Common Terms

Fishing Regulations Michigan Freshwater Fishing

Artificial Flies: Any commonly accepted single hook wet and dry flies, streamers and nymphs without spinner, spoon, scoop, lip or any other fishing lure or bait attached. The fly or leader may be weighted, but no weight shall be attached to the fly or to the terminal tackle in a manner that allows the weight to be suspended from or below the hook.

Artificial Lure: A manmade lure manufactured to imitate natural bait. Artificial lures include spoons, spinners, flies and plugs made of metal, plastic, wood and other non-edible materials. They also include plastic products made to resemble worms, eggs, fish and other aquatic organisms. NOTE: For the following waters: all waters of the Betsie R. (Benzie and Manistee Cos.), all waters of Bear Cr. (Manistee Co.), the Manistee R. from Tippy Dam downstream to Railroad Bridge below M-55 (T21N, R16W, S6; Manistee Co.), and the Big Sable R. from mouth upstream to Hamlin Lake Dam (Mason Co.), an artificial lure is defined as a body bait, plug, spinner or spoon. An artificial lure is not a device primarily constructed of lead. From Aug. 1 – Nov. 15, inclusive, terminal fishing gear is restricted to single-pointed, un-weighted hooks, measuring 1/2-inch or less from point to shank or treble hooks 3/8-inch or less from point to shank ONLY when attached to a body bait, plug, spinner or spoon.

Cast Net: A net not exceeding 8 feet in diameter without walls or sides that is thrown to take minnows, alewife, smelt and shad in the Great Lakes and Connecting Waters.

Catch-and-Immediate-Release (CIR): The act of returning fish immediately to the water without injury and without holding in a livewell or similar device. Anglers may continue to fish CIR given that they have reached their daily possession limit for a given species.

Chumming: the practice of luring or attracting fish or attempting to lure or attract fish by scattering organic material into the water. Material commonly used as chum includes fish eggs, corn, rice, noodles, oatmeal and maggots.

Daily Possession Limit: The total number of fish, amphibians or reptiles that may be caught and retained in one day. See also Possession Limit.

Designated Trout Lake: Any lake so designated by the state that contains a significant population of trout or salmon. All Type A and all Type D lakes are designated trout lakes (see Inland Trout & Salmon Regulations).

Designated Trout Stream: Any stream so designated by the state that contains a significant population of trout or salmon. All Type 1, all Type 2, all Gear Restricted Streams, all research areas and Brook Trout Research Areas, most Type 3 and most Type 4 waters are designated trout streams (see Inland Trout & Salmon Regulations).

Detroit River: Beginning at the imaginary line extending due south of the Windmill Point Light, Wayne County and ending at the imaginary east-west line drawn through the most southerly point of Celeron Island.

Dip Net: A square net that is constructed from a piece of webbing of heavy twine, hung on heavy cord or frame so as to be without sides or walls, and suspended from the corners and attached in such a manner that when the net is lifted no part is more than 4 feet below the plane formed by the imaginary lines connecting the corners from which the net is suspended. As used in fishing, it shall be lowered and raised vertically as nearly as possible (also referred to as a drop net or umbrella net).

Dropper Line: A line in addition to the main fishing line that contains a hook. Dropper lines are usually attached to the main line.

Drop-shotting: Using a weight suspended below a hook that is tied directly to the main fishing line.

Drowned River Mouth Lakes: An area of a river where it enters the Great Lakes. Considered inland waters and are listed in Note 3 on Great Lakes Trout & Salmon Fishing Regulations.

Fishing Season: The period of time a body of water is open to fishing. It is unlawful to fish in any body of water outside of the fishing season.

Fishing Tournament: An organized competition among anglers with specific rules applying to that particular event. See also Tournament Registration on General Bulletins.

Great Lakes Connecting Waters:

Specific water bodies of water in Michigan that connect the Great Lakes. The designated waters are L. St. Clair, St. Marys R., St. Clair R. (begins at the Fort Gratiot Light) and the Detroit R.NOTE: Portage/Torch Lakes (Houghton County) are not designated as Great Lakes connecting waters.

Portage/Torch Lakes (Houghton County) are not a connecting waterbody.





