Walleye Fishing On South Lake Leelanau Michigan: A Beginner’s Guide

South Lake Leelanau Michigan PIC


Has the quest for prime walleye fishing spots brought you to South Lake Leelanau, Michigan? This lake is a renowned Midwest gem, housing one of the finest walleye fisheries. In this guide, we’ll unravel the secrets of successful walleye angling— touching on everything from optimal seasons to effective techniques and local regulations.

Ready for your best catch yet? Dive in!

Key Takeaways

  • South Lake Leelanau in Michigan is a renowned fishing destination known for its abundant walleye population and stunning natural beauty.
  • The optimal time for walleye fishing on South Lake Leelanau is from August through ice – up, with May being a particularly phenomenal month.
  • Recommended fishing techniques include jigging, using live bait such as leeches and minnows, crankbaits, trolling, night fishing, vertical jigging, slow presentation, and using rattle baits in murky water conditions.
  • It is important to familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations and obtain the necessary licenses before heading out on your walleye fishing adventure. All anglers aged 17 or older must have a valid fishing license in Michigan.

Overview of South Lake Leelanau, Michigan

South Lake Leelanau, located in Leelanau County, Michigan, is a renowned fishing destination known for its abundant walleye population and stunning natural beauty.

Location and characteristics of the lake

Nestled in the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan, South Lake Leelanau is a fishing haven prized for its diverse aquatic life. Covering approximately 8,600 acres in Leelanau County, this lake presents both eutrophic and oligotrophic characteristics as per observations from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ).

Known as one of Midwest’s top walleye lakes, it offers bountiful opportunities for anglers. This warm and cold water fishery is home to various species like trout, walleye, sunfish and bass offering a rich recreational fishing experience.

Beyond fishing abundance, the landscape enclosing South Lake Leelanau boasts stunning panoramic views – an added treat for any outdoor enthusiast!

Popular fishing destinations on the lake

South Lake Leelanau has a wide array of prime walleye fishing spots that attract both novice and seasoned anglers.

  • The southern end of the lake is ideal for walleye fishing, being shallower with depths reaching up to 60 feet.
  • Narrows, the channel connecting South Lake Leelanau with North Lake Leelanau, serves as an excellent spot frequented by many fishing enthusiasts.
  • The west side of South Lake provides productive areas for trolling and jigging, popular techniques amongst walleye anglers.
  • Leland River, which drains both South and North Lake Leelanau, is promising for those seeking variety with other fish species including bass, trout, sunfish, pike and perch.
  • There are numerous locations around the lake which provide access for bank fishing, giving different perspective and approach to walleye hunting.
  • For those eager for a broader experience in the vicinity, Sandusky Bay and Hubbard Lake are near – by destinations known for their fantastic walleye catch.

Tips for Walleye Fishing on South Lake Leelanau

To maximize your walleye fishing success on South Lake Leelanau, fish during the early morning or evening hours when walleyes are most active.

Best time of year to fish for walleye

The optimal time for walleye fishing on South Lake Leelanau is from August through ice-up. This period offers the best conditions, as the lake’s population of walleyes becomes more active and easier to catch.

Specifically, May emerges as a phenomenal month with regular catches of 15- to 20-inch walleyes common with some reaching up to 28 inches. Ensure your tackle box has a good selection of jigs, minnows, leeches or crawlers – these baits have been proven successful during this season.

So consider planning your fishing trip around this time to increase your chance of landing an impressive haul.

Recommended fishing techniques and lures

To increase your chances of catching walleye on South Lake Leelanau, Michigan, here are some recommended fishing techniques and lures to try:

  1. Jigging: Walleye are known to be attracted to jigs. Use a jigging technique by casting out and letting the jig sink to the desired depth before retrieving it with short hops or lifts. Experiment with different colors such as chartreuse, white, or orange.
  2. Live Bait: Walleye have a preference for live bait such as leeches and minnows. Use a slip bobber setup with a lively minnow or leech about two feet above the bottom.
  3. Crankbaits: When walleye are more active and feeding near the surface, crankbaits can be effective. Choose shallow-diving crankbaits in natural colors like perch or shad patterns.
  4. Trolling: If you prefer covering more ground, try trolling with crawler harnesses or diving plugs. Adjust your speed until you find the right one that triggers bites.
  5. Night Fishing: Walleye often become more active during low light conditions, especially at night. Consider fishing during dawn, dusk, or after the sun goes down for better success.
  6. Vertical Jigging: When walleye are holding tight to structures like drop-offs or submerged rocks, vertical jigging can be highly productive. Use heavy jigs and work them vertically up and down near these areas.
  7. Slow Presentation: Remember that walleye tend to strike when the bait is moving slowly or almost stationary. Reduce your retrieval speed and make sure to give the walleyes ample time to strike before setting the hook.
  8. Rattle Baits: In murky water conditions where visibility is limited, rattle baits can help attract walleye using their sound-producing abilities. Opt for models that have built-in noisemakers or rattles.

Fishing regulations and licenses required

To ensure a successful and legal walleye fishing trip on South Lake Leelanau, it is important to familiarize yourself with the fishing regulations and obtain the necessary licenses.

In Michigan, all anglers aged 17 or older must have a valid fishing license before targeting fish like walleye, trout, perch, bass, or any other species. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) sets these regulations to maintain the sustainability of the fish population and protect the ecosystem.

