7 Best Great Lakes Fishing Towns in the US

Jul 13, 2022 | 8 minute read Comments
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Reading Time: 8 minutes

The Great Lakes are among the world’s most impressive natural marvels. Their shores are dotted with charming little towns and dazzling views. Whether it’s a relaxing retreat or an adventure of a lifetime, the Great Lakes have you covered. Speaking of adventure, these vast waters are also home to some of the most spectacular reel action on the continent. With that in mind, we’ve put together a list featuring the best Great Lakes fishing towns in the US. 

a view of the harbor on Mackinac Island

For our list, we picked the towns that will put you on some hard-biting fish, while also giving you ample activities to choose from. Seriously, these places will put some Caribbean paradises to shame. In no particular order, our picks for the best Great Lakes fishing towns are:

Buffalo, Lake Erie, NY

The skyline of Buffalo, NY, one of the most popular Great Lakes fishing towns in America

If you’re looking for a variety of fishing opportunities, look no further than Buffalo. If we didn’t know any better, we’d think the place was set up as a “fishing 101” practice range. The historic town is nestled between three bodies of water, each more breathtaking than the other. Set up camp in Buffalo, and wet your line in Niagara River, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario, all in a single weekend!

The upper Niagara River will put you on some giant Muskies, often weighing 35 pounds. These guys know how to put up a fight, so you better bring your A-game if you want to catch one. Coming in from the north, you can expect great numbers of Coho and Chinook Salmon. Lake Erie and Ontario are also teeming with Steelhead, Walleye, as well as Smallmouth Bass.

You’ll quickly see that variety is the name of the game in Buffalo. From classy to sassy, and everything in between, there’s no shortage of things to do in this town. Boasting picture-perfect scenery, the newly revamped waterfront is perfect for relaxing walks and endorphin-filled activities. With every step you take, there’ll be something to see or do. From craft beer and fine dining to concerts and arts and crafts, the Buffalo waterfront is a playground like no other. 

The town might have poured half a billion dollars into its waterfront, but don’t think for a second that that’s all it has to offer. The array of art galleries, stunning architecture, and sports activities are bound to spoil you for choice. Oh, and did we mention that Niagara Falls is just 20 minutes away? Whether you plan your visit ahead, or just wing it, one thing’s for sure – Buffalo will leave you in awe.

Holland, Lake Michigan, MI

A red barn in Holland, MI, with green grass and a red sunset in the distance

If you ever wondered what the quickest way to Europe is, this is it. Holland is a living testament to Dutch heritage, and a bona fide time machine. It’s also one of the very best Great Lakes fishing destinations.

The town lies on two lakes: Lake Macatawa and its bigger brother, Lake Michigan.

In mid-spring, fishing comes alive in this part of Lake Michigan. This is when you can catch keeper Brown Trout, Coho Salmon, and the mighty Chinook. If it gets windy, just stay in the smaller Macatawa Lake. Apart from some welcome shelter, you’ll also find great numbers of Bluegill, Perch, and Walleye here.

What comes to mind when you think of the Netherlands? Tulips, windmills, and wooden shoes, right? Well, you’ll find no shortage of those in this charming lake town. If you thought spring fishing was great, wait until you’ve seen the rest of the town. Take a walk through a field of blooming tulips in Windmill Island Gardens, as the 250-year-old De Zwaan windmill stands tall.

The one place in Holland you can’t miss has to be the Holland State Park beach. If the vast expanse of white sand doesn’t leave you in awe, the astonishing view of Lake Michigan ahead surely will. The beach is where you’ll find loads of opportunities for water sports, as well as grills and picnics. 

There’s always a sailboat or two passing by. Speaking of boats, if you’re looking for the best way to experience the eastern coast of Lake Michigan, hop on a cruise aboard the Holland Princess. This Victorian style paddle-wheel boat will let you enjoy scenic views of the lake and its many shoreline villas. As your cruise is winding down, enjoy a delicious dinner while the sun sets on Lake Michigan behind you.

Mackinac Island, Lake Huron, MI

If you’re looking for a deep water fishing expedition that’s close to home, Mackinac Island is the place for you. This picturesque island is the perfect base for a fishing adventure. You can get here by plane or ferry. Whichever of these you choose, get ready for some spectacular views. 

The marina on Mackinac Island, with trees and a church in the distance

Just off the Island, the Straits of Mackinac are a great spot to catch various types of Salmon, as well as Lake Trout, Steelhead, Muskie, and Walleye. Fishing this far north on Lake Huron will really give you a sense of how intact and well-preserved this place is. 

Back on the island, you’ll have no shortage of lakeside accommodation to choose from. The area around the bay is dotted with delightful bed-and-breakfast villas and cottages, offering mesmerizing vistas of Lake Huron. If you want something a little more indulgent, the historic Island House and Grand hotels are right next door.

There’s a lot that makes Mackinac Island special. Almost the entire island is a state park, and the oldest one in Michigan, at that. The island is also home to the only state-provided Governor’s mansion in the States. The Victorian work of art is open for free public tours every Wednesday throughout the summer.

Towering over downtown, the Revolutionary War Fort Mackinac stands sentinel. Spend an hour learning about the fort’s role in the war and experience the cannon demonstrations up close and personal. 

Oh, and you simply have to try the island’s signature delicacy – the Mackinac fudge.

Sandusky, Lake Erie, OH

A group of anglers on a charter fishing boat, with the rollercoasters of Sandusky in the distance behind them

The western side of Lake Erie is notorious for its Walleye and Perch fishing. Many call this area the Walleye Capital of the World! This is why the entire area from Toledo to Lakeside Marblehead is dotted with fishing charters.

Even if the open waters of the lake get rough, the sheltered Sandusky Bay is teeming with fish from April all through October. 

That’s not to say that you can’t fish on Lake Erie in the winter. The Sandusky area is actually renowned for its ice fishing. If you haven’t tried ice fishing before, just know that there are few things as heart-pumping as catching fish on a gigantic body of frozen water for the first time. So if you’re up for an adventure, get your gear ready and suit up – your Walleye feast awaits.

And while ice fishing may be great, we still recommend experiencing Sandusky in the summer. This is when the town truly comes alive with attractions and outdoor opportunities. 

As May turns into June, the largest motorcycle rally in the Midwest passes through town. If bikes aren’t your thing, take a walking tour through the 200-year-old downtown area. And if strolling in the sun leaves you tired, head to the nearby Kelley’s Island State Park beach for a dip, you won’t regret it.

Sandusky may have amazing Walleye fishing, but that’s not what put this town on the map – it’s the flagship amusement park Cedar Point. This 364-acre field of joy is the second oldest amusement park in the country. It offers a wide range of rides and attractions for youngsters as well as the young at heart.

Green Bay, Lake Michigan, WI

An aerial view of Green Bay, Wisconsin

Blessed with incredibly abundant waters, Green Bay offers a year-round variety of fish anglers just can’t say no to. With Fox River and its tributaries flowing right through town, it won’t take you long to find a spot to wet your line. 

This is a fantastic Smallmouth Bass fishery, and the big river’s tributaries are known for their Walleye bites. Of course, there’s also great reel action out in the Bay. In this part of Lake Michigan, you’ll have your hands full with Muskies and Perch. 

Originally set up as a French trading post in the 1700s, Green Bay is one of the oldest permanent European settlements in America. 

Today, Green Bay is a multi-cultural town, offering a wealth of attractions for people from all walks of life. Families will love the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary, a 600-acre refuge with picture-perfect nature and dozens of exciting animals to see. 

Downtown, a 150-year-old house will welcome you to some of the best wine tasting you’ll ever experience. The locals are happy to tell you how good the wines go with some of the best cheeses Wisconsin has to offer. But that’s not it – the town has a proud cultural scene, too. Green Bay’s Meyer Theatre is an ornate performance hall capable of housing a thousand people. The venue hosts a number of live concerts and theatre plays year round.

You can’t talk about Green Bay without mentioning one of the most storied franchises in sports history. The massive, 80,000-seat Lambeau Field is home to the Green Bay Packers, a source of pride and joy for thousands of NFL fans across the globe.

Duluth and Superior, Lake Superior, MN & WI

A view across Lake Superior to Duluth, MN

The gin-clear waters of Lake Superior are home to as many as 80 species of fish. That might have been a big number for another lake, but for this giant, it kind of goes unnoticed. Setting out from Duluth or Superior, this pristine fishery looks more like a sea than a lake. 

From May through October, this place is one of the best King Salmon and Lake Trout fishing destinations in the country. Of course, there’s plenty of other spots to wet your line here, each more productive than the next. The backwaters of Spirit Bay and St. Louis River hold ample numbers of Walleye, Crappie, as well as Steelhead.

Duluth and Superior might be two towns in two states, but they’re actually just 5 miles apart. 

Duluth

A relaxing stroll though Duluth will take you along the scenic Lakewalk to Canal Park. The park gives way to Duluth’s most famous landmark, the Aerial Lift Bridge. This architectural masterpiece dates way back to 1905. Past the bridge, the promenade takes you along a pebbled beach, dotted with vacation houses overlooking the lake. 

There are a number of colorful eateries across town, many of them serving the Lake’s prime catch. The Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum is a cultural gem you really should check out. The museum houses treasures like Egyptian sandstone carvings and ship models, Bob Dylan’s handwritten lyrics, and many others.

Superior

A view along Lake Superior, with green trees on the left

Boasting the same captivating setting as Duluth, Superior’s lakeside walks will make all your troubles go away. The town’s backdrop is home to some of the most beautiful parks you’ll lay eyes on. From Superior Municipal Forest to Pattison State Park, the area offers breathtaking scenery wherever you look. 

The latter park is named after 19th-century entrepreneur Martin Pattison. His remarkable home, the Fairlawn mansion, endures to this day, serving as a museum of the family and the town’s history.

Scratching the Surface

A beach on the Great Lakes, with blue water on the right

These towns are some of the best Great Lakes fishing destinations you’ll ever see. Of course, the Lakes offer countless more charming fishing towns, each more captivating than the last. There are fishing spots all around the Great Lakes, and it would take you a lifetime to explore them all. All we can say is, time well spent.

Your turn. Have you ever fished in one of these towns before? What are some Great Lakes fishing towns you think we might have missed? Let us know in the comments below.

Comments (23)
  • Bob Fornadlegy

    Apr 20, 2021

    In this article and listing of the 7 ” best” fishing towns in the Great Lakes as with you last article I never see or hear mention of the City of Erie, the numerous steelhead tributaries all close by and the world class
    smallmouth and Walleye fishing literally inside the City ‘s boundaries and the tremendous musky and perch fishing inside Presque Isle State Park – not to mention the unbelievable steelhead fishing there. I know…I’ve fished this area for 18 years. The accessibility to fish is unmatched anywhere I’ve been. What gives? How can you miss this? There are more places to fish in the Great Lakes than the Cleveland area ir the State of Michigan…. not to mention all the great places to eat and stay in Erie at the end of a successful day !

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      Sean

      Apr 21, 2021

      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for sharing, you make a very good point.

      With Sandusky and Buffalo already on our list, we wanted to make our list as diverse as possible, so we gave credit to some of the other Great Lakes fisheries.

      It’s nearly impossible to do all the Great Lakes fishing towns justice, but you are completely right about Erie, and it’s well deserving of being on a list like this. Places like the Presque Isle State Park are particularly attractive for angling families, as they offer lots to do on top of incredible fishing. And for the purists, there’s a variety of secluded streams to explore.

      Thanks again for sharing.

      Tight lines!

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  • Lenny Vaughan

    Apr 18, 2021

    When your talking about fishing on the great lakes the one town that should have been on your list is Manistee. To start with manistee has the best catch rate for salmon anywhere on the great lakes and the world for that matter. It also is one of the historical towns of the great lakes. When Chicago burnt down at the turn of the 1900s. Manistee with the lumber industry helped rebuild Chicago. Manistee lake offers some great inshore fishing for northern pike,walleye ,perch,smallmouth bass. The charter fishing is second only to ludington Michigan. The shoreline of lake Michigan is as beautiful as anywhere in the whole world. The beaches are clean and the crystal clear water is as blue as the ocean. Believe me you have to see it to believe it.

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      Sean

      Apr 19, 2021

      Hi Lenny,

      Thanks for sharing.

      That makes a compelling case. We’ve heard great things about fishing in Manistee, but I never knew about the historical significance of the place.

      Anglers should certainly have the town on their maps when planning a fishing trip on the Great Lakes.

      Thanks again for sharing, and have a great day!

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  • Robert Davis

    Mar 30, 2021

    Your review of Sandusky, Ohio located on Sandusky Bay, left out and abundance of Large and Small mouth Bass. Just north of Sandusky Bay you will find the Bass Islands, and that is not by accident. Numerous amateur and professional Bass Tournaments are launched from the bay and surrounding area every year.

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      Sean

      Mar 31, 2021

      Hi Robert,

      That’s really good to know.

      Thanks for sharing!

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      Bob

      Apr 23, 2021

      Not to mention the Sandusky Bay with it’s abundant crappie and absolutely insane cat fishing. There are a few charters out there that avoid the glory fish and target channels. It’s a great price and let’s everyone no matter what the skill level to enjoy a day of fishing for monsters with plenty in the right size for delicious table fare

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  • Tom

    Mar 30, 2021

    Let’s see, Millie Lacs, Walleye Capital? Strict limits and closed seasons. Lake of the Woods. Nope. Lake Erie is flush with‘eyes in numbers greater than the boom times of the early ‘90s. Smallmouth bass fishing is at its finest, perch are rebounding, and guess what…..here come muskie back.

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      Sean

      Mar 31, 2021

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for sharing.

      There are literally countless places to wet the line on the Great Lakes, and we’re pretty sure that a single article couldn’t do them justice.

      On top of that, there are other lakes that are equally exciting for anglers. Mille Lacs is known as an awesome Walleye fishery, but we didn’t include it because it’s not exactly one of the Great Lakes. It definitely deserves a shout out, though, even with the strict regulations you mentioned.

      We’ve heard some really reassuring stories from Lake Erie, and it’s great to hear that you agree that fishing is as good as it’s ever been there.

      Thanks again for sharing, and have a great day!

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  • Lee Haasch

    Mar 27, 2021

    I’m afraid you got it wrong with Green Bay, referring to Steelhead and King Salmon in the Fox River and it’s tributaries? Not a chance. You need to be o n the Lake Michigan side of the peninsula like Algoma to get the Steelhead and King Salmon action.

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      Sean

      Mar 29, 2021

      Hi Lee,

      You’re completely right, thanks for pointing that out!

      I’ve just amended the article to show the correct information.

      Sorry for the confusion, and thanks again.

      Tight lines!

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  • Alonzo powell

    Mar 19, 2021

    Would like to find fishing packages for phila area and n.j fresh water and salt water.

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      Sean

      Mar 19, 2021

      Hi Alonzo,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      I’ll let our customer service team know about your inquiry, and they’ll be in touch to help you find the ideal fishing charters.

      I hope you’ll have a great time.

      Tight lines!

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  • Mike Wojo

    Feb 8, 2020

    Get it right ! In is not Sandusky Ohio it Should be Port Clinton which is the Walleye Capital ! Yes Sandusky is in it but there are very few charter boats there ! Most closer to Port Clinton ! From the Toledo area to Sandusky ! But the center is Port Clinton

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      Sean

      Feb 10, 2020

      Hi Mike,

      Thanks for sharing!

      If you look at the text more closely, you’ll see that we actually said that the entire “area” is known as the Walleye Capital of the World. Did you know that at least four other towns in the US call themselves the Walleye Capital of the World?

      Still, you’re totally right in saying that Port Clinton is an amazing Walleye fishery. The reason we picked Sandusky as one of the best Great Lakes fishing towns is that the place not only offers great fishing in winter and summer but that it also offers a variety of activities to experience around town. Of course, as you pointed out, Port Clinton has a great number of experienced charter guides, so if one wants to fish with an expert, they are just 20 minutes away.

      Thanks again for sharing, Mike.

      Tight lines!

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  • Barry

    Jan 19, 2020

    Escanaba MI, Big and Little Bay De Noc located in UP with some of the best walleye and perch fishing year round.
    Also Bay City on Saginaw Bay. Compares to Erie on walleye with much smaller manageable water.

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      Sean

      Jan 20, 2020

      Hi Barry,

      Thanks for reading.

      Agreed, these are some great fishing locations in their own right. The Great Lakes are so abundant with productive fishing spots, it’s really tough to choose which are best!

      Thanks for sharing, and tight lines!

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  • Rob

    Jan 18, 2020

    Im from Buffalo and your spot on about our great city. So much to do here that even the locals arent aware of. Thanks for the kind words.

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      Sean

      Jan 20, 2020

      Hey Rob,

      Thanks for reading. We’re glad we could bring some well-deserved attention to Buffalo.

      Have a good one!

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  • Jack

    Dec 12, 2019

    Conneaut,Ohio The real walleye ,perch, bass ,an steelhead capital of the world always has been an always will be!!

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      Benjamin Ford

      Apr 18, 2021

      Conneaut n Ashtabula n Genevas grand rivers best n the world renowned top 100 n the world field n stream

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  • Kent Swan

    Jun 26, 2019

    This area is so beautiful. I would love to go there soon. I am an American livng in Australia for the last 20 years,and never been East in missesota. Soon I hope and Pray, Kent

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      Sean

      Jun 27, 2019

      Hi Kent,

      Thanks for reading.

      I bet you’ve seen a lot of beauty in Australia, that place has some incredible fishing destinations of its own.

      Hopefully, you’ll get to enjoy the Great Lakes very soon.

      Tight lines!

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