Alpena is known for some of the best bass fishing in the State of Michigan, and in a state that boasts more than 11,000 lakes, that says a lot! Fletcher’s Pond, Hubbard Lake, Grand Lake, and Long Lake are four of the state’s twenty largest lakes, and they are all located near Alpena. Add Thunder Bay River and the great Lake Huron to the mix, and you’ve found yourself in a fisherman’s paradise. To get started planning your trip check out www.VisitAlpena.com and read on to get the inside information about this popular fishing destination.
While walleye, panfish, and big lake beasts like salmon and trout are popular, bass fishing has been this area’s best-kept secret. Bass are considered by many to be America’s top game fish, and they are highly prized for their spirited fight. Alpena has earned a reputation for its amazing bass fishing, making it a destination for numerous fishing tournaments, fishing-focused vacations, and TV shows. Alpena has been featured on the Outdoor Channel’s popular TV series, Major League Fishing twice, earning it the title of being the first location the show had ever filmed in more than once. Major League Fishing is currently ranked as the top fishing show on TV in America. With multiple episodes of other fishing shows like Fishing University traveling to Alpena to film, it’s no wonder the area has earned the reputation as an authentic and genuine world-class bass fishery.
Bass Fishing legend Kevin VanDam was in Alpena for the filming of the first Major League Fishing visit to Alpena and had this to say about fishing around the shipwrecks in Thunder Bay, “I know I was getting fish on the line that had never seen a lure before. What a great experience.” Kevin VanDam set his single day MLF weight record of 82 pounds, 7 oz. in 2014 on Grand Lake.
Hubbard Lake, located just south of Alpena, produced a record-breaking catch in 2015 when Greg Gasiciel hooked and landed a 9.33-pound smallmouth bass, breaking a 109-year-old state record. News of the catch quickly spread across the United States as this little-known lake became a secret favorite for bass anglers.
Tired of watching everyone else on TV enjoying the great bass fishing in Alpena? Are you ready to come try it out for yourself? Here’s what you need to know about bass and where to find them in the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes:
Largemouth Bass: These fish have earned the nickname “bucket mouth” because their large jaw opens up so wide. They will try to eat anything they can catch and swallow.
Some say that fishing for largemouth bass is more challenging than hunting land game. First, you have to find them, next figure out how to entice them with different types of baits or lures, and then finally catch them. Just like their cousin the smallmouth bass, largemouth bass aren’t considered the best fish for dinner and are commonly released.
Besides their large jaw that extends beyond the eye, you can identify largemouth bass by their two dorsal fins with a deep notch between the spiny and soft fins. Their color is usually light green with a dark green lateral streak.
Smallmouth Bass: Smallmouths mature at age three or four, and can live up to 12 years!
Smallmouth Bass are loved by anglers because of their “trout-like” nature and spirited fight that make them really fun to fish. They are not a popular fish for eating; most anglers fish them for the sport and then release them.
Smallmouth bass were named because their lower jaw does not extend past their eye. You can also identify them by the connected spiny and soft dorsal fins. The markings along their side have a vertical pattern, and the cheeks will have bronze streaks which is why they are sometimes called “bronzebacks.”
Hubbard Lake: Located about 30 minutes South of Alpena, Hubbard Lake is one of Michigan’s largest inland
lakes and is known for its incredible water clarity. The lake covers 8,850 acres and is 85 feet deep at its max. Although the lake is very popular for smallmouth bass fishing, the fish are so abundant they’ve received very little pressure. You will find some largemouth bass throughout the lake as well.
Long Lake: Long Lake is located just north of Alpena, adjacent to Grand Lake. Its size is 5,652 acres and about 25 feet at its deepest. This all-sports lake is known for its clear and shallow water and its wind effects that help maintain a fairly consistent temperature throughout the lake. You will find both largemouth bass and smallmouth bass.
Grand Lake: Grand Lake, just north of Alpena is 5,660 acres and about 20 feet at its deepest. Reeds, rocks, and a number of small islands, along with its large size, make it a great choice for anglers looking for a challenge.
Grand Lake has some really nice smallmouths in it, and in plenty. The smallmouths will typically range from 14 – 18 inches up to 21 or 22 inches.
Fletcher Pond: This backwater of the Upper South Branch of the Thunder Bay River is one of Michigan’s steadiest producers of trophy largemouths. Fletcher’s Pond is a shallow, stump-filled largemouth factory famous for its clear cold water. Created in 1931, Fletcher’s Pond covers approximately 9,000 acres of what was once a cedar forest.
Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary (Lake Besser): The Alpena Wildlife Sanctuary, once called Lake Besser, is another portion of the Thunder Bay River that is popular with anglers, especially when fishing for bass. At about 400 acres and 23 feet deep at its maximum depth, you will find both small and largemouth bass. There are many places to find fish near the many bays, points, timber, and backwater. There is a no-wake regulation on this body of water.
Lake Winyah: This 1,530-acre impoundment is located on the Thunder Bay River just a short drive from Alpena proper, and is sometimes referred to as the 7 Mile Pond for its location above the 7 Mile Dam. This is a great part of the river to take kids fishing.
Four-Mile Pond: The Four-Mile Pond is also part of the Thunder Bay River, located between the Seven-Mile Dam, (sometimes called Norway Point Dam), and the Four-Mile Dam. The pond is about 98 acres, and up to 20 feet deep. The bottom of the pond is mostly rock and gravel.
9th Avenue Dam: Water flow through the 9th Avenue dam creates a unique fishing environment on the Thunder Bay River. It is located one mile upstream from Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay and is the only part of the entire river that is accessible to freshwater migrating fish from Lake Huron. This portion of the river is also a designated trout stream. The easiest way to fish the pond is to either walk along the rocky shoreline, to wear waders in the shallow water, or to fish from the 9th Avenue Bridge. You will find both smallmouth and largemouth bass at this location.
THE BIG LAKE
Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay: Thunder Bay’s bass have thrived under the radar. Thunder Bay was once famous for its trout and salmon fishing and has gained some notoriety over its burgeoning walleye population, while the fantastic smallmouth fishing goes basically unnoticed.
“It’s the same fisher as Lake St. Clair or Saginaw Bay” shared local bass fanatic Paul Gohlke, “with a lot less people”. You can find bass in Thunder Bay in less than 30 feet of water all year long. About 3-4 pound bass are average and I’ve caught smallmouths just shy of 7 pounds. 5-6 pound bass are not uncommon. 20-25 fish would be an average day”. The trick with Thunder Bay in Lake Huron is to navigate the vast expanse of water to find those pockets of prime fishing potential.
Fishing Charters: You can find a list of Alpena area fishing charters at: http://www.visitalpena.com/adventures/on-the-water/
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels and Motels in the Alpena area are fisherman-friendly and can help accommodate all your needs. Find your home away from home here: http://www.visitalpena.com/stay/hotels-motels/
THINGS TO REMEMBER
Invasive species: When traveling from one body of water to the next, make sure to rinse your boat before re-launching. Controlling the spread of invasive species and protecting our water resources is everyone’s responsibility. With zebra mussel and frogbit as examples, and the new threat of Asian carp, it takes an effort from everyone to ensure that these threats are managed to the best of our abilities.
Catch & Release: While it is known that genuine bass anglers throw their catch back because the fun is in the landing, we encourage the responsible release of any throwbacks to ensure that they are not shocked by the experience. Careful release below the gunnel of the boat is recommended.
Power-loading: Power-loading is illegal at all Michigan DNR boat ramps. The prop wash throws sand, rocks, mud, and vegetation which creates a shallower launch over time that damages boats loading/unloading and/or makes the launch unusable.
Fishing License: Don’t forget your license! You can easily get your Michigan fishing license at any of the local bait & tackle shops or online: http://www.mdnr-elicense.com/Welcome/Default.aspx