Charlevoix's history is richly intertwined with the fishing community. Take a trip to our local history museum (Harsha House) and you'll hear stories about families migrating to the area to fill their boats with "Finney-gold."
Nowadays, you can go to just about any restaurant in the area and try some of our local, fresh-caught whitefish. How fresh is fresh you say? To this day, the smell of fish reminds me of when I was a waitress downtown and watching Mr. Cross from John Cross Fisheries march in the back door with his knee-high rubber boots and a box full of the morning catch.
As a fishing enthusiast myself, I can tell you that fishing in Charlevoix is like fishing in the open ocean, except better because our waterways are so unique! Lake Michigan flows through the Pine River channel and into our harbor, Round Lake, which has its own channel that leads into Lake Charlevoix. From there, Lake Charlevoix splits off into a south arm that leads you into East Jordan and then Boyne City. Whether you're in Lake Charlevoix, Round Lake or in Lake Michigan, you never know what you're going to catch. But that's not to say that you can't target any specific number of desirable fish. These waters hold a little bit of everything: smallmouth bass, salmon, lake trout, walleye, pike, whitefish, and even lake herring.
Everyone has their own favorite fishing spots, but I'm going to provide you with my top three personal favorites!
#1 — The Pine River Channel
I could tell you story after story about all the fish I've caught the Pine River Channel over the course of my life, but you'd never believe me. It's something you have to experience for yourself. On the best of days you can catch anything from the 6-pound smallmouth bass, to a 37-inch walleye; you might even see some fresh water drum and brown trout swim through the channel while you're there.
Spring is great for walleye. Summer is fantastic for smallmouth bass. And fall, of course, is known for the salmon run.
#2 — St. Mary's Cement Plant
Charlevoix is a release site to hundreds of thousands of salmon fry every year. Those fish head out to the open waters of Lake Michigan for 3 to 4 years and head back to where they were released from to spawn.
The setting is epic; park at the end of a dead end road, put your waders on, and cross the St. Mary's stream. From there, head towards the cement plant located west of where you parked and continue out to find a crew of people standing right in the middle of the salmon run.?
On average 8,000 to 12,000 salmon return each year to spawn in the river, giving avid anglers a chance to get their fill!
Make sure to invest in a good pair of waders, a nice long pole around 10 or 11 feet, and of course some great tackle. At night try glow spoons like KO Wobblers. During the morning, daytime and evening try body baits like deep diving junior thunder sticks, or you can stick to what traditional fishermen swear by and fish with spawn on a slip sinker.
One tip to feeling welcome when you walk out to the slip, value the locals by asking for help if you need it.
#3 — Round Lake
Round Lake is the place to be during springtime walleye season! As I mentioned before, Charlevoix has unique waterways that allow Lake Michigan to flow into Round Lake and off to another channel into Lake Charlevoix, making Round Lake the perfect breeding ground for spring walleye.
Fishing Round Lake is not as easy as fishing the slip or the Pine River Channel. If you do find yourself looking to slay some spring walleye and you have access to a boat make sure you watch your Fishfinder as you pass by the Beaver Island Boat Company docks and head towards the drawbridge. You're bound to see tons of walleye littering the floor!
While fishing the Pine River Channel or Round Lake with the boat, make sure to be courteous of those fishing from the edges. Too many lines in the water cause hard feelings, and you know how a fisherman feels about losing a fish… ;)