St. Marys River Fishing Experience
Fishing on the St. Marys River
Nestled between an abundance of water, two of the Great Lakes, Sault Ste. Marie is your optimal fishing destination. There is an abundance of places to cast your reel and let fish catch your hook. The first inhabitants of Sault Ste. Marie even settled upon the shores of the St. Marys River due to the proximity to prime fishing spots. Since then, fishing has become a large part of the Soo’s culture.
The scenic St. Marys River offers something for nearly every fisherman in all months of the year, but the spring and summer months from May through August can be the best time to sample the multi-species fishery.
Anglers find amazing fishing for perch, walleye, whitefish, salmon, northern pike and smallmouth bass during these months, as well as the opportunity to fish for a species that isn’t widely known outside of northern Michigan: the lake herring or cisco.
Before you go, know which fish are populating the St. Marys River and when. Use this Annual Peak Fishing Guide to help plan your fishing trip.
The months of May and June are known to be great for catching whitefish. “They’re overlooked, but a lot of fun to catch,” says Harold Bailey, of Blue Heron Fishing Charters. Upstream of the Soo Locks and International Bridge, anglers often target whitefish. However, Bailey says hard-fighting fish, averaging one to three pounds, may be caught throughout the river. He recommends using waxworms on ice-fishing teardrops near the shipping channel’s bottom edges.
Jumbo yellow perch are easier to find in May when they’re preparing to spawn. Walleye season opens May 15 in the St. Marys. It is recommended to troll nightcrawlers and spinner rigs in Brimley Bay. Anglers troll with and without planer boards, and some drift or cast jigs. Lake George and Munuscong Bay are perennial producers.
As the season progresses, walleyes tend to move deeper. Smallmouth bass fishing also fires up in late May and June. It is suggested that bronzeback fans target weed lines and rock piles throughout the river. A variety of classic bass presentations work, including crankbaits, tubes, and jigs, along with live bait.
May and June is a great time for Atlantic salmon as well. A variety of tactics can be used to take salmon averaging five or six pounds, with trophies in the teens.
Many places suffer a lull in fishing action during the “dog days” of summer. Still, anglers on the St. Marys enjoy banner catches throughout July and August for walleye, smallmouth bass, salmon and more.
One of the more remarkable midsummer bites occurs during the first weeks of July, when schools of lake herring and whitefish feast on emerging mayflies. Anglers catch them the same way they catch whitefish, with waxworms and teardrops of various colors suspended from 10-25 feet. Most use long fly rods or steelhead spinning rods.
Chinook or “king” salmon start coming into the river in late July and August, and the fishing improves as the summer wears on. Early in the run, DeTour is the place to be. The mouth of the Garden River is another good spot, and by August salmon are spread throughout the river.
All of these great fishing options make the mighty St. Marys the perfect place to forget all about the dog days of summer.
More Places to Fish Near Sault Ste. Marie
Although some fishing spots on the St. Marys River require a boat, there are plenty of places in Sault Ste. Marie and surrounding areas that offer great fishing opportunities without one.
About a 90-minute drive from the Soo heading towards Paradise lies an easy-to-access fishing haven. This secret spot is located just minutes from Tahquamenon Falls. Expect to catch some walleye, pike, perch, smallmouth bass or rock bass during your fishing excursion here throughout the year, but especially in late summer and fall. When you’re done casting your reel, take some time to sightsee the falls and maybe even try your luck by catching a trout out of the Tahquamenon River.
You can’t forget about the beginner angler when looking for a great spot to fish. The Kids Fishing Pond, located about five minutes from downtown Sault Ste. Marie, was established over 10 years ago and has been a staple of the community ever since. This is the perfect place to bring the whole family for a day filled of fun fishing family time!
It’s located near Clyde’s Drive-In and Rotary Park, and is normally stocked with trout a few times each summer. Young anglers under 16 can fish to their heart’s content at this special gated-off pond.
Just a short ferry ride from Sault Ste. Marie, near Clyde’s Drive-In and Rotary Park, is Sugar Island. The island offers a handful of honey holes, such as Duck Lake. These are the best places to catch fish on the island. The causeway connecting the island to the ferry docking area has recently been renovated to include a fishing area off the side of the road. Just a short walk from the ferry dock and you can be casting for walleye or salmon depending on the time of year.
Pendills Creek is a favorite place to shore fish among local fishermen due to its ideal feeding ground for fish. It feeds directly into Lake Superior which brings a large variety of fish into these waters. The creek itself produces more than one million lake trout a year that spring into Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. The best time to cast your reel for optimal fishing is around dusk. It’s also the perfect spot to bring the kids. Fishing is not the only thing that will take your breath away here. Indulge in these breathtaking views of the water and sandy beaches.
Check out this episode of Great Lakes Fisherman’s Digest to see more on fishing on the St. Marys River.
Where’s your favorite spot to fish in the Eastern Upper Peninsula? Share it (or somewhere near it) with us by tagging your photos on social media with #ilovethesoo. Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Twitter.
Guest writer Dan Johnson contributed to this blog post.
Want to test your mantle against professionals? Think you can lure in a $10,000 bass? Find out more about fishing tournaments coming to Sault Ste. Marie this summer including one that is open to the public. Read more here.