Hand Net and Landing Net: A mesh bag of webbing or wire, suspended from a circular, oval or rectangular frame attached to a handle. These are the most common fishing nets used in Michigan (see Lawful Methods).

Hook: A single, double or treble pointed hook. All hooks, single, double or treble pointed and attached to a manufactured artificial lure shall be counted as 1 hook.

Inland Waters: All waters in Michigan EXCEPT the Great Lakes and the Great Lakes Connecting Waters.

Lake Sturgeon Fishing Permit and Harvest Tag: The fishing permit and harvest tag are combined into one item and the name has been changed. They are free and legally required for all anglers who fish for lake sturgeon. The fishing permit is the upper portion and the harvest tag is the lower portion. Lake sturgeon harvest is limited to 1 per person per angling year (Apr. 1 – Mar. 31), where harvest is allowed. The permit/tag are non-transferable and are only available at license agents or DNR Service Centers. For more information see Lake Sturgeon Regulations.

MH-4: (Map, Great Lakes Trout & Splake Regulations) A Lake Huron fisheries management unit which is bounded on the north by a line beginning on the shore on Au Sable Point in Iosco Co. at latitude 44°20’N and extending eastward along said latitude to longitude 083°10’W, then southward along said longitude to latitude 44°10’N, then eastward along said latitude to longitude 082°40’W, then southward along said line to latitude 44°00’N, then westward along said line to shore about 2.6 miles southeast of Point aux Barques light in Huron Co.

Minnows: Chubs, shiners, dace, stonerollers, sculpins (muddlers), mudminnows and suckers of a size used for bait in hook-and-line fishing. See General Bulletins and Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia Virus Regulations.

Minnows for Personal Use: Minnows for personal use only may be taken with hook-and- line, seines, dip nets, hand nets and traps with a valid fishing license and may only be used in the waters where collected. In trout streams, minnows may only be taken during the open season for trout by hook-and-line or minnow traps. Minnows may not be taken from LEELANAU: Hatlem’s Cr., LIVINGSTON and OAKLAND: Kent L. including the Huron R. upstream to the Hubbell Millpond Dam in Milford, OCEANA: Silver L. and all tributaries. Gear restrictions are as follows: seines must not be over 12 feet by 4 feet; hand nets not over 8 square feet and without sides or walls; and minnow traps not over 24″ long. Minnow traps must bear the owners name and address. Cast nets (not exceeding 8 feet in diameter without walls or sides) may be used to take minnows, alewife, smelt and shad in the Great Lakes, L. St. Clair, and the Detroit R., St. Clair R., and St. Mary’s R.

Muskellunge Harvest Tag: The tag is free and legally required for anyone to harvest a muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) in Michigan waters. Muskellunge harvest is limited to 1 per person per angling year (Apr. 1 – Mar. 31). The tag is non-transferable and is only available at license agents or DNR Service Centers. A muskellunge shall be immediately released or tagged with a validated muskellunge harvest tag.

Possession Limit: In addition to 1 day’s daily possession limit of fish, a person may possess an additional 2 daily possession limits of fish taken during previous fishing days provided that the additional limits of fish are processed (canned, cured by smoking or drying, or frozen). This provision does not apply to lake sturgeon or muskellunge. Anglers who have not attained the age of 17 are entitled to the possession limit even though they do not have a fishing license. A person fishing waters bordered by other states or provinces AND possessing multiple fishing licenses may possess the limit allowed for ONLY ONE license while in transit, but while fishing in Michigan waters, must comply with Michigan possession and size limits.

Possession Season: That portion of the fishing season during which it is legal to harvest fish.

Protected Slot Limit: Prohibits the possession or harvest of fish that fall within a protected minimum and maximum size interval (see General Regulations).

Snagging: Attempting to take fish in a manner that the fish does not take the hook voluntarily in its mouth. It is unlawful to snag a fish.

Tournament Registration: Following the appropriate process to register a bass tournament with the Department. See General Bulletins.

Trapping: Catching or taking fish by use of a device, such as a cage or net, designed to capture a fish or animal.

Weir: A fence or enclosure set in water to block or retain fish.