You always remember your first, be it a kiss, true love, airplane ride — or the first fish you ever caught.
“It’s a great memory to have,” says Sierra Medrano of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Fisheries Division. “My first fish was when I was 8 years old. I was with my dad and we were visiting my grandparents in the U.P.”
Fishing, Medrano says, is the ultimate friendly-family activity in Michigan, which boasts 11,000 inland lakes and 36,000 miles of rivers and streams, as well as the Great Lakes.
It’s good for the economy, too: Hunting and fishing generate $11.2 billion for the economy and 171,000 jobs, according to a study by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and Michigan State University. Fees from hunting and fishing licenses provide more than $60 million in wildlife conservation, says the Michigan Wildlife Council, a governor-appointed commission that educates the public about the importance of wildlife conservation.
“Michigan families and the joy they get from fishing is a big reason we do the work we do,” says Nick Buggia, chair of the Michigan Wildlife Council. “Conservationists work continually to make sure kids can enjoy fishing and all forms of water recreation for generations to come.”
Kids learn all about nature — and the virtue of patience — when they fish. Unplugged from devices, they experience the simple joy of being on or near the water with a fishing pole in hand, just waiting for a nibble. “It’s just pure excitement for them to catch a fish, whether it’s the kid who is OK holding a fish or the one who says, ‘Ew, I am not touching that!’” says Medrano.
With its thousands of miles of cold, quality trout streams and hundreds of trout lakes, Michigan is nationally known as a trout fishing destination. And you don’t have to go far to participate. Oakland County’s Paint Creek and Huron River are excellent sources for trout.
Other popular species include bass, salmon, sturgeon, pike, walleye and yellow perch. The DNR makes it easy to reel them in with resources to find just the right spot. The Family Friendly Fishing Waters map shows locations that are easy to access and offer a high likelihood of catching fish. You can filter by the type of fish you want to catch, kind of fishing you are looking for (boat, pier, shore), additional amenities (swimming) and entrance fee.
“We recommend that families use this map because it shows spots where there are plenty of fish so you have a better chance of catching something rather than just trying somewhere random,” Medrano says. “And it shows where there are bathrooms!”
There’s more bait too, including Fish Bites, a quarterly newsletter for young anglers; links to buy a fishing license (mandatory for those 17 or older except during the DNR’s twice-yearly free weekends; the next is Feb. 19-20, 2022); and Michigan Fishing Is Catching On, a guide to the state’s 150-plus fish species and other essential information. You’ll also find printable certificates to commemorate a child’s first catch or one that is particularly impressive. The weekly fishing report (855-777-0908) shares conditions around the state.
Nearly 1.1 million people fish in Michigan each year. “It’s something that anyone can do,” Medrano says, “and there are so many opportunities in Michigan.”