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The Great Lakes and Fishing

For in depth information about the Great Lakes, fisheries, region, economics, visit:

See (larger view of basin drainage)

The Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario - Span nearly 750 miles from west to east The Great Lakes are the largest system of fresh, surface water on earth, containing roughly 18 percent of the world supply. The Great Lakes drainage basin covers an area the size of France and is home to over 37 million people.

It's difficult to appreciate the magnitude of the Great Lakes water system. The lakes contain about 5,500 cubic miles of water, covering a total area of 94,000 square miles. In Michigan alone, the shoreline is over 3000 miles, and is longer then the atlantic coast.

For a real time look at individual ports see Great Lakes Web Cams.

The Great Lakes are habitat to many fish species, some natural and some stocked. According to Michigan Sea Grant; Great Lakes fisheries are valued at more than $4 billion annually. (Michigan Sea Grant conducts scientific research aimed at understanding fish populations in order to provide a basis for sound fishery management.)

Each Lake has a different volume of water and provide habit for different fish species.

Lake Superior has 2,725 miles of shoreline and covers over 31,700 square miles. It is the largest of the Great Lakes It is also the deepest (turn off pop-ups to view page left),700 feet, and coldest of the five lakes. Lake Superior could contain all the other Great Lakes and three more Lake Erie. Because of its size, Superior has a retention time of 191 years. (Retention time is a measure based on the volume of water in the lake and the mean rate of outflow, think of it as the time it takes for one drop of water to cycle through the lake.)

Lake Superior is known for it's very large populations of wild Lake trout which rebounded from near devastation by sea lamprey . Moreover, populations of stocked salmon species such as Coho and Chinook are now self-sustaining. Lake herring, an important food source for salmon and lake trout, have increased significantly since the mid 1980s. Lake Superior and tributaries have healthy populations of Steelhead trout, Brook trout, Brown trout and in some ports very large walleye and perch. Many Lake Superior fishing charter captains offer ice fishing charters where you can catch some monster northern pike. See Michigan Charter Boat Fishing reports for Lake Superior

Lake Michigan, the second largest, is the only Great Lake entirely within the United States. (see Lake Michigan Wiki), Lake Michigan is 22,178 sq miles, 307 mi long and 30 to 120 miles wide, bordered by Michigan., Indiana, IL , and WI. Its surface is 581 ft above sea level, and the lake is 923 ft at its deepest point. Lake Michigan has a retention time of 99 years. Lake Michigan's cul-de-sac formation means that water entering the lake circulates slowly and remains for a long time (retention) before it leaves the basin through the Straits of Mackinac. Small lunar tidal effects have been documented for Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is joined to Lake Huron at the Straits of Mackinac, they are considered one lake hydrologically.

Lake Michigan is known for it's diverse fishery . Like other Great Lakes, it has been stocked for over forty years. Lake Michigan fishing charter captains fish for Chinook, Coho, and Steelhead, Brown, and Lake Trout. It also produces walleye and perch. Many rivers and streams flow into Lake Michigan, and the major tributaries are the Fox-Wolf, Big Manistee , Betsie River, Grand River, Kalamazoo River, Muskegon River, and the St. Joseph River. These tributaries provide year round fishing for species such as steelhead. The strain in the Great Lakes look like the rainbow trout, only much larger and stronger. In Michigan, the Steelhead program began in 1966 when eggs were taken from wild Manistee, Little Manistee and Platte River adult females. See Michigan Charter Boat Fishing reports for Lake Michigan. Since, 1968, the Little Mainstee River has been the primary source Michigan Steelhead eggs.The Manistee today supports an annual runs of over 10,000 adults and is maintained entirely by natural reproduction. The Lake Michigan watershed has the following steelhead strains: Ganaraska,Chambers Creek, and the skamania strain of summer migrating steelhead. (see Great Lakes Stream Flow data for current stream conditions.

Lake Huron, which includes Georgian Bay, (Canada) is the third largest of the lakes by volume. . (see Lake Huron Wiki) It spans 23,010 square miles Lake Huron has 3,827 miles of shoreline. The length of the lake is 206 miles and it is 183 miles wide. At 579 feet above sea level, it averages 195 feet deep with a maximum depth of 750 feet and has a retention time of about 22 years.

Lake Huron has a long heritage of Great Lakes fishing and as early as the 1800s provided much of the food to the region. In the 1940's the population of lake trout in the main basin of Lake Huron collapsed from the combined effects of over fishing and predation by sea lampreys. Since that time stocking juvenile lake trout has been one of the key management strategies in efforts toward lake trout rehabilitation. In 2002, the Lake Huron Chinook salmon fishery experienced the highest Chinook salmon harvest since 1986, and although in the past few years limit catches have been made up primarily of Lake trout, the Lake Huron fishery is thriving, besides record class lake trout, the Brown trout fishery has come on strong and Atlantic salmon have recently established spawning areas in several tributaries of Lake Huron and the St Mary's River. There are also large numbers of bass, walleye, pike, and musky. The Saginaw River basin and Michigan's Saginaw Bay is without a doubt the best kept secret for walleye fishery on Lake Huron. In the tributaries like the Au Sable , St. Clair, and St. Mary's River beautiful steelhead, brook trout, pinks (native salmon), can be caught. (see Great Lakes Stream Flow data for current stream conditions.

Lake Erie is the smallest of the Great Lakes in volume. (see Lake Erie Wiki) Lake Erie is about 210 miles long, about 57 miles wide, and has a shoreline length of about 871 miles. The western basin, comprising about one-fifth of the lake, is very shallow with an average depth 24 feet and a maximum depth of 62 feet. Lake Erie's drainage basin area is 22,720 square miles and has a replacement time of only 2.6 years, which is the shortest of the Great Lakes.

Lake Erie is synonymous with world class walleye fishing. Michigan is only responsible for 112 square miles of the 9,903 square miles of Lake Erie, but it is the western basin that Michigan is a part of that is considered the hot spot for walleye, along with the central basin and Lake Erie fishing charter captains report adult walleye numbering in the millions. Truly the walleye capital of the world. The small mouth bass fishery is to be surpassed by none. Along with perch, Lake Erie is a sportfishing paradise! (See Michigan Charter Boat Fishing reports for Erie )

For more information on the Great Lakes see: