Spring fishing. What’s not to like?  The air is clear and cool and birds are often singing. Fish are hungry and readily take bait, lures and flies. It’s a time brimming with excitement for Grand Rapids anglers no matter whether they fish from a boat, sit on the bank, or wade in the shallows.

Anglers fishing on the Grand River

Anglers enjoy the spring steelhead run on the Grand River. Photo by Howard Meyerson

April 1 is the start of the 2016 fishing season and anglers are reminded that a new fishing license is required. Those can be purchased at bait and tackle or Meijer stores all around town, or found online. The state sells 24-hour and 72-hour licenses too for those just visiting or giving fishing a try. 

Spring is a good time for steelhead on the Grand River. The big chrome rainbows come charging upstream to spawn.  Many anglers fish downtown at the Sixth St. Dam or from the concrete flood wall along the river. Caution is advised, though, when wading – particularly in high spring waters.

Steelhead and trout are also abundant on the Rogue River near Rockford, just 15 minutes north of downtown Grand Rapids. A favorite gathering spot for steelhead anglers is just below the Rockford Dam. Brown trout and rainbow trout are found further upstream.

Walleye and northern pike fishing opens on the last Saturday in April for all Lower Peninsula inland waters, but trout fishing seasons vary by stream. Many are open year-round while others open the last Saturday in April. To be sure, check the 2016-2017 Michigan Fishing Guide published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Print copies are available where fishing licenses are sold.

Fishing from Reeds Lake

An angler fishes Reeds Lake from the bank. Photo by Howard Meyerson

Big Fish, Great Fishing

Grand Rapids is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing waters in southern Michigan and some the state’s largest fish are caught in Kent County lakes and streams.

Michigan’s Master Angler List, the official listing of big fish and the waters where they were caught, shows Kent County produced some of the biggest bluegills in 2014 and 2015. A 1.75 pound 12-inch bluegill was hoisted out of Scally Lake in 2014 while a 1.74 pound 12-inch bluegill was caught in Wabasis Lake. 

Where you find one often you will find another. The Master Angler list is an excellent resource for locating where anglers catch big fish.  

Meyers Lake, about 20 miles from downtown Grand Rapids, produced one of the state’s largest crappies in 2014 - a whopping 15.75 incher weighing 2.25 pounds - while Murray Lake produced a 15-incher in 2015.

Big bass also were caught on area waters. Wabasis Lake produced a 23.5 inch largemouth bass in 2013 and a 22.88-incher in 2015. The Grand River produced a 21.75 inch smallmouth bass last year along with a 32-inch rainbow trout (steelhead) and 31-inch walleye. 

Lincoln Lake and the Grand River are listed by the Michigan DNR as two of the best walleye waters in Kent County. Wabasis and Lincoln lakes were both stocked with walleye in 2015.

When it comes to fishing apex predators like muskellunge, Campau, Lincoln and Murray lakes are tops. For a complete list of the best fishing waters in Michigan and nearby, check out the DNR’s website. Scroll down to Kent County to see the waters and species found near Grand Rapids.

Fishing the Rogue River in Grand Rapids

Two anglers enjoy a sunny day at the Rogue River. Photo by Howard Meyerson

Family-Friendly Fishing

Inland lakes are often fished by anglers in boats and by those who have property on them, but Kent County has several public waters where no boat is needed to enjoy a day fishing. The DNR maintains a statewide list of “Family Friendly Fishing Waters,” The project was launched in 2013 to make it easy for families to get started fishing. All of the listed sites have amenities like bathrooms and playgrounds. Each is safe, and easy to find.

Family-Friendly fishing sites in Kent County include Bass Lake, Bear Creek, Lincoln Lake, Pickerel Lake and Reeds Lake.

The latter is a popular and pleasant East Grand Rapids locale.Three floating boardwalks extend out on the water from Waterfront Park on the west shore off Reeds Lake Blvd.  Parking is provided in a small lot across the street. More fishing platforms are found at John Collins Park on Lakeside Dr. where there is a boat launch and picnic tables. All provide easy access to the water and a place to enjoy the sights and sounds of nature.

Dunking worms for panfish is a great way to start kids fishing. Bluegills, crappies and pumpkinseeds are family favorites that are good to eat. If you are just starting, the DNR offers a quick primer on how to catch them. Now it’s time to get that fishing license and start planning outings with family and friends.