Grand Haven Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Apr 29, 2024 | 7 minute read
Reading Time: 7 minutes

The beloved Michigan town of Grand Haven stays moving, and so do its fishing opportunities. Season after season, the locale attracts thousands of visitors eager to experience the mighty Great Lake and its tributaries. Fishing in Grand Haven is a perfect mix of Lake Michigan, the Grand River, and everything in between.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of the town is its accessibility. You can explore the Grand Haven State Park Pier by yourself. Or, if you’re up for an adventure, book a trip with a local captain. There are a number of charter boats in the area that cater to anglers of all skill levels. Local guides offer trips on both Lake Michigan and the Grand River, which is never a bad idea for those who want to learn from an experienced crew. 

Grand Haven South Pierhead Inner Light, built in 1905, Lake Michigan, Michigan

With a charming beach town feel, Grand Haven never gets boring. In addition to excellent angling, there are parks, hiking trails, and beaches, making it a perfect place for a family vacation. There’s something for everyone, whenever you decide to pay a visit.

This guide will talk about everything you need to know about the most interesting fish species, spots, techniques, seasonality, and more. Let’s dive right in…

Best Fish to Catch in in Grand Haven

The western coast of Michigan offers easy access to Lake Michigan and the Grand River. This, in turn, allows you to pick from the crème de la crème of the state’s freshwater game species. Depending on where and when you decide to fish, the list of your potential catches includes anything from Salmon, Trout, and Walleye to Catfish, Bass, and even the occasional Musky.


On The Fly Charters, showing two male anglers, one adult and one younger, each holding a Salmon while standing on a boat in Grand Haven
This photo was taken by On The Fly Charters

Grand Haven’s waters offer two species of Salmon – Chinook and Coho. It goes without saying that Salmon fishing on Lake Michigan is usually a rewarding experience, no matter your age or skill level. These fish are great fighters and are, undoubtedly, delicious. 

Chinook, otherwise known as King Salmon, are bigger than their Coho “Silver” cousins, which typically weigh somewhere between 8 and 12 pounds. Meanwhile, anglers can reel in Kings as heavy as 30 pounds. Both species are available in Lake Michigan, although the best spots depend on the season.

Salmon tend to hang out closer to the surface in the spring and fall while moving to deeper water in the summer. Depending on when you’re planning your trip, you can try trolling with downriggers or planer boards, cast spoons or spinners, or jig with live bait. Alternatively, locals use special Salmon rigs, which you can also experiment with.


A male angler holding Lake Trout caught while fishing in Grand Haven, MI
This photo was taken by On The Fly Charters

Some say that Salmon fishing in Grand Haven has serious competition for the top spot among angling activities, and they wouldn’t be wrong. Another popular target is Lake Michigan Trout – Brown, Lake, and Rainbow varieties at that. Trolling, casting, and jigging all work well when fishing for these monsters. 

Local Rainbows are the smallest of the three, weighing just over 20 pounds. These fish can be found in the lake’s tributaries and nearshore areas. Both Brown and Lake Trout hang out in deeper water, although they differ in size. While Browns can reach over 30 pounds, Lakers can be twice as heavy as Rainbow Trout.


A man in a cap and glasses squatting behind his catch of Catfish on the bank of a river

Grand Haven is also home to several species of Catfish that patrol the Grand River and other local waterways. Depending on where you’re fishing, you can get your hands on Channel, Flathead, and Bullhead Catfish

Channel and Flatheads live in deeper water, while anglers usually find Bullhead Catfish in shallow, weedy areas. Whichever Cat you have in mind, jigging and casting are the most universal methods, especially with cut bait, worms, and live bait. Channel and Flathead can also be caught by trolling unlike Bullheads, which may also react well to bottom fishing.


A closeup shot of a Walleye caught during the winter season in Michigan, next to an ice fishing hole.

Walleye fishing in Grand Haven takes place in both the Grand River and Lake Michigan. They patrol the river’s edges, bayous, deep holes, and deltas. From ice-out, Walleye also become active targets of anglers fishing between the Indian Channel and right by the Bass River Recreational Area. 

Lake Michigan anglers usually target Walleye by trolling with downriggers and planer boards. Casting jigs and crankbait, and jigging live bait are also popular methods in the lake. But, if you choose to search for Walleye in the Grand River, consider packing your fly fishing gear.


A close-up of a male angler with Bass in his hands caught somewhere near Grand Haven, Michigan
This photo was taken by River Trek Guide Service

Last but not least, Grand Haven also offers Bass fishing opportunities in the Grand River and Lake Michigan. There are two main species of Bass in the area: Smallmouth and Largemouth.

Grand Haven Smallies usually reach weights of over 10 pounds and live in Lake Michigan’s deeper waters. All the regular methods, such as trolling, casting, and jigging, work well for Smallmouth Bass fishing. If you’re looking for Largemouth, head to shallow, weedy areas or fish along the river’s edges. Grand River anglers can also fly fish for Bass.

