Ryely & Gavin have a successful day on the Long Lake Narrows; photo courtesy Charles Kennedy

Nothing is more authentic to the Alpena area than fishing. When the morning sun is peeking out from a blanketed horizon, the silhouette of a rod and reel can be seen casting along Thunder Bay River on your way into town. As the autumn leaves bluster about in the September breeze, they clear a line of vision toward the ripples on the lakes, lapping urgently at the hull of a bass boat near a weed bed. As winter embraces the region in her crystalline veil, the tip-ups and shanties come out to keep ice fishermen busy until the big thaw.

Office break rooms across the region are ripe with weekend fishing tales and enthusiasm builds as spring warmth liquefies the lakes, and anglers get their boats ready for the season. A bike ride along the city’s Bi-Path will yield a view of friends and families, young and old, standing along the banks of the Thunder Bay River. A skill-set passed on from generation to generation, fishing is Alpena’s oldest tradition. The first settlement in the area was a fishing village on Thunder Bay Island in Lake Huron just off the coast of modern day Alpena. Fishing has always been, and continues to be, a central element of our culture and local lifestyle.

Ice Fishing in Alpena is a favorite winter sport.

Ice Fishing in Alpena is a favorite winter sport.

Cast a line with us! Like any angler worth his salt, we aren’t going to give away our favorite fishing hole, but we will give you some tips on the most unique fishing spots you can enjoy during your next family vacation.  Memories are made in the time and space in between your last life stressor and your next appointment. Make sure you take time to relax and restore: and make those moments Pure Michigan memories.

  1. 9th Avenue Dam

The 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 from the 9th Avenue Bridge. This location is best for small mouth bass, large mouth bass, yellow perch, and steel head.

  1. Lake Winyah
Fishing the 7 Mile Dam on a warm August evening

Fishing the 7 Mile Dam on a warm August evening

This 1,530 acre impoundment is located on the Thunder Bay River and is sometimes referred to as the 7 Mile Pond for its location on the 7 Mile Dam. Search for walleye around the islands and the river channel near the Dam. Its best to fish for pike in the early season in the shallow water, but later the bigger fish will be found in the cooler, deeper waters of the main basin. Small mouth bass can be found in the river channel near autumn. You will also find muskellunge, bluegills and crappies. The fishing expands well beyond the Lake Winyah portion, so make sure you also target the river area above the dam and below the lake. This is a great part of the river to take kids fishing. Access is available via a boat launch on Long Rapids Road just above the dam.

  1. Four Mile Pond

Four Mile Pond is part of the Thunder Bay River, located between the 7 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, and live bait seems to be the most successful at this part of the river. You will find pan fish, bass, northern pike, and walleye. (Keep in mind that this portion of the river is not safe for ice fishing). There is a hard surface, medium watercraft access ramp on Long Rapids Road.

  1. Lake Besser

Lake Besser is another portion of the Thunder Bay River that is popular with anglers, especially when fishing for bass. At about 392 acres and 23 feet deep at its maximum depth, you can also find muskellunge, walleye, both small and large mouth bass, northern pike, bluegills and crappies. There are many places to find fish near the many bays, points, timber and backwater. The impoundment can get weedy during the summer, so early and late season fishing is the most practical. Nearest access ramp is located on 11th Avenue, with a small area for parking.

  1. Fletcher Floodwaters

    Ice Fishing Perch and Crappie from Fletcher Floodwaters

    Perch and Crappie: Ice Fishing Harvest at Fletcher Floodwaters

Fletcher Floodwaters is part of the upper south branch of the Thunder Bay River, about 20 minutes west of the city. This is another great fishing spot for kids, beginners, and professional anglers to experience. One of the most unique things about the floodwaters is the lack of watersports due to the abundance of stumps that sit just under the water. This not only creates the perfect fish habitat, but keeps the water peaceful. Although it’s listed at 8,970 acres, it can shrink to half of its size during low water. Crappies and bluegills are found in the deeper parts of the pond near the dam in the spring. Look in the big bay at the northwest corner of the lake for bass and northern pike. You can find an access ramp on the north shore off of Miller Road (Fishing Site Road).

  1. Grand Lake

Grand Lake 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 the fisherman looking for a challenge. There is quite the variety of fish to be found in the lake; black crappie, bullhead catfish, carp, shiners, large mouth bass, log perch, long nose gar, trophy sized northern pike, pumpkin seed sunfish, rainbow trout, rock bass, small mouth bass, walleye, white suckers, and yellow perch. There are four access ramps:

  • Hard surface ramp on the southeast shore on East Grand Lake Road.
  • Gravel ramp with small parking lot on the lower west shore off of US 23.
  • Gravel ramp with small parking lot on the upper west shore off of US 23.
  • Hard surface ramp on the north shore, off of US 23.
Kevin VanDam pulls in a bass on Long Lake

Kevin VanDam pulls in a bass on Long Lake



  1. 7. Long Lake

Long Lake is also located just north of Alpena, near 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 wind effects maintain a pretty consistent temperature throughout the lake. You will find large mouth bass, small mouth bass, northern pike, rock bass, pumpkin seed sunfish, yellow perch, and whitefish. There are two access ramps on Long Lake:

  • Hard ramp with parking on the east shore at Long Lake Park
  • Hard ramp capable of handling large boats on the northwest shore, off of Mar-Ral Road


  1. Hubbard Lake

Hubbard Lake is a popular destination for summer angling as well as winter ice fishing. Located about 30 minutes from Alpena, it is one of Michigan’s largest inland lakes and is known for its incredible water clarity. Look for walleye in the east bay and off of Churchill Pointe. The weed beds of East and North bays are good places to look for jumbo perch. Small mouth bass are often found in the shallow waters, and anglers find northern pike out in the deep waters with schools of pan fish.

  • Hard surface ramp on the north shore off of Hubert/Hubbard Lake Road.
  • Hard surface ramp on the east shore of East Bay, off of Tolan Road. Capable of handling large boats. Parking for 68 vehicles.
  • Hard surface ramp on the south shore off of McGee Road.

From all of us here in the Sanctuary of the Great Lakes, may your lines be tight and your coolers full!