Lake & River Fishing

Nestled in the northwest corner of our beautiful state, Cadillac offers the best of Northern Michigan fishing with three large inland lakes: Lake Cadillac, Mitchell and Missaukee coupled with three awesome rivers: Pine, Manistee and Pere Marquette Rivers providing year round angling opportunities.

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Ice Fishing

In January, as the ice begins to reach thicknesses that are conducive to ice fishing, the lakes and ponds of the Cadillac area become populated with ice shanties and dedicated fisherman ready to brace the weather for a great catch.

Lakes Mitchell & Cadillac are known for their healthy pike, walleye, bluegill, and crappie populations. People are permitted to walk and drive on the lakes, although the DNR does not take responsibility for determining whether the ice is safe.

The Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center and the Outdoors Skills Academy presents a Free Ice Fishing Seminar and Youth Ice Fishing Contest for kids under 16 in March each year. This family oriented event is held at the C.T.J. Hunting and Fishing Center. Seminars are presented  covering everything from jigs and bait, to floats, and ice safety with a segment covering rules and regulations.

Get email updates on ice conditions by subscribing to our winter trail reports newsletter.

Out & About, Steelhead on the Move

By Dave Foley Rivers like the Pere Marquette, as well as the Big and Little Manistee, get a little crowded after Labor Day as thousands of salmon leave Lake Michigan to push up these steams to spawn. From late August until September king and coho salmon dominate the...

Spring might be the best fishing for walleye, pike, and trout

by Dave Foley Unlike downstate areas, these trout waters won't be crowded. Although there may be several hundred trying their luck on Opening Day, in the Cadillac area, crowding is not a problem. It's likely an angler will fish a stretch of river and rarely see...

The Gold Standard in Fish Decoy Carving is known as “The Cadillac Style”

Fish decoy carving has been a unique part of fishing culture for generations and they are still being used today. But did you know the rich history it has right here in Cadillac? The main purpose of decoys now is for ice fishing/spearing. After a hole is cut in the...

Learn All About Fishing In The Cadillac Area

DNR Fishing Survey Information

A 2012 DNR survey of Lake Cadillac produced:

  • 1,724 fish, including 15 different species were caught
  • Panfish included black crappie (342 fish, 5-11 inches)
  • Bluegill (128 fish, 4-8 inches)
  • Pumpkinseed sunfish (90 fish, 4-9 inches)
  • 31 walleye were pulled, with sizes ranging 14-24 inches
  • 106 northern pike ranged 11-27 inches.

A 2012 survey of Lake Mitchell produced:

  • 2,550 fish were netted, representing 13 different species
  • Panfish species included bluegill (88, 4-8 inches)
  • Pumpkinseed sunfish (58, 4-8 inches)
  • 65 walleye were also recorded (13-27 inches)
  • 128 pike (11-32 inches)

It was estimated in the survey that fishing on the two lakes generates over $1 million annually for the local economy.


Lake Fishing

Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell have large populations of walleye, northern pike, crappie, bluegills, perch, large mouth and small mouth bass. The two lakes are connected by a canal built during the historic northern Michigan logging era. The canal was originally built so lumbermen could float timber from the shores of Lake Mitchell to waiting sawmills on Lake Cadillac. Today the canal serves as a convenient link between two of Michigan’s most popular fishing lakes. Together Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell offer over 3,700 acres of prime fish holding habitat.

  • Lake Cadillac is approximately 1,150 acres in size and features over 400 acres of prime fish-holding weed cover. A fertile body of water, 50% of the lake is 15 feet deep or less.
  • Lake Mitchell is connect to Lake Cadillac via a canal constructed in the late 1880s. It is the largest of the area’s three major lakes at 2,580 acres. The lake is a prime all-sports lake in the area with an average depth of 8.5 feet. Over 95% of the lake is less than 15 feet deep. There are many access points to the lake, with the Mitchell State Park being the primary. There are two hotels and one restaurant available on the shores of Lake Mitchell plus one convenient store.
  • Lake Missaukee is located only 15 minutes from Cadillac, in Lake City, MI. The lake covers 1,880 acres and is roughly oval in shape. Water depths range from 5 feet to 27 feet. Much of the center portion of the lake bottom is covered with a wide variety of native aquatic plants. Lake Missaukee offers an extensive public beach with shoreline campsites and dining.

Show off your catch, bring it to Pilgrims Village in Cadillac just south of the Canal (M-115/M-55) and they’ll take your picture!

River Fishing

  • The Big Manistee River is one of the premier rivers of Michigan, offering over 90 miles of access and varied scenery. This river is wide, smooth-flowing and best known for its steelhead and salmon fishing. Trout fishing also provides anglers with exciting action, offering a wide variety of trout species.
  • The Pine River Designated a National Wild and Scenic River and a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream, The Pine River in Cadillac is a popular destination for both adventurous paddlers and seasoned fishermen. Deep river channels, high exposed sand banks, diverse wildlife and vegetation contribute to the overall scenic feel of the river.
  • Pere Marquette River is located 20 minutes southwest of Cadillac and is a world class river for trout, steelhead and early season king salmon.