Stable weather is an angler’s friend, and July provides perhaps the most stable weather of the year in Michigan. Many anglers believe it offers the best fishing, too.
There are good reasons. Less wind and less-frequent rains improve water clarity. River levels are more stable and less prone to high flow and dirty water. And because fish are cold-blooded critters, they are typically more active in warm water, so they feed more often. Plainly put, they are generally more willing to bite.
There are some exceptions. Trout, for example, prefer cooler water temperatures than many other species so they can be lethargic in marginal trout streams. But high-quality trout streams often remain well within the preferred temperature range and even in some marginal waters, anglers can use the warmer water to their benefit. The trout will seek their comfort zones—areas with springs that produce “refrigerator holes” or the colder-water tributaries that flow into the streams. Generally, trout fishermen can head upstream in the tribs and find colder water.
By July, terrestrial insects begin attracting feeding trout and guys who fish with grasshoppers or crickets (live or artificial) enjoy some of the best trout fishing of the year. And fly fishermen can enjoy some of the best angling for the biggest trout of the year by taking advantage of fly hatches that occur at night by “mousing”—throwing large, splashy, waking flies under the cover of darkness when the big brown trout are out on the prowl. On overcast days, streamer flies or floating/diving minnow baits produce, too.
Virtually all Michigan fish have finished spawning by July (there may still be some of the panfish bedding earlier in the month, especially in the northernmost reaches of the state), so fish are most likely to be found in their traditional summer haunts, usually a little deeper and related to underwater structure. Bluegills and sunfish will often be congregated on the outside of weed beds in most lakes and though the fishing may be a little slower than when you’re picking them off the spawning beds in spring, it can be just as productive.
Bass are made for summer and July is an excellent month for bass fishing. The fish (largemouths and smallmouths) will settle into their comfort zones and stay there. Largemouths can often be found on the outside edge of the deepest weed beds; smallmouths will typically congregate on rocky areas along structure elements, such as points. But there are daily movements, too—bass will often move shallower at night so the last hours or the early morning can often produce good action in shallow water.
July is one of the best months for fishing topwater baits, which is one of the more exciting ways to catch America’s favorite gamefish. Weed beds offer them respite from the sun, so few largemouth bass anglers pass up the carpets of lily pads that blanket the surface in many lakes. As for smallmouths, both Lake St. Clair and Saginaw Bay rock during July.
July is an excellent time to fish for bass—and smallmouths in particular—in streams across the state. Many of the state’s trout fishing guides switch over to bass after the hex hatch has completed for the season on some of the state’s best trout rivers (the Muskegon and several stretches of the Au Sable). Some of the state’s best smallmouth streams—the Huron, Flat, Grand and Kalamazoo Rivers, for instance—offer good fishing in July, especially in a year like this when heavy June rains slowed fishing earlier in the season.
Fewer severe winds make July an ideal time to fish the Great Lakes. Trolling for trout and salmon can be very good in the Great Lakes as they are cold enough that the fish can always find their comfort zones. Lake trout will generally be in deep water and stable weather allows anglers the opportunity to get some of the best lake trout fishing many miles offshore on Lake Superior. July is the best time, for instance, to fish Stannard Rock (40 miles out from several ports), where anglers jig reefs for trophy-quality fish. July is great around Isle Royale, too. But there’s no need to make a long journey to find July lakers. Even small boaters can get to get to deep water easily on Grand Traverse Bay or Higgins Lake.
Summer-run steelhead begin finding their way into the rivers now, too, and streams with noted summer runs start drawing steelhead anglers who typically put up their gear months ago. Try the Manistee River below Tippy Dam or the St. Joseph River. But you can also find them off the piers at the mouths of many Great Lakes tributaries.
Have I mentioned catfish? Or perch? Or lake herring? Or muskies? Fishing opportunities in July are myriad and varied. That’s one more reason many anglers consider July to be prime time in Michigan.
This article was produced in partnership with Pure Michigan.
Images by Bob Gwizdz