With a plethora of cat fish habitat state-wide, Michigan is becoming a hotspot for this barbell-faced fish. The Great Lakes State might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think catfish, but there is plenty of opportunity for this bottom-dwelling monster here. In fact – 10 different catfish species call Michigan home – from bullheads to flatheads and even elusive madtoms, its all right here!
If you find yourself in north country with a bucket full of catfish bait, take the guesswork out of where to catch cats with this comprehensive list of the best places to catfish in Michigan.
1. Grand River
When the words fishing and Michigan are uttered, chances are the Grand River comes to mind. At 252 miles long and 15 feet deep in some places, it boasts flathead and channel catfish throughout its watershed. From Grandville to Grand Rapids, the fishing holes are abundant, and the catfish bulky. So heavy that a 20-pound flathead has become a somewhat common occurrence in this waterway.
2. Lake Michigan
This is the spot for real lunkers. You know, gigantic catfish that seem like a legend. With a giant flathead being pulled out of Lake Michigan, shattering the state record. It weighed a whopping 54 pounds, so just remember to bring out the heavy gear for this location. But this wasn’t the only occurrence, with a 40-pound channel catfish pulled from this lake.
So while most anglers are caught up with trout, salmon, and walleye fishing, you have a literal freshwater sea at your disposal. This begs the question, does that mean the catfish are a kind of freshwater whale?
3. Lichfield Catfish Acres
This is your best bet for blue catfish in Michigan. Litchfield Catfish Acres is an artificial, man-made pond connected to the St. Joseph River. The pond is stocked, and you have to pay to get in, but the catfish are basically a guarantee after that.
Have little ones? Consider introducing them to catfishing here. Just be careful; someone pulled an 80-pounder from these murky depths.
4. Lake Superior
Yup, the other side of the peninsulas has catfish, too. You’ll mostly find channel catfish in Lake Superior, but they’re big and not that hard to catch. Here’s a tip: stick to the lower peninsula’s riffles, rivers, and streams; it’ll only be a matter of time before you’re hooked. Old ‘Gitcha Goomi is a darn big lake, so you’ll be able to find a private spot with little difficulty. Just you and your line and all the tranquillity in the world.
5. Lake St. Clair
Sometimes fishing spots appear that seem nothing more than folklore. This is the reputation of Lake St. Clair and its catfish population.
Thus, information may be scarce, but anglers swear by the fabled cats here. Yet, flatheads populate the lake, and although it can be a tricky bite, wrestling one out of Lake St. Clair is an award in itself. Moderate numbers, like consistent 14-pounders or cats 36 inches long, are thrown around. You could say Lake St. Clair is a must-try destination out of curiosity.
6. Lake Charlevoix
Lake Charlevoix is a popular vacationing spot, teeming with campgrounds and parks, but it also teases channel catfish galore. Don’t have gear? No Worries! This lake comes well-equipped with businesses offering charter services or boat rentals. And the locals are more than happy to point you toward the nearest catfish hole. Charlevoix is also an excellent spot for brown trout and sunfish. You’ll want to bring various types of gear to cover all your bases on this massive waterway.
7. Hamlin Lake
With almost 5,000 acres and stunning scenery, Hamlin Lake makes for an epic channel catfish fishery. But catfishing doesn’t stop there, with yellow, brown, and black bullheads found in abundance. Hamlin has also been in the news for its catfish when a local lady reeled in a channel cat just under 41 pounds.
8. St Joseph River
Lloyd Tanner, of Hobart, caught the 53.35-pound flathead catfish in the St. Joseph River in June 2022, according to a Michigan Department of Natural Resources. There are public waters all along the ‘St. Joe’ where anglers can fish cats from the shore. Some great local spots include Pinhook Park, Leeper Park and along the Mishawaka Riverwalk. There are four dams on the St. Joseph, each with fish ladders to allow the anadromous fish to travel on upstream -located at Buchanan, Niles, South Bend and Mishawaka dams. Focus in and around the ladders for catfish.
If you pull a wels catfish from any body of water in Michigan, the Midwest Invasive Species Network wants to know about it. These catfish are a non-native species and Michigan DNR want to keep them out. The wels catfish grow to an incredible size and eat anything in sight when they move into an area, so their presence could be detrimental to Michigan fisheries.
Fortunately, there are plenty of native cats to be had in the waters mentioned in this list. Good luck catfishing in the Great Lakes States and may you see whiskers a plenty!