What are the best fishing spots in Kalamazoo County? The answer depends on the type of fish you’re looking for. Do you want to boost your self-esteem or are you hoping to connect with the environment on a leisurely afternoon? You’ll have your pick on your Kalamazoo fishing trip! Read below to learn some fishing tips and tricks from local Kalamazoo angler Nic Rand, who has identified the main reasons you should grab a pole and plan your trip today.
Austin Lake, Kalamazoo's favorite all-sports lake - although shallow excels in fishing numbers and opportunity. A DNR Public Access located on the northwest section of the lake provides opportunities for a picnic as well as great fishing from shore.
With a lengthy shoreline, this specific launch and the fishable water around it is a great opportunity for someone with a boat, even though a boat tends to be found fishing around the launch - as many tournaments take place here provide for fish being released in the nearby area.
Austin Lake provides a unique opportunity for anglers to target more than one species of fish, including Bluegills, Crappie, Perch, Bass, Pike, and MUSKELLUNGE! Yes, Austin Lake has Musky and they are very well-catchable!
Although hard to target, and known to be “A fish of 10,000 casts” it's a great opportunity for someone local to target these special fish. This lake overall is a shallow lake, with minimal vegetation after weed kills - this pushes fish to be shallow under covers such as docks, lily pads, and swim platforms.
The bottom composition here is sandy, silty, and mucky. A great lake to swim and enjoy just in the right location!
The south end of Austin Lake has Bubblers to help prevent the increasing silty sediment from taking over the lake. Things to focus on when coming to visit and fish would be to find shade, underwater vegetation, and deeper water when targeting any and all of these fish.
Great Baits for the lake targeting bass would be Yamamoto Seiko, A Strike King Swim Jig, a Strike King Spinnerbait. If you came to target bluegills, the large population of them in the lake creates an opportunity to catch a lot of fish - wax and earthworms should dominate bluegill, crappie and perch here. Come and enjoy the locals' favorite fishing and all-sports lake!
Gull Lake is a 2,030-acre all-sports lake - with a speed limit. Argued to have the cleanest clearest water in the entire state many times referred to as having the bluest water in Michigan. Gull Lake is known for the sport fishing and sailboating opportunities it provides. With many local businesses and restaurants in the area or nearby you could surely spend a great deal of time in the area and on the water here.
This deep clear lake has a maximum depth of 110’ and many areas of 75’. The depth of this lake provides a unique attraction to anglers far and wide. Notable species that call Gull Lake home are largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, bluegill, yellow perch, lake trout, rainbow trout, andsmelt!
This lake provides one of the only smelt fisheries in the area, where they can be mainly targeted in winter ice fishing, some have success on calm days very deep. Gull Lake has great boating access on the north end of the lake, which specifically has a boat cleaning station to keep invasive species from the clear waters.
While this lake is a great fishing lake, many come from around the region to scuba dive here, with artifacts and clean water it provides one of the best experiences a local diver can find.
Others come to witness or participate in the daily sailboating - with a yacht club right on the lake, it hosts many sailboat races and events. But, overall with the local anglers giving this lake a 5/5 stars due to numbers and size you surely wouldn’t want to pass by without taking a few casts.
A Reins swim bait and drop shot would be your best bet to catch any bass or pike within the lake. The trout and smelt tend to live very deep throughout the summer months and can be hard to target - they also like to suspend over deeper water and without fishing electronics would be hard-pressed to have any success. Fishing hot spots would be around drop-offs, the “hogback” - a deep underwater island mid-lake, vegetation, and docks. Many fishermen and divers alike see fish from all depth ranges and a lot of them!
Although with no public access directly to Gourdneck Lake, the connected waters of Hogset Lake provide boating access as well as Prairie View County Park (Pass needed).
Hogsett connects to Gourdneck Lake on the south end by a small channel - with sometimes low water creating difficulty in navigating and or accessing Gourdneck. This lake is specifically targeted at pan fishermen looking to catch trophy bluegills specifically. with multiple access points and some shoreline anglers can access the waters and test their abilities! Many anglers tend to navigate this body of water via kayak or canoe - and target these panfish with wax worms and earthworms.
The Kalamazoo River extends a total length of 178 miles, connecting to Lake Michigan in Saugatuck and running through the Kalamazoo County area! I'm here to tell you, as a local angler, this river is absolutely beautiful and provides so many awesome opportunities for anglers and water lovers. The Kalamazoo River has many backwater areas where Spro Frogs and Texas-rigged Pierce stink bugs will do well.
Throughout the river, it has a ton of current, with bends and turns it provides steep banks, gravel areas, and many laydowns with trees and stumps in the water. The Kalamazoo River also gets a run of steelhead, trout, and salmon each year and provides anglers with water to target these throughout the system.
With many boat launches throughout and areas to fish from the store - this is one area you definitely do not want to pass up if you’re close. The smallmouth and largemouth bass fishing is second to none here, along with the panfish and pike fishing. All year long these fish can be targeted, while mainly the spring/fall are times when steelhead and salmon need to be targeted for increased success. This system also has a population of walleye throughout with anglers targeting the specifically jigging can surely have success. Boaters, kayakers and canoers surely want to experience a drift along the Kalamazoo River, and don’t forget to bring your fishing rod and hold on for a tough fighting smallmouth!
