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.

Spring Fishing 4

Anglers enjoy the spring steelhead run on the Grand River.

Photo by Photo by Howard Meyerson

April 1 is the start of the new 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. Visitors and anyone who wants to give fishing a try can purchase a license good for one to six consecutive days.

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 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 annual Michigan Fishing Guide published by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Print copies are available where fishing licenses are sold.

You can also check the Weekly Fishing Report for insight into current fishing conditions in Kent County.

Spring Fishing 2

An angler fishes Reeds Lake from the bank.

Photo by 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 is the official listing of big fish and the waters where they were caught. Kent County waters produced some of the biggest fish in recent years including an 11-inch bluegill in Murray Lake, a whopping 16-inch bluegill in Wabasis Lake and 14 to 15-inch crappies in Campau Lake. Where you find one often you will find another. The Master Angler list is an excellent fishing resource. Search the online database to see where anglers have caught big fish. The Grand River, for instance, produced a 22-inch smallmouth bass.  

Lincoln Lake and the Grand River are listed by the Michigan DNR as two of the best walleye waters in Kent County. When it comes to fishing an apex predator 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.  

Spring Fishing 3B

Two anglers enjoy a sunny day at the Rogue River.

Photo by Photo by Howard Meyerson

Family-Friendly Fishing

Inland lakes are often fished by anglers in boats and those who have property on them, but Kent County has several waters where no boat is needed to enjoy a day of 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. There are also fishing platforms 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 Michigan DNR offers a series of YouTube videos and other tips about how to catch them. Now it’s time to get that fishing license and start planning outings with family and friends.

This story was originally written by Howard Meyerson and has been updated by Experience Grand Rapids Staff.