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A Quick Guide to the 2018-19 Michigan Fishing Season

by Lisa Diggs

Spring marks the start of a new fishing season in Michigan. Every year over 1.2 million anglers take to the lakes and waterways in Michigan, creating a $2.5 billion impact on the local economy.

Michigan is home to more than 11,000 lakes, 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and 20,000 miles of streams, providing some of the most diverse freshwater fishing in world. It consistently ranks in the top five states for bass fishing, and Field & Stream recently named Michigan the best fly fishing state in America.  

Those interested in going fishing in Michigan have a wide variety of options in locations, targets, lures, and licenses. For the ultimate handbook to local angling opportunities download the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide from the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The online resource is chock-full of information regarding seasons, regulations, required licensing, and more.

Generally speaking, whether heading out on a charter, or sitting on the dock of a lake, if you want to fish in Michigan, you will need a license. The 2018 license season took effect April 1, and runs until March 31, 2019.

License options are good for all species and include:
  • Resident annual - $26
  • Nonresident annual - $76
  • Senior annual (for residents age 65 or older) - $11
  • 24-hour (resident or nonresident) - $10
  • 72-hour (resident or nonresident) - $30
  • Resident combo hunt/fish (base, annual fishing, two deer) - $76
  • Senior resident combo hunt/fish (base, annual fishing, two deer) - $43
  • Nonresident combo hunt/fish (base, annual fishing, two deer) - $266
Licenses may be purchased online, or by visiting a local license retailer or DNR Customer Service Center to make a purchase in person. Charter boats may also have one-day or three-day licenses available for purchase on-site, but it is best to check ahead first. One of the foremost sources of charter information is

If you’re not sure about your level of interest in the sport, and just want to get your feet wet so to speak, the state offers Free Fishing Weekends twice a year. On those weekends, no fishing license is required, nor is a Recreation Passport for entry into state parks and recreation areas. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing for all species of fish. Keep in mind that all regulations will still apply. Many locations around the state even offer special events and activities on those dates. The upcoming Free Fishing Weekends are June 9-10, 2018 and February 16-17, 2019.

Anglers in Michigan can search for a wide variety of species including bass, lake sturgeon, muskellunge, northern pike, panfish, salmon, trout, walleye, yellow perch, and more. Some may only be catch and release, while others have specific seasons, so it’s good to keep abreast of changing regulations. For example, new regulations worth noting this year include:

  • Muskellunge harvest season has changed statewide to the first Saturday in June and includes a new catch-and-immediate release season open all year.
  • A new suite of waters has been added where anglers may retain an additional five brook trout in their daily possession limit of trout (10 brook trout possession waters).
Additionally, a new registration system has been put into place for anglers who harvest a lake sturgeon or muskellunge. The lake sturgeon fishing permit and harvest tag and the muskellunge harvest tags are no longer required or available. An angler who harvests a lake sturgeon or muskellunge is now required to report the harvest within 24 hours, either online at, by calling the toll-free number 844-345-FISH (3474) or in person at any DNR Customer Service Center during normal state business hours with advance notice of arrival.

The DNR website has abundant additional information available to heighten each angler’s experience including a trout fishing online map app, a fishing forecast, stocking database, and even a weekly report anyone can subscribe to for free to find out where the fish are biting. 


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