When my children were young they would give me hand-drawn coupons on Father’s Day that read “Good For One Fishing Trip With Dad.” I cashed in every one of them — even the one that was misplaced for years in the back of my roll-top desk. When I found it Jessica was in high school. “There’s no expiration date on it,” I said.
My five Father’s Day fishing destinations include piers or docks that are ideal for younger anglers whose fidgety nature isn’t best-suited for quality time in a small boat.
Upper Bushman Lake
Our favorite place to dunk a worm, Independence Oaks County Park became even better in 2010 when the park enlarged to include Upper Bushman Lake. Up until then, the 31-acre lake was owned by a single family who cherished its natural beauty and guarded against development. The only amenity the park added was a long boardwalk and fishing pier at its north end with a view that makes you feel like you’re in the Upper Peninsula. Fishing for panfish and largemouth bass here is so outstanding Upper Bushