Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Great News! Spring Coho Set to Heat Up on Lake Michigan

Coho salmon action is about to heat up on Lake Michigan this spring.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says that spring coho can be found closer to the shoreline as March goes on.

According to the DNR, the spring action heats up because the fish has a fairly consistent migration pattern.

The pattern starts in the south, moving north toward New Buffalo to St. Joseph and to South Haven. Migrating spring coho have been known to make it as far north as Muskegon.

The fish stay close to shore to follow baitfish. As the near-shore water warms up, the baitfish move into deeper water. The salmon follow the baitfish across the lake.

In the spring, the DNR says the fish will often feed in depths from 5 to 30 feet in Lake Michigan.

That's where anglers should focus their spring fishing for the salmon. The DNR recommends orange spoons or plug baits fished behind planer boards.

Coho can be found in deeper water in the spring, says the DNR. In 2016, anglers fishing in 200 feet of water found the fish feeding on a shrimp-like species called mysis.

"Anglers were seeing this shrimp-like food in the stomachs of coho in 2016 while fishing in deeper water in the spring," says Jay Wesley, the DNR's Lake Michigan Basin coordinator. "We thought that was a warning sign that there wasn't enough prey fish in the shallows, which would have brought them nearshore, but we are already getting reports this year that anglers are catching their limits in a short period of time when fishing these deep waters. It seems coho salmon are capitalizing on this food source until warmer water shows up nearshore."

The DNR plans to release 1.5 million of the species in Lake Michigan the spring. Anglers can catch the fish year-round.