How to Go Fishing in Grand Haven

A picture showing fishing rods and reels with lines in the water in Grand Haven, Michigan
This photo was taken by Last Call Sportfishing Charters

Now that you know what to catch and where, it’s time to talk about various fishing methods that locals use. Since the list of potential targets is pretty broad, you can try your hand at various techniques. Let’s take a look at some of them:

  • Fly fishing. This technique is reserved for the Grand River, although you can definitely experiment in other waterways in and around Grand Haven. There are a lot of local guides that offer fly fishing trips for Steelhead, Salmon, and Smallmouth Bass. 
  • Trolling. Trolling with downriggers and planer boards is a go-to technique for Lake Michigan. If done right, this method can be successful at catching anything from Salmon to Steelhead and Walleye. 
  • Jigging. This method is effective for targeting Perch, Walleye, and Bass. Grand Haven State Park pier, the Grand Haven City Marina, and the Grand Haven South Pierhead Light are good locations for a jigging trip. Locals sometimes pair jigs with worms and minnows for better results. 
  • Bottom fishing. While this isn’t the most used method in Grand Haven, it can certainly help you land bottom-dwelling species such as Perch, Bass, and Catfish. The best part about bottom fishing is that you can practice it from a boat or the shore. 
  • Spinning. A lot of Grand Haven anglers grab their spinning rods, reels, live bait, and lures and cast for Salmon, Steelhead, Pike, and Trout. Whichever spot you pick for bottom fishing may also work for some spin fishing action. 
  • Ice fishing. Hard water enthusiasts live for the Grand Haven winter seasons. The Grand River and Lake Michigan are the most popular spots for ice fishing in the town. When it comes to winter targets, anglers usually hunt for Perch, Walleye, and Pike.

Grand Haven Fishing Spots

A picture showing the Grand Haven fishing pier with people walking by and a charter fishing boat fishing near the shore
This photo was taken by Danel Sportfishing Charters

While Grand Haven isn’t a large city, it has plenty of spots for anglers to wet a line. As you already know, the town sits on the western shore of Lake Michigan, offering various points of access to the Great Lake.

Grand Haven State Park Pier is a popular spot that stretches out into the lake. Depending on the season, anglers can cast for Steelhead, Salmon, and Perch, along with Smallmouth Bass. If you’re not planning to catch dinner, the pier is also a good place to practice catch and release. 

Lake Michigan’s tributary, the Grand River, reaches the lake right at Grand Haven. There are various bayous and deltas that hold species like Northern Pike, Bass, Walleye, and Musky. Steelhead, Salmon, and Smallmouth Bass are popular catches in sections of the Grand River that are closer to Lake Michigan. 

Finally, there are also various local waterways that you can explore. Streams, creeks, smaller lakes, and ponds can be a good addition to your Grand Haven adventure.

When to Go Fishing in Grand Haven

A rear-view picture of the back of a male angler holding a fishing rod while fishing and standing on a charter fishing boat in Grand Haven, MI
This photo was taken by Last Call Sportfishing Charters

Grand Haven’s Lake Michigan fishing season usually kicks off in April. The spring action begins with Chinook Salmon, followed by Brown Trout and Steelhead a bit later in spring. During the summer months, anglers also add Lake Trout and Coho Salmon to the mix. 

Come fall, and you can switch your attention to the Grand River. A lot of species head to the river mouth to spawn, including huge Chinook Salmon and good numbers of Steelhead. There’s also the annual Salmon Festival in September, where you can join in the celebration of all things Salmon. 

Overall, fishing in Grand Haven is good year-round. For instance, you can hook Trout, Catfish, and Walleye whenever you want, as long as you know where to look. Don’t forget that there’s also the winter season, where anglers pursue Perch and Pike in addition to Walleye whenever the conditions allow.

Fishing in Grand Haven FAQs

Fishing in Grand Haven: A Great Lake City with Great Fishing

A smiling female angler holding a Salmon while standing on a charter fishing boat in Grand Haven, MI
This photo was taken by On The Fly Charters

Grand Haven might not be the sportfishing capital of the world but it’s an incredible place to grow as an angler. You can introduce your kids to the art of angling or book a trip with a local charter and explore Lake Michigan. Alternatively, you can just grab your rod and sit on the pier for a couple of hours, or hire a fly fishing guide and conquer the Grand River. When it comes to fishing in Grand Haven, the sky’s the limit.

If you want to learn more on how to go fishing in Michigan, read our dedicated blog.

Have you ever been fishing in Grand Haven? What’s your favorite spot? Do you have any fish stories you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!

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Lisa traded the lecture hall for the vast expanse of the world's waters, transforming her love of teaching into an insatiable passion for angling and storytelling. She would sail through oceans, lakes, and rivers, reeling in the world’s fish stories one catch at a time.

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