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The many surprises of Lake Orion

Located in northeast Oakland County, Lake Orion is a 493-acre lake with a maximum depth of 80 feet. Considered a warmwater lake with coolwater species in it, it's historically been known to produce good numbers of bluegill and largemouth bass.

This lake is an inline impoundment on Paint Creek (part of the Clinton River watershed) and offers southeast Michigan anglers yet another opportunity to have some fun on the water.

"We've been managing Lake Orion with walleye since 1996, stocking it every other year or so with spring fingerlings," said Cleyo Harris, a local fisheries biologist out of Waterford. "A 2018 fish survey effort had us sample almost 100 walleye ranging in size from 17 to 28 inches."

Despite a good walleye population at this lake, Harris admits it's also an untapped fishing opportunity.

"We estimate there's about 0.40 adult walleye per acre at Lake Orion," he shared. "The population is maintained completely by stocking - we've not seen any evidence of natural reproduction - but we don't see too much angler activity for them."

Harris does say Lake Orion is quite a good northern pike lake, even thought it's highly developed, there is quite a bit of natural reproduction occurring there. In that same 2018 survey, the Fisheries Division's Lake Erie Management Unit crew caught fish up to 38 inches. They estimate the adult northern pike population there is 3.6 fish per acre.

"That's pretty impressive," Harris shared. "Twenty-nine percent of the fish we caught were of legal size."

Although the lake doesn't get a ton of ice each winter it is a popular spot for northern pike spearing and jigging for bluegill. During the open water season anglers often target panfish and bass.

"If you can, get away from the boaters by tucking into the little bays you'll find on the lake," said Harris. "Find some ideal habitat, like submerged vegetation, and you will find fish."

Speaking of bass, Lake Orion is consistently in the top 40 lakes for number of tournaments held there (according to the Michigan Fishing Tournament Information System). The average bass weighed-in during tournaments has been 2.46 pounds, and for 63% of the tournaments held there the largest bass weighed-in was larger than 4 pounds.

One unique thing you might find at Lake Orion? Alewife! Harris says they're not quite sure how the fish got there (potentially through a bait bucket transfer), but this non-native species does turn up occasionally.

Lastly, Lake Orion does have a dam that maintains its legal lake levels and outflows into Paint Creek, a designated trout stream. To mitigate the warm water flowing over the dam during summer, a bottom draw was installed that pulls cold water from the deeper portions of the lake to then mix with warmer water coming over the dam to provide a coldwater environment at the bottom, suitable for trout populations - including the brown trout stocked each year in Paint Creek.

DNR biologist holding a northern pike caught during lake survey