Pick a Pair of Michigan Lakes

By: Milton F. Whitmore

cadillac pikeThere are a number of Michigan Lakes that are connected via waterways that make boat traffic between them a breeze. They also offer some excellent fishing opportunities and are worthy of any anglers attention.

Fishing one lake and then moving on to fish another can sometimes be a bit cumbersome and time consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could hop into your boat and without getting out fish a couple of different lakes, sometimes offering completely different fishing? The opportunity is there my friend. All you need to know is where!

Here are a couple of suggestions that will lead you into an easy way to double dip in your inland lake fishing experiences. All are connected by a waterway large enough for easy boating.

  • Big Glen and Little Glen lakes in Leelanau County
  • Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac in Wexford County
  • Elk Lake and Skegemog Lake in Grand Traverse, Antrim, and Kalkaska Counties
  • North and South Lake Leelanau in Leelanau County

Big Glen and Little Glen Lakes

Located in Leelanau County and west of Traverse City these two lakes, while they may appear to be twins with one being much smaller, they are dissimilar as far as depth is concerned.

Little Glen Lake is a shallow body of water having a hard, sandy bottom. Back dropped by Sleeping Bear Dunes the western shoreline lies within a few hundred yards of the base of the huge dune.

Fishing is best in the spring and early summer and species of interest include perch, smallmouth bass, and rock bass. The area just west of the M22 Bridge which crosses the short connecting channel between the two lakes is of special interest. Summertime boating traffic is heavy in this area so early morning and after dark hours are best for success.

Big Glen Lake is larger and far deeper dropping down to about 130 feet in its northern half.

Since the year 2000 the MDNR has planted over 164,000 lake trout and almost 47,000 rainbow trout into the azure waters of this lake. Bluegills, perch, smallmouth bass, rock bass, ciscoes, northern pike and even some fall run salmon are available to the knowing angler.

The area just to the east of The Narrows, where M22 carries traffic north and south is a key fishing grounds for all fish species found in the lake. Trolling and drift fishing along the wide bands of breaklines is effective.

The ciscoes present winter ice anglers with tasty treats (don’t freeze them, just eat these delights fresh caught), but they also offer the larger prey species of fish a ready food supply. Summer temperatures drives these forage fish deep and the predators following them. Fish accordingly with large lures that imitate ciscoes and you should score.

Another area of interest is the shoreline of Big Glen Lake west and south of Brooks Lake along the east shoreline. Bottom contours are fairly steep in this section and gamefish use these contours as travel lanes to preferred feeding grounds.

In the past six years Big Glen Lake has served up seven Master Award winning fish, most being lake trout, but also including a whopping bluegill that stretched to tape to over ten inches.

Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac

These two lakes, connected by a channel that flows through Mitchell State Park at the east end of Lake Mitchell and west end of Lake Cadillac are similar in size, bottom contours, and fish species. Neither is over 30 feet in depth and warm water fish species are the norm. Both are located in Wexford County west of the City of Cadillac which sits on the eastern shore of the latter lake.

Bass, both large and smallmouth are there for the taking. In summer the larger specimens head for deeper water. Mitchell’s are found, for the most part, in its southeast corner while Lake Cadillac has deeper pockets scattered through its basin.

Walleyes are available in both lakes and slow trolling in the late evening hours and after dark is the preferred technique to bring in a meal of bright eyes. Drift fishing is also effective using minnows coupled with weighted jigs. White, yellow, and chartreuse seem to be the most effective colors, but something in a crayfish pattern should not be ignored.

Master angler awards garnered by anglers fishing these lakes stands at sixty-two including those for bluegills, black crappies, smallmouth bass, pumpkinseeds, and northern pike. These lakes are one of the best kept secrets for avid crappie anglers who use tube jigs to knock off these tasty fish by finding the pockets of 15-20 feet of water near heavy weedbeds.

Elk Lake and Skekemog Lake

Talk about two connecting lakes that are totally different and you won’t find a better pair than these two. Elk Lake is deep, diving down to almost 200 feet of crystalline deep blue water.

In the past six years fifteen fish, including muskies over 50 inches, and smallmouth bass over 21 inches in length have been taken from Elk Lake .

Over the past few years the MDNR has planted Elk Lake with over 117,000 rainbow and brown trout. Night fishing is the key to taking these fish and the old standby of hanging a lantern over the boat while anchored in water between 30 and 50 feet is standard operating procedure. Small jigs tipped with wrigglers are the most used bait/lure combo.

Besides these trout lake trout also swim the deep hole that makes up Elk Lake ‘s long central basin. Typical laker gear and tactics are appropriate. By the way, the muscled flesh of lake trout from these waters is usually found to be a deep orange in color and they are much tastier than those found in the Great Lakes .

Perch and smallmouth bass also make up the creel census of many avid Elk Lake anglers and many fishermen target these species.

Skegemog Lake connects with Elk Lake at the latter’s southeast corner. Skeg, as some old timers refer to it is a shallow lake with depths of less than 30’. Bluegills, northern pike, and bass of both species are found here as well as perch. The lake has plenty of weed cover that offers both security of prey species and camo for the fish that eat them. Deeper water is found in the northwest end. The whole eastern 1/3 of Skegemog is very shallow with five feet being the average.

This is a lake abounding with large muskellunge and northern pike. These fish are found in the deep water during the warm summer months, at least the trophy specimens are, but they move into shallow water in spring and fall to gorge on the abundant baitfish found there. Casting is the preferred fishing method, but trolling the deeper water is also effective.

North and South Lake Leelanau

We find ourselves back in Leelanau County from where this article started. These two deep water lakes are well taken care of by the MDNR with thousands of brown and lake trout having been planted in recent years. South Lake Leelanau found itself dumped with over 5 million walleyes as recently as 2001. That’s a LOT of walleyes!

Being deep, with bottoms of sand and gravel, wading anglers are rewarded with catches of smallmouth bass. Using lighter tackle, especially a long, limber rod and 4lb. test line the willing angler will be rewarded with bass that will easily jump higher than their head as they wade near the edge of one of these lakes’ many drop-offs.

While deep water trolling is common during the warmer months in northern lake, with trout being the main targets, fishing the contours in the early morning and late evening using casting gear should not be ignored. Wardens and Brady’s Points, opposite each other at what might be called North Lake Leelanau’s “waist” are prime spots for bottom bouncing steep contour lines.

The waterway between these lakes is fairly wide and easily motored. Water flows from the southern lake into its northern neighbor.

In South Lake Leelanau walleyes are fished at night in the flats that cover the southern end of the lake. Trolling, drifting minnow tipped jigs, and casting crayfish imitators are all effective. Light line is a must as the clear waters of the lake make any fish of size wary.

For the price of one an adventurous angler can double his pleasure by picking any of these pairs of freshwater lakes that dot the Northwest corner of Michigan ‘s Lower Peninsula.

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