Freshwater Fishing: Ranking the Great Lakes

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Are you a freshwater fishing enthusiast? Consider this helpful list ranking the Great Lakes based on the health of their ecosystems, as well as typical water conditions.

5. Lake Ontario

Lake Ontario is the final stop for water flowing from Lake Superior to the St. Lawrence River (and eventually the Atlantic Ocean). Because of this, contaminants left by metal, chemical, and waste pollution accumulate in large quantities. Wildlife unintentionally feed on these contaminants and becomes less safe for human consumption. If you visit Lake Ontario to fish for a meal or two, ensure you inspect your catches for harmful pollutants such as microplastics and metals.

4. Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is near three of the most entertaining cities in the American Midwest—Chicago, Milwaukee, and Green Bay—and offers plenty of gorgeous coastlines for leisurely days at the beach. While there are countless activities available while visiting, fishing in Lake Michigan isn’t one that’s highly recommended.

Due to the lake’s large-scale commercial fishing industry, many fish populations are smaller in size, leading to less surface activity for anglers. More importantly, Lake Michigan is undoubtedly the most dangerous and unpredictable of the Great Lakes, known for its intensely powerful rip tides and parallel-running wave shapes. If you plan a trip out on Lake Michigan, ensure you understand how to properly navigate big waves when boating.

3. Lake Huron

From May until September, Lake Huron is the ideal location for freshwater fishing. Large salmon, trout, steelhead, and walleye are extremely active at the surface. Both shoreline and open-water angling are suitable for Lake Huron, but trolling produces the best results overall.

Individuals particularly interested in catching walleye and white bass will enjoy fishing in Saginaw Bay, where these fish aggressively bite at the surface all day long. Most of Lake Huron contains a bountiful yet healthy amount of algae that helps maintain excellent water conditions overall, making freshwater life abundant and safe for human consumption.

2. Lake Superior

Lake Superior is the largest natural body of freshwater by surface area. This lake holds 10 percent of the global freshwater supply, boasts a seemingly neverending coastline, and is the final destination for over 300 rivers and streams. More than 70 species of fish swim the water of Lake Superior, including ever-popular lake trout, coho salmon, king salmon, and muskies. Fishing in Lake Superior is similar to open-water experiences—the deepest point is greater than 1,300 feet below the surface. The lake floor is home to nearly 350 ancient shipwrecks. Basically, this lake has an incomprehensible amount of water that supports a healthy ecosystem. Seasoned and newbie anglers will find immense success when fishing in the largest of the Great Lakes.

1. Lake Erie

No, we didn’t make Lake Erie the top choice because of locational bias, even if it is our neighbor here in Pittsburgh. In fact, Lake Erie was once considered so toxic that natural ecosystems went completely dormant. Thanks to intense public awareness and environmental conservation actions, Lake Erie is perhaps the healthiest of all the Great Lakes today. Its smaller fish population—compared to other Great Lakes—is very active, safe for consumption, and non-invasive. Perch, bass, and trout are the most popular fish to catch in Lake Erie, as well as the abundant walleye.

When ranking the Great Lakes to determine the best freshwater fishing destinations, it’s clear that all five bodies of water offer something rewarding, entertaining, and special. You can’t go wrong when seeking adventure on these legendary North American lakes.