleye. Anglers will find success using techniques such as vertical jigging, trolling, or casting in shallow water. Key spots to fish are near the Ambassador Bridge, Trenton Channel, and around Grosse Ile.

River 2: Saginaw River – Description, Location, and Characteristics

Flowing into the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, the Saginaw River is another prime location for walleye fishing in Michigan. This 22-mile long river is home to a diverse range of fish species, with walleyes being particularly abundant during the months of December through March.

Fishing in this river offers anglers a variety of techniques to target walleye, including jigging and trolling, bouncing minnows off the bottom, and using crankbaits during low-light conditions. The most productive fishing spots are typically the bends and drop-offs, channel edges, and near bridges.

River 3: St. Joseph River – Description, Location, and Characteristics

The St. Joseph River, flowing 206 miles through southern Michigan and northern Indiana, is another excellent destination for walleye fishing. This river features a diverse habitat, which includes deep pools, riffles, and runs, providing ideal conditions for walleye to inhabit. The best time for walleye fishing on the St. Joseph River is during the fall spawning run in October and November.

Popular fishing techniques on the St. Joseph River include jigging with minnows or soft plastics, casting crankbaits, and live bait presentations. Productive spots to target walleye include the deeper holes, current seams, and downstream of dams.

River 4: Muskegon River – Description, Location, and Characteristics

Originating in Houghton Lake and flowing 216 miles through Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, the Muskegon River offers anglers diverse fishing experiences, including the chance to catch impressive walleye. The river’s geography features sandbars, drop-offs, and underwater structure, making it a suitable environment for walleye population. Walleye fishing on the Muskegon River is typically best during spring and fall.

Anglers can employ various techniques such as vertical jigging, trolling, and casting crankbaits in the Muskegon River. Key areas to target walleye are in deeper waters near submerged structure, current changes, and near dams.

River 5: Tittabawassee River – Description, Location, and Characteristics

The Tittabawassee River, a tributary of the Saginaw River, offers anglers yet another opportunity to experience top-notch walleye fishing. The 72-mile long river is known for its spring walleye run, which occurs in late March through April. During this time, walleye from Saginaw Bay migrate upstream to spawn, providing great fishing opportunities.

Fishing techniques for walleye on the Tittabawassee River primarily include vertical jigging, live bait rigging, and slip bobber presentations near gravel bars and drop-offs. Angler hotspots include bends and deeper holes where walleyes can congregate during the spawning period.

Tips for Successful Walleye Fishing in Michigan Rivers

Best Time of Day and Season to Fish for Walleye

Walleye are most active during low light conditions, such as dawn and dusk. Therefore, the best times to fish for them are early morning and late evening. As for the season, spring is a prime time to catch walleye in Michigan rivers, due to their spawning habits. In particular, April through July are considered the most productive months for walleye fishing.

Recommended Baits and Lures

When it comes to baits and lures for walleye fishing, some popular options include:

  • Live bait: minnows, leeches, and nightcrawlers
  • Artificial lures: jigs, crankbaits, and inline spinners

Experimenting with different baits and lures may be necessary to determine what works best in a given location and under diverse weather conditions.

Techniques for Fishing in Rivers

Walleye in rivers often congregate around structure, such as rocks, submerged trees, and current breaks. Some effective techniques for river fishing include:

  • Drifting live bait: This method involves casting your bait upstream and allowing it to drift with the current, covering large areas of water.
  • Vertical jigging: Using a heavy jig, lower it to the bottom of the river and then jig it up and down, trying to entice walleye hiding near structure.
  • Casting crankbaits: Fish your crankbait around likely walleye hiding spots, retrieving it with a stop-and-go action to mimic injured baitfish.

Remember, adapting your technique based on the river conditions and the behavior of the fish may increase the probability of a successful catch.

Safety Tips for River Fishing

When fishing in rivers, it’s crucial to prioritize safety. Keep the following tips in mind:

  • Wear a lifejacket: Always wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device while on the water.
  • Observe the weather: Stay updated on weather conditions and be prepared to leave the water if the weather gets dangerous.
  • Be cautious on slippery surfaces: Rocks and riverbanks can be slippery, so use caution by wearing proper footwear and using a wading staff if necessary.

By following these tips and developing a solid understanding of walleye fishing techniques and safety precautions, you can confidently and effectively pursue walleye in Michigan rivers.


Michigan has a vast array of rivers teeming with walleye, which are a popular sportfish. Visiting these rivers during prime fishing seasons can yield exciting and fulfilling experiences for both seasoned anglers and beginners alike.

The Muskegon River stands out as a top walleye fishing destination, stretching over 216 miles and flowing through several counties before ending at Lake Michigan. The river’s diverse structure and healthy walleye population make it a favorite among Michigan’s fishermen.

Additionally, the western shore of Lake Erie offers exceptional walleye fishing, with hotspots around Monroe, Luna Pier, and Toledo Beach. The waters in this area provide ideal spawning conditions, attracting large numbers of walleye during the April through July timeframe.

