Residents of and visitors to Michigan have access to some of the best fishing anywhere. There are 11,037 inland lakes in the state and there is no point in Michigan that is more than six miles from a lake or stream, most of which are packed with angling opportunities. There is nothing that is more “Pure Michigan” than fishing, and there is nothing more fun to do with your family than spend the day watching a bobber bounce—especially during the summer Free Fishing Weekend (June 7 and 8), when all license fees are waived.
One of my earliest memories is of sitting on the shore of some hidden lake in Northern Michigan, watching my bobber with my mom and grandparents. It was as simple of a setup as it gets: a red and white plastic bobber, a sinker, and a hook with a chunk of nightcrawler on it. We’d catch bluegill, sunfish, and the occasional largemouth bass. Nothing ever too big on those shore trips, but it wasn’t about filling the frying pan. It was all about enjoying the experience.
Take a kid fishing—it’s easy
It doesn’t take much to fish. The same kind of setup that I used when I was a kid still works today, and is the easiest way to bring a smile to anyone’s face. Kids are happy to catch anything. It could be your kid, a grandchild, or even the neighbor’s kid—taking a kid fishing is a way to experience the joys of fishing like the first time you went fishing, all over again.
In Michigan, for 2014, the cost of a fishing license went up. No longer do you need an all-species license to catch trout and salmon, the license is just one for all species and types of fishing. The cost is $26 for a resident and $75 for a nonresident. A 24-hour license costs $10, and a three-day will set you back $30. However, on June 7 and 8, residents and nonresidents alike can experience the joys of fishing in Michigan for free. Free Fishing Weekend has become a Pure Michigan tradition, with many taking part in spending a little time relaxing by a lake, river, or stream.
Those thousands of inland lakes (and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams) are waiting to be enjoyed by young and old alike. The challenge set to all of us is to get kids out and enjoying the fun of wetting a worm or two. The Free Fishing Weekend is a great opportunity to do just that.
A rod and reel, some line, and the most basic of tackle will be a suitable kit for any angler. Combos are a great way to get a matched rod and reel and save a few bucks. Setting up a kid to fish is pretty easy too. It really helps to build the excitement of the fishing trip by letting the kids pick out their own gear, too.
Be aware, though—those cute little combo rods they package and market to kids are a waste of time and money. There are two things that can turn a kid off fishing fast. One is not catching any fish. It can be the smallest fish you’ve ever seen, but if your kid catches it and is happy, how can you not be? The other thing is gear failure, and that happens a lot with those cheaply-made kid combo rods. If you’re going to buy the kids their own rod and reel, take a good look at what you’re buying. Buy a real rod and reel, not something with a cartoon character on it. Your kid will be happier in the end if the rod and reel don’t break on the first trip and you’ll be happier, too, when you don’t have to replace everything after one trip. Trust me, I speak from experience.
Taking your family fishing and enjoying the time spent together outdoors is the most rewarding experience you’ll have this summer. Share it with others, too. One of my best friends doesn’t have any kids of his own. One day he asked me if I’d like to bring my son fishing with us, which my son was very excited to do. All it took was one fish for my friend Rick to be hooked—not on fishing, but on bringing my son TJ with us.
You don’t need a boat, either. Michigan has some of the most accessible waters for fishing of any place on the planet. A look at the Family Friendly Fishing Waters page on the DNR website will give you a map and locations by county of places you can spend some time forgetting about your troubles and enjoying some family fishing fun.
This article was produced in partnership with Pure Michigan.
Image courtesy Derrek Sigler