Mackinac Island Fishing on the Great Lakes

Fishing on Mackinac Island isn’t the first thing that comes to mind for many visitors. After all, everybody knows about world-famous Mackinac Island fudge and horse-drawn carriage tours. And if you’re into Mackinac Island history, you might know that Fort Mackinac was an important military post that protected a valuable fur trade in the 18th and 19th centuries.

But guess what? Mackinac Island also was a big commercial fishery.

As the fur trade faded in the 1800s and the military significance of Fort Mackinac began to wane, it was fishing that kept Mackinac Island’s economy afloat until the tourism business really started booming.

Two hundred years ago, on an expedition through the Michigan Territory with then-Governor Lewis Cass, geographer Henry Schoolcraft raved about “the variety and the delicacy of the fish” around Mackinac Island including trout, white fish, lake herring, bass, sturgeon, perch and more. To this day, Mackinac Island remains a great spot for recreational charter fishing on the Great Lakes.

Charter fishing trips off Mackinac Island are a great way to experience the thrill of deep water trolling in the Great Lakes.

Fishing Boats on Mackinac Island

Both North Shore Fishing Charters and E.U.P. Fishing and Charters out of St. Ignace lead guided trips in the Straits of Mackinac. They’ll come pick you up on Mackinac Island, clean the fish you catch and even freeze them for you to take home at the end of your vacation.

You can enjoy the same quality fishing and beautiful scenery that impressed Schoolcraft more than 200 years ago. And you can do it in the comfort of modern boats equipped with state-of-the-art gear and electronics that are perfect for deep water lake fishing.

Deep water trolling is the kind of fishing done off Mackinac Island, so you’ll usually be fishing a lot of line. If you hook one a few hundred feet down, you’re in for a battle and a big thrill.
Infographic showing the four most common fish caught in the Great Lakes off Mackinac Island: trout, salmon, whitefish and carp

Fish You Can Catch Off Mackinac Island

The go-to fish for Mackinac Island charter boats is the lake trout, which averages 3 to 9 pounds but can go up from there to as much as 20 pounds. Other popular fish to catch in the waters around Mackinac Island include salmon, carp and whitefish, which are a northern Michigan delicacy that can be enjoyed in many Mackinac Island restaurants.

Your Mackinac Island charter boat captain will know where to go and how to troll for a memorable and successful Great Lakes fishing experience off Mackinac Island

People fish off the back of a North Shore Charters fishing boat in blue water off the coast of Michigan's Mackinac Island

History of Mackinac Island Fishing

Back in the 1800s, as fishing became big business on Mackinac Island, people adapted boats used to transport furs and turned them into fishing boats. Many immigrants found work on those boats, selling their catch for as little as 2 cents per pound! But because they caught so many fish, they made enough profit on volume to make a living.

Mackinac Island also developed a supporting industry with people working as coopers who built barrels where fish were salted and stored. Thanks to the development of steamships, hundreds of thousands of barrels of fish each year were shipped from Mackinac Island to markets in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and beyond.

Commercial fishing no longer is such a big industry on Mackinac Island. But the Straits of Mackinac are still home to great fishing. After all, of all the great places to fish in the world, there’s only one place where you can put a line down with Fort Mackinac and the mighty Mackinac Bridge in the background.

Fishing off Mackinac Island just might be the best-kept secret in the Great Lakes!

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