While visiting these fishing locations, it is essential to adhere to local regulations and practice responsible angling techniques to preserve the walleye population and ensure Michigan’s beautiful rivers remain ideal destinations for future generations.

In summary, Michigan’s walleye-rich rivers make it an attractive locale for anglers seeking a challenge, adventure, or an opportunity to connect with nature. By exploring these top fishing spots and staying informed about best practices, you’re sure to create lasting memories and thrilling fishing experiences.

Three Notable Locations for Walleye Fishing

Michigan is home to some of the best walleye fishing in the country. Anglers will not be disappointed with the abundance of rivers and lakes that offer great opportunities for catching this popular sportfish. In this section, we will explore three notable locations for walleye fishing in Michigan: Manistique Lake, Houghton Lake, and Lake Leelanau.

Manistique Lake, located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, is well-known for its walleye fishing. This beautiful lake covers over 10,000 acres and provides anglers with a wide variety of habitats for walleye to thrive. Numerous weedy beds and rocky drop-offs create the perfect environment for walleye to feed and spawn. Anglers will want to target these areas, using jigs and live bait such as minnows or nightcrawlers. The expansive size of Manistique Lake allows for plenty of space to explore and find the ideal fishing spot.

Houghton Lake is another fantastic destination for walleye fishing in Michigan. As the state’s largest inland lake, Houghton spans over 20,000 acres and offers a wide range of fishing opportunities. The lake’s diverse underwater structure, including weed beds, drop-offs, and sandbars, provide excellent habitat for walleye. Anglers should focus on fishing during early morning or late evenings when walleye are most active. Trolling crankbaits, using slip bobber rigs, or casting jigs tipped with minnows are all effective techniques on Houghton Lake.

Lastly, Lake Leelanau presents anglers with yet another prime walleye fishing location. This picturesque lake, situated in the northwestern Lower Peninsula of Michigan, is divided into two sections: North Lake Leelanau and South Lake Leelanau. Both sections offer ample opportunities to catch walleye, thanks to their extensive weed lines and drop-offs. Anglers will find success using a variety of methods, such as trolling crawler harnesses, casting jigs, or using slip bobber rigs. It’s important to keep in mind that each section of Lake Leelanau may require different strategies, so it’s best to come prepared and adapt to the conditions presented.

These three top walleye fishing lakes in Michigan are just a few of the many excellent locations for anglers to experience the thrill of catching a trophy walleye. With confident, knowledgeable, neutral, and clear planning, any angler is sure to have an enjoyable and successful fishing outing on these beautiful Michigan waters.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the top rivers for walleye fishing in the Upper Peninsula?

There are several rivers in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan that offer excellent walleye fishing opportunities. Some of the best options include the Escanaba River, the Menominee River, and the St. Mary’s River. Each of these rivers supports healthy populations of walleye and attracts anglers looking to target these game fish throughout the season.

Where can I find the best walleye fishing charters in Michigan?

Michigan has a wealth of experienced walleye fishing charter services available. You can find top-notch charters near popular walleye fishing destinations like Lake Erie, Lake Huron’s Saginaw Bay, and Lake Michigan. Be sure to research customer reviews and charter rates before booking a trip, as price and quality can vary between providers.

Which month offers prime walleye fishing in Michigan?

Prime walleye fishing in Michigan typically occurs during spring, particularly in April and May. During this time, walleye are spawning and can be found in large numbers in the state’s rivers and lakes. Although spring offers the best chances, anglers can find success catching walleye throughout the year, even during the winter months.

What are the walleye size limits in Michigan?

In Michigan, there is a statewide minimum size limit of 15 inches for walleye and a daily possession limit of five fish per angler. However, specific regulations may vary depending on the body of water you are fishing. It’s essential to check local rules before heading out on the water to ensure you are in compliance.

Which Great Lake is known for exceptional walleye fishing?

Lake Erie, especially around Monroe, Luna Pier, and Toledo Beach, is considered one of the best destinations for walleye fishing among the Great Lakes. From April through July, the western shore provides perfect spawning grounds for the majority of Lake Erie’s walleye population, resulting in an abundance of fish for anglers to target.

What are the best lures to use for walleye fishing in Michigan rivers?

The most effective lures for walleye fishing in Michigan rivers include jigs, crankbaits, and soft plastic baits. Jigging is particularly popular during the spring spawning runs, while crankbaits and soft plastics are effective throughout the year. The key is to select lures that imitate the natural prey of walleye, such as minnows or baitfish, in terms of size and color.


Hi, I’m Kurt and I’m the author of walleyemania. I’ve been fishing for Walleye since I was a kid and I love sharing my tips, tricks, and stories with other anglers. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, you’ll find something useful and entertaining on my site. I cover everything from the best gear, baits, and techniques to the best spots, seasons, and recipes for Walleye fishing. Join me on my journey to catch more and bigger Walleye!

Recent Posts