Long Lake in Kalamazoo, Michigan is another all-sports lake where high populations of panfish exist. With a public boat ramp on the south end of the lake and Ramona Park on the west side - which both provide beaches and fishing opportunities from shore. This lake is tournament-fished weekly and with the provided feedback from professional anglers in the area - it is fishing GOOD!
With a lot of vegetation and docks throughout the lake anglers focus on weed lines, cover from the sun; and shade. The north end of Long Lake provides a marshy area that many anglers would enjoy. With reeds, lily pads, docks, grass, and docks on this lake - you’d be pressed to not catch any fish here, with populations of bluegill, perch, walleye, largemouth bass, northern pike, carp and dogfish.
Carp and dogfish are typically targeted by bow fishermen in the area at night time. While, pan fishermen and/or pike anglers can be found throughout the lake using Strike King Spinnerbaits, Reins Swim jigs, Yamamoto Senkos, Reins Worm drop shot, and Spro Frogs! Come enjoy your day in Kalamazoo with multiple boat launches very close by!
A reservoir created from the Kalamazoo River, with a dam on the West end and river on the east end creates awesome and unique opportunities for anglers and lakegoers.
But, be careful this lake is full of stumps and trees to run into - though creates a LOT of fishing habitat. With a public launch on the northeast corner of Morrow Pond at the mouth of the attached river this lake surely has current throughout!
The lake is known for its large population of Carp which attracts many Bow fishermen to the area, which they target at nighttime. Largemouth bass and smallmouth bass would be the other primary species to target here, with the layout of the lake creating a lot of vegetation on top of the water this is a great habitat for a largemouth to hide under.
The river and current areas would be the locations to target smallmouth, they tend to hang around wood, and rocks such as gravel, boulders, or cement. This lake is not tournament-fished nearly as much as other Kalamazoo lakes - but being right off Interstate 94 is a great one to take a stop and catch the smallmouth that the state of Michigan is known for!
Ways to target largemouth here would be a Spro frog in any color, a Hayabusa shooting ball football jig in green pumpkin or black/blue, a Hayabusa Lil’ Schmitty Swim Jig, a Texas Rigged Reins Punching predator and/or a local Bait Makers Stink bug (M. Pierce Baits).
To target Smallmouth here would be at the mouth of the river and east, a drop-shotted Reins Bubbling shaker worm, and a strike king spinner bait! Morrow Pond is a destination fishing lake, but overall amazing views with wildlife of all kinds in and around the water.
Just outside Kalamazoo County
Gun Lake a 2800-acre all-sports lake, is one of the most unique lakes in the Kalamazoo area. With lots to offer, Gun Lake has two great boat launches and tons of accessible shoreline for fishing and lake days.
Gun Lake Park on the west side of Gun Lake has a paid boat launch and beach, while Yankee Springs State Park also has a boat launch and much more! Yankee Springs is located on the north side of Gun Lake, which provides miles of shoreline on Gun Lake, hundreds of acres of public recreational land, camping and RV sites, and a multiple-slot boat launch.
A state park pass is necessary to access Yankee Springs, but provides multiple beach fronts and is a great sport for your shore angler!
Gun Lake is mainly a sandy bottom, with underwater vegetation throughout - this creates a very clean and clear lake when the boat traffic doesn’t turn up the sandy sediment. Multiple islands and sand bars to enjoy your day on the lake has more than enough water for an angler to fish for an entire day, weekend or week!
The lake provides opportunities for largemouth and smallmouth bass, pike, bluegill, perch, walleye, crappie, and rock bass. Targeting these fish varies - although similar to many other lakes, docks, vegetation, and deeper water can hold a good population of fish in general.
This lake has a history though, in the 1900s the west side of Gun Lake, a shallow area provided a great location to cultivate rice. Although almost entirely gone in the area - some say the rice fields in the west end still hold great fishing opportunities. While on the southeast end of the lake provides a more rocky bottom composition and this is where you can find the main population of smallmouth - around “Turtle Island”.
Targeting bass and pike around islands, vegetation, docks, canals, and steep banks will provide good-quality fishing opportunities. I highly recommend a Carolina rig or a drop shot here to target bass.
Kalamazoo offers some of the best freshwater fishing in the state, from big lakes to scenic trout streams, roaming these waters are large and smallmouth bass, trout, panfish, northern pike, walleye and more. Half the fun is reeling them in, but the other half is telling the fish stories, even — maybe especially — if they get away. That goes for ice fishing, too!
Health notes: The safety and health of visitors and residents of Kalamazoo County is a top priority of Discover Kalamazoo and our partners.
For the Kalamazoo River, we recommend “catch and release” for visiting anglers. By using the Eat Safe Fish Guide, Michigan, fish consumers can be confident they are making informed health choices about eating the fish they catch from a local lake or river.
For more information on where to find, prepare, eat or buy safe fish, visit Michigan.gov/EatSafeFish or call the MDHHS Division of Environmental Health Hotline at 800-648-6942.
Additional references can be found here. Paddlers and others accessing the Kalamazoo River may reference health information here. Swimming in the Kalamazoo River is at your own risk. For a list of our favorite area beaches, click here.
More information about Portage Creek's health and remediation can be found here.