What type of fish are in Lake Michigan

If you are wondering what type of fish are in Lake Michigan then keep on reading. Lake Michigan is the only Great Lake located entirely within the United States and contains an estimated 850 species of fish.

This number is several times what would be expected if the fish distribution were random with respect to latitude and longitude.

Although some fish inhabit more than one region of Lake Michigan, more than half are endemic to a single regional ecosystem (i.e., Morton, central, northern). Check this post on the types of fish found in the Great Lakes.

Lake Michigan has 3 major basins: the Lake Michigan Basin which receives inflowing rivers from Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana.

The St. Joseph-Detroit Basin which includes the Straits of Mackinac. The third is the Green Bay Basin which excludes all water south of a line from Menominee, Michigan to Grand Haven, Michigan.

5 Main Types Of Fish In Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan fish species can be grouped into 5 main groups: salmonids, grouper-like fishes, cottoids, whitefishes, and cyprinids.

  • Salmonids

Salmonids, such as the Lake Michigan salmon (“Oncorhynchus kisutch”), not only inhabit the lake but also spawn in its tributary rivers and streams.

Salmonid fish enter the Great Lakes to feed and grow before returning to their birthplace to spawn

The Lake Michigan lake trout (“Salvelinus namaycush”), a member of the salmon family.

It is one of the most popular sport fishes in the region and was once found throughout the lake but has been seriously affected by overfishing and the destruction of its spawning grounds by such practices as hydraulic mining.

Although populations have increased since protection in the mid-twentieth century, current numbers are considered a fraction of their historic levels.

The Largemouth Bass (Micropterus salmoides) and the Smallmouth Bass (Micropterus dolomieu).

  • Grouper-Like fishes

Lake Michigan is home to many species of grouper-like fishes, eels, and pad fishes.

They include the venomous red devil (Amia calva); yellow (Perca flavescens) and white (Morone chrysops) perch.

As well as the blue pike (Stizostedion vitreum glaucum), walleye (Sander vitreus), longnose gar (Lepisosteus osseus), starry flounder (Platichthys stellatus), yellow bass (Morone mississippiensis), smallmouth buffalo (Ictiobus bubalus), and bigmouth buffalo (Ictiobus cyprinellum).

  • Cottoid fish

Cottoid fish have ctenoid scales, cycloid scales with ctenii. They are distinguished from the cycloid scales of salmonid fishes by having smooth to rough ctenii, rather than tuberculated.

Such fish include bowfin (Amia calva), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), and sauger (Stizostedion canadense).

  • Whitefish

The whitefish group consists of numerous species, including the ciscoes (coregonines).

They also include the lake whitefish or sheefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) and the round whitefish or monger (Prosopium cylindraceum), which have a single anal fin.

  • Cyprinids

The cyprinids are generally characterized by their comparatively smallmouth and a single gill opening below each eye.

Two species unique to Lake Michigan include the emerald shiner (Notropis atherinoides) and the spottail shiner (Cyprinella spiloptera).

Common non-native fish include rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax), burbot (Lota lota), round goby (Neogobius melanostomus), and alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus).

Locations Of Different Types Of Fish In Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan is well known for the different types of fish that live in it. No two regions of Lake Michigan have similar fish populations, because there are so many factors that affect what types of fish enter the lake.

Water temperature, salinity, depth, currents, and wave action all create different environments for the fish to live in.

For example, near Chicago, you will find goldfish (Carassius auratus), largemouth bass (Micropterus salmoides), and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieui).

Further up the coast of Lake Michigan, where the water is colder, you will find trout species such as brown trout (“Salmo trutta”), rainbow trout (“Oncorhynchus mykiss”), and Chinook Salmon (“Oncorhynchus tshawytscha”).

Another example is the bottom of Lake Michigan. In this environment tend to live species such as alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus), round goby (Neogobius melanostomous), and burbot (“Lota lota”).


When fishing in lake Michigan you can expect to catch different types of fish depending on where you are fishing. Check this post on tips and tricks for fishing in lakes.

Lake Michigan holds some of the best fishing spots in North America. With so many different types of fish, it is no wonder people travel from all over to cast their line in Lake Michigan.

I hope this post on what type of fish are in Lake Michigan was helpful and provided some useful information. Don’t forget to share it and also follow me on Fishbasics Pinterest.

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