Coho SalmonThis is the fish that really started the Great Lakes salmon fishery. Although attempts to create a coho salmon fishery in the Great Lakes date as far back as 1800s, they were never successfully established until Michigan planted them in the mid 1960s. The first fall spawning run, in 1967, changed Great Lakes fishing forever.
Coho can be caught in Lake Michigan at any time, though the best fisheries on the lake's east side occur in early spring and again in late summer and early fall. The fish seem to travel the big lake counter clockwise; in the spring, the southern Lake Michigan ports of St. Joseph and New Buffalo boast excellent fisheries with anglers trolling near shore -- or high in the water column off shore -- often with crankbaits and floating/diving artificial minnows. There is often good fishing for anglers who use spawn bags or spoons off the piers as well.
The bulk of coho are planted in the Platte River, just downstream from the state's coho hatchery, and excellent fishing by both surf fishermen and trolling anglers occurs in Platte Bay as the fish stage for their spawning runs. Cohos typically migrate later than the other salmon and travel longer distances. Although they are caught in a number of rivers, there is a notable fishery in late October in the Manistee River and migrating fish are caught in the St. Joseph River as late as Christmas. Although natural reproduction has been documented, the fishery is largely sustained through stocking.
In the Lake Superior watershed, the DNR is evaluating its stocking program as most fish caught by anglers are naturally produced fish. The best fishing is in the Anna River watershed, which produces a good fishery for both open-water anglers in Munising Bay in spring and fall and through the ice in winter as well.
For more information on identifying characteristics for coho salmon see our fish ID page.