One look at the position of Bay City will tell you everything you know about the local angling scene. With the Saginaw River running through the city, Saginaw Bay at its doorstep, and Lake Huron just beyond the bay, there’s no denying that fishing in Bay City is nothing short of incredible. Add to that the city’s love of festivals, good eating, and a welcoming spirit, and you’ve got your next angling destination.
Wherever you cast your line in the city, there’s a chance you’ll find something good at the end of it. All the freshwater game fish are in the cards, and you can hit the water any day of the year. Yes, even during the unforgiving Michigan winter – because ice fishing is a way of life in Bay City. But, one thing at a time. We’ll walk you through the species you can catch, how to do it, and where to find the best bite.
Best Fish to Catch in Bay City, MI
If you’ve got freshwater game fish on your mind, Bay City will not disappoint. With three distinct bodies of water at your disposal, the list of eligible species is impressive. Here’s what you can look forward to.
There’s no overstating how good the Walleye bite is in and around the city. Whether you’re fishing the river, the bay, or the lake, there’s more Walleye here than you can catch, literally. Another perk is that they’re available year-round, even in the darkest days of winter.
Walleye move around quite a bit during the year, so the key is knowing where they are. Spring marks their spawning season when they move up to Saginaw River. Here they’ll stay and spawn in March and April. During this time, it’s not allowed to keep Wallies. River fishing remains on point until late June when most of these fellas are in Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron.
Speaking of Saginaw Bay, summer is probably the best time to target Walleye here. They hunt relatively close to shore after spawning, then flee to deeper waters to steer clear of the heat. They’re very active during this time, especially if you go out early in the morning.
Walleye know how good they have it in terms of food, so they’re always feeding. Trolling allows you to cover more water and catch more, but you’ll need a trolling motor for extra stealth. Jigging for Walleye is a more hands-on approach, and live minnows are the live bait to try. As for the artificials, diving crankbaits, plugs, and soft plastics won’t let you down.
Yellow Perch fishing in Bay City is a staple of the angling scene. These fish are the most common catch both in Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. You can target them all year, but the bite is at its best in the summer. Perch stay active even during the dead of winter, which is why they’re a great ice fishing species.
However, things have been changing in the Yellow Perch fishery in the past few years. Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources has made sure that Walleye has been regularly stocked every year, to keep the fish thriving. It seems that they overdid it because now Walleye are munching on Yellow Perch and have significantly downsized the population.
You can still find plenty of Perch, but the numbers are not nearly as good as they once were. Yellow Perch are a great “beginner” fish, so families with children and novices will enjoy going after them.
The best time to go after these small, delicious fish is usually early in the morning and evening when they come closer to land to find food. Ice fishing for Yellow Perch is excellent, and a great way to get yourself a hearty meal during the winter.
We can’t talk about all the fishing potential of the Saginaw River and Bay without mentioning the mighty Northern Pike. They’re not the most sought-after species, but they grow big and feisty, and you can use that to your advantage. The open season lasts from spring to late fall, depending on the year’s regulations.
Pike are ambush predators and, as such, like to hunt around underwater vegetation, waiting for their prey to swim by. When you find weed beds in the waters up to 15 feet deep, there’s a chance you’ll find hungry Pike there.
It’s not unusual to hook into a fish that weighs 5+ pounds, and getting it into the boat is going to be a challenge because Pike won’t give in easily. Another perk of Pike fishing is that they’re tasty, so you’ll have a hearty meal to enjoy after your trip.
These fish are voracious eaters and they’ve got the teeth to prove it. It’s important to be extra careful when handling Pike because they won’t hesitate to take you (and your fingers) on. They respond well to a variety of lures, and the rule of thumb is the shinier, the better. Spoons, spinners, and stickbaits are all good choices to get their attention.
Trout (Rainbow, Brown, Lake)
Along with Walleye, Trout are another prized catch that you can look forward to when fishing in Bay City. Lake Huron boasts strong Trout action, and that privilege extends to Saginaw Bay and the Lower Saginaw River. It’s no small feat that you’ve got three premier Trout fisheries so close to each other. The open season usually lasts from April–September.
Rainbow Trout – aka Steelhead – are probably the most popular targets, simply because they’re the most numerous. Come spring, the mouth of Saginaw River becomes one of the ultimate hotspots for Rainbows in the state.
Saginaw Bay is known for its big Lake Trout. Lakers prefer deeper waters but, in the bay, they have no problem feeding in only a few feet of water. If you’d like to travel to the open waters of Lake Huron, Rainbow, Brown, and Lake Trout are at your disposal.
Lake Trout are the biggest of the three, but all three react well to similar presentations. Trolling lures is a good way to get a Trout bite, especially if you use spoons. Fly fishing for Trout is always fun, just make sure to go to colder, deeper waters and present your offering close to the bottom.
If you’ve got a Great Lake nearby, Salmon fishing is always an option. That’s exactly the case on Lake Huron, where you can find good numbers of Chinook, Coho, and Pink Salmon in the summer. The bite starts heating up in May and June, with the high season in July and August.
During this time, the lake is at its warmest, which provides optimal conditions for Salmon to gorge before their spawning season starts. You’ll find most Chinook around underwater structures and piers. As summer progresses, Coho, Pinkies, and Chinook travel into deeper waters where they’ll feed closer to the bottom – and that’s where you’ll find them.
Low visibility hours are the time to target Salmon, so hours around dawn and dusk are your best options. The clear waters of Lake Huron with its abundance of bait fish allow Salmon to fatten up and get nice and big, which is great news for you. Using salmon roe will definitely spark their interest, but trolling plugs and spoons won’t let you down either.
How to fish in Bay City?
You’ve got three top-notch watersheds at your disposal and no shortage of game fish to chase, but how do you go about it? Fishing in Bay City takes on many different forms, so let’s see what your best options are.
Ice Fishing in Bay City
We already mentioned a couple of times that ice fishing is big in the Bay City area. Some would even go as far as to say that the Saginaw Bay and River are some of the most prolific ice fisheries in Michigan. And with so many fish on the to-catch list, we have to agree. Walleye and Yellow Perch are the most common catches when you’re ice fishing in Bay City, though other species can bite as well.
The ice on the bay becomes safe for hard-water fishing sometime in January, and that’s when you’ll see the lake get its second wind. Saginaw Bay is impressively big, and there are ice shanties dotted all over the shore, so all you need is a simple ice fishing setup, warm clothes, and you’re good to go.
Fly Fishing in Bay City
While it might not be as popular as ice fishing, catching fish on the fly is a unique experience on the Saginaw River and Lake Huron. When you’ve got Trout in good numbers, you know that fly fishing is going to be strong. Add that to the fact that you could hook into Bass, Walleye, or Pike, and what’s not to like?
Trout remain the favorite targets of fly anglers and, around the Bay City area, you can go for Rainbows and Browns. If you’re testing your luck in deeper waters during summer, you just might get a Laker to bite. Rainbow Trout respond to mayflies and caddisflies, while Bass won’t say no to crayfish flies. Looking for a challenge? Get your streamer flies and go after Pike.
Charter Fishing in Bay City
When the fishing action is this good, it’s only natural there will be professionals whose mission it is to put you on the fish. That’s exactly the case with Bay City, where you’ll find dozens of guides ready to take you to the fun. Going out with local fishing charters allows you to jump into action as if you’re a local yourself.
What’s great about charter captains in the area is that their trip offer is straightforward. Outings last between 4–7 hours, and there are some guides that specialize in fishing for specific species, namely Walleye. Also, if you’d like to save some money, you can hop on a shared excursion, where you’ll cast a line and have fun with other like-minded anglers. For a more personalized experience, it’s a good idea to hire a private charter for you and your group.
Where can I fish in Bay City, Michigan?
You’ve got an overview of the most sought-after species in Bay City and how you can fish for them, now let’s talk about the most productive fishing holes in and around the city.
- Bay City State Park: If you’re looking to spend a day outdoors without leaving the city, then this is the place for you. The park boasts easy access to Saginaw Bay and that means Walleye, Panfish, and Yellow Perch on the menu.
- Hot Ponds: These are parts of the bay that are warmer because of the regular discharge from an energy plant. Because of the temperature, this is a great spot to fish for Smallmouth Bass, Freshwater Drum (also known as Sheepshead), and Carp.
- The Dredge Island: The waters of the bay and river meet near Dredge Island. Walleye love eating here because there’s a lot of bait fish, so if you’re on the lookout for Wallies, this might be your treasure trove.
- Saginaw River: An angling destination in its own right, the Saginaw River has everything a freshwater fisher could want. The mouth of the river is the gathering place of Yellow Perch, Freshwater Drum, Walleye, Bass, and more.
- Lake Huron: Pretty much any game fish you’d like to target can be found in Lake Huron. Be it trophy Lake Trout, Salmon, Walleye, or Panfish, this Great Lake will wow you with its diversity and productivity.
Bay City Fishing Regulations
As is always the case, some of the first things you need to figure out when fishing in a new place are the local regulations. Thankfully, getting a Michigan fishing license is pretty easy – you just have to decide whether you’d like to buy a daily or a yearly license. The price will depend on whether you’re a resident or not, and senior citizens have a special discount.
You should also pay extra attention to the open seasons. Some fish like Walleye, Northern Pike, and Yellow Perch are available all year, but others like Trout and Salmon often have a limited season. If there’s a special species you’ve got on your mind, make sure you discuss it with your charter guide before you go fishing, so that you have the right expectations.
Fishing in Bay City – Freshwater Action for the Books!
There are a lot of angling destinations worth checking out in the Great Lake State, but Bay City has a special charm. Its cheerful atmosphere and the proximity to no less than three fantastic watersheds are reason enough to visit the city and enjoy all it has to offer. Fishing in Bay City boasts the beauty and variety that few destinations in Michigan have. Don’t you think it’s time to discover it for yourself?
Have you cast a line in Bay City? How was it? Are there experiences you’d like to share with the community? Is there something you missed? Talk to us in the comments.