A great catch from Lake Superior
A great catch from Lake Superior.

Kaitlyn Knick

Fishing at Isle Royale

Isle Royale National Park is an angler's paradise. Whether you are fishing Lake Superior or the inland lakes, by boat or on foot, there is exciting sport fishing abound. Through the management of fish and aquatic environments, the park works to preserve and restore native fisheries and their habitats, and provide recreational fishing opportunities for the enjoyment of park visitors.

License Requirements

A Michigan fishing license is required for fishing in Lake Superior, including narrow bays and harbors, and when transporting fish to and from the mainland. If you are under 17 years of age you may fish without a license. Licenses are not required to fish on the inland waters of Isle Royale; possession limits are generally the same as those set by the State of Michigan. Anglers should refer to the Michigan fishing regulations for possession limits and detailed license requirements for Lake Superior. Only 24-hour licenses are available on the island and only when concession services are open.

Purchase a Michigan fishing license online or download a copy of the Michigan Fishing Guide.

For information and tips on boating at Isle Royale, visit our boating page.

Trolling for fish in Lake Superior.
Trolling for fish in Lake Superior.

Kaitlyn Knick

Fishing Conservation

With its multitude of reefs and bays on Lake Superior, and its numerous interior lakes and streams, Isle Royale provides varied opportunities for recreational fishing. How can you help to conserve and minimize damage to the Isle Royale fishery?

  • Possession or use of bait for fishing within Lake Superior park waters (which extend 4.5 miles out from the island) is limited to those fish and/or fish parts caught within Isle Royale National Park waters. Transporting fish or fish parts for use as bait to the park is prohibited.
  • Catch only what you plant to keep or eat. Catch and release can be damaging and stressful on fish.
  • Know the minimum and maximum legal size of fish so they can be released quickly if they are too small or too large.
  • If moving from Lake Superior to inland waters, change to a new spool of line to help prevent the spread of invasive spiny water fleas to inland lakes.

  • Release large fish and keep medium size fish to insure future productivity.
  • Return fish to the water as soon as possible. While unhooking them, keep fish in the water as much as possible.
  • Try not to handle fish, but if you need to, do so with a wet hand. Release handled fish gently by allowing them to swim from your hands rather than throwing them back into the water.
  • Do not squeeze the fish or place fingers in the gills, since a torn gill can cause the fish to bleed to death.
  • Remove the hook gently. Pliers work best. Cut the line near the hook if a fish is deeply hooked. A steel hook will decompose in time.
  • Use only artificial lures (required in inland waters) as non-native species can accidentally be introduced by using live bait. In addition, live bait is more likely to be swallowed, resulting in more damage to fish.
  • Use barbless hooks or bend down the barbs on the hooks. Using larger spoons when fishing for larger fish will help prevent catching undersize fish.
Reminder: Barbless hooks and artificial lures only in all inland lakes, streams, and creeks.

Coaster Brook Trout depiction.
Coaster Brook Trout.

Special Coaster Brook Trout Regulations

Surveys indicate populations are dangerously low and may be at risk of disappearing unless protective measures remain in place. The National Park Service and Michigan DNR have implemented protective regulations at Isle Royale in order to help with the recovery of this once-common fish.

Coaster Brook Trout can be identified by their nearly square tail and wormlike pattern on the back and dorsal fin. If you are uncertain about the species you catch, please return it to the water.

Isle Royale Lake Superior Waters: Extend 4.5 miles out from the island. Catch and release only for all brook trout, including all bays and harbors.

Inland Waters: Catch and release only in all lakes, streams, and creeks.

Lake Trout laying on table, ready to be filleted.
Lake Trout ready to be filleted.

Kaitlyn Knick

Disposal of Fish Remains

Please follow these guidelines to eliminate the potential for attracting and feeding wildlife, and to reduce unsightly fish remains and odors. Clean fish away from docks and campgrounds. Do not throw remains into shallow water, or to gulls and other wildlife.

To dispose of remains:

  • At Rock Harbor and Windigo, please use the fish cleaning station.
  • At other Lake Superior locations, the preferred method is to deposit chopped remains (pieces 4" or less) into water at least 50' in depth.
  • At inland lakes sites, the preferred method is to deposit chopped remains (pieces 4" or less) into deep water via canoe. The alternate method is to move at least 200' (75 steps) from the campground and throw chopped remains as far as possible into deep water.
Transporting Fish to the Mainland
You are allowed only one day's catch in your possession. One day's limit may be transported via ferries or seaplane with a Michigan DNR permit while license holder remains in the park.

Fish Consumption Advisory

Contaminants discovered in the park ecosystem remind us that although Isle Royale is remote, it is part of a global system. Ongoing research in six inland lakes (Sargent, Siskiwit, Eva, Shesheeb, Wagejo, and Angleworm) shows fish with mercury levels exceeding the State of Michigan fish consumption advisories. More information can be found through the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Last updated: October 16, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

800 East Lakeshore Drive
Houghton, MI 49931


(906) 482-0984

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