When planning your walleye fishing adventure on South Lake Leelanau, be sure to check the current fishing regulations specified in the 2022 Michigan Fishing Guide. These regulations may include size limits for certain fish species as well as specific dates for walleye season that can vary from year to year.

By following these guidelines and obtaining your fishing license beforehand, you’ll not only stay compliant but also contribute to preserving this incredible angling destination.

So before you cast your line into South Lake Leelanau’s fertile waters teeming with walleyes and other sought-after species like brown trout, northern pike, yellow perch – don’t forget to secure your Michigan fishing license.

Other Fishing Opportunities on South Lake Leelanau

South Lake Leelanau offers more than just walleye fishing. Anglers can also enjoy excellent perch and smallmouth bass fishing opportunities on the lake. Additionally, there are plenty of dock fishing spots that provide a convenient and accessible way to catch a variety of fish species.

Perch and smallmouth bass fishing

Perch and smallmouth bass fishing on South Lake Leelanau is just as exciting as walleye fishing. The lake offers a diverse range of fish species, making it a perfect destination for anglers of all levels. Here’s what you need to know:

  1. Perch Fishing:
  • South Lake Leelanau is known for its abundant perch population. These tasty panfish are fun to catch and make for a delicious meal.
  • Perch can be found throughout the lake, but they tend to concentrate near weed beds and drop – offs.
  • Try using small jigs tipped with live minnows or worms to entice hungry perch.
  • Early morning and evening hours are usually the best time to target perch.
  1. Smallmouth Bass Fishing:
  • South Lake Leelanau is home to some impressive smallmouth bass. These hard – fighting fish provide a thrilling angling experience.
  • Look for smallmouth bass along the east shore of the lake, especially in areas with a 20 – foot drop.
  • Live bait presentations, such as leeches or crawlers, are popular choices for targeting smallmouth bass on South Lake Leelanau.
  • Try casting near rocky structures or submerged logs where these bass like to hide.
  1. Additional Tips:
  • When targeting both perch and smallmouth bass, consider using light tackle and smaller lures or baits.
  • Pay attention to water temperatures and adjust your fishing techniques accordingly. As temperatures rise in summer, fish may move deeper into cooler waters.
  • Don’t forget to check local fishing regulations and ensure you have the appropriate licenses before heading out on your fishing trip.
  1. Other Fish Species:

Dock fishing spots

Dock fishing spots on South Lake Leelanau are abundant, providing anglers with convenient access to prime walleye fishing areas. Here are some key locations to check out:

  1. Lake Shore Drive Docks: The docks along Lake Shore Drive in Leelanau offer excellent opportunities for walleye fishing. These spots are known for their consistent catches and are highly recommended by local anglers.
  2. North End Docks: Head towards the north end of the lake, where you will find several docks that are perfect for casting a line. These areas tend to be less crowded, allowing for a peaceful fishing experience.
  3. South End Docks: The south end of South Lake Leelanau is another hotspot for dock fishing. Here, you can often find large numbers of walleye congregating near the docks, making it easier to reel in those prized catches.
  4. Private Boat Docks: Some private boat docks allow public access for fishing purposes. It’s always courteous to ask permission from the dock owners before casting your line.


In conclusion, if you’re a beginner looking to experience the thrill of walleye fishing, South Lake Leelanau in Michigan is the perfect destination. With its abundant fish population and beautiful scenery, this lake offers an ideal setting for angling adventures.

Remember to plan your trip during the best time of year, equip yourself with the right techniques and lures, and ensure you have all the necessary licenses. So grab your gear and get ready for an exciting journey into the world of walleye fishing on South Lake Leelanau!


1. What is the significance of South Lake Leelanau for walleye fishing?

South Lake Leelanau in Michigan is known for its excellent walleye fishing opportunities. It is home to a thriving walleye population, making it a popular destination for anglers targeting this species.

2. How can I catch walleye in South Lake Leelanau?

To catch walleye in South Lake Leelanau, you can use a variety of techniques such as trolling with crankbaits or harnesses, jigging with live bait or soft plastics, or casting and retrieving lures. Experimenting with different methods can help you find the most effective approach for the conditions and time of year.

3. Are there other fish species apart from walleye in South Lake Leelanau?

Apart from walleye, South Lake Leelanau is also home to other fish species such as smallmouth bass, perch, lake trout, rock bass, and more. Anglers can enjoy a diverse fishing experience in the lake.

4. What are some tips for walleye fishing on South Lake Leelanau?

When walleye fishing on South Lake Leelanau, it is recommended to use lures that mimic their natural prey, such as minnows or crawlers. Pay attention to the water temperature and depth, as walleye often prefer cooler waters and may be found at different depths depending on the season. Additionally, consider fishing during low-light conditions, as walleye are more active during dawn and dusk.

5. Where is the best spot for walleye fishing in South Lake Leelanau?

The best spot for walleye fishing can vary depending on the time of year and other factors. However, the south end of the lake is known to be productive for walleye fishing. Exploring different areas and depths within the lake can help you find the hotspots.

6. What other lakes near South Lake Leelanau are good for walleye fishing?

There are several other lakes near South Lake Leelanau that offer good walleye fishing opportunities. Some of these lakes include Houghton Lake, Manistique Lake, Lake Gogebic, Gun Lake, Crystal Lake, and Hubbard Lake. Each of these lakes has its own unique characteristics and fishing regulations, so it’s important to research and follow the specific guidelines for each lake.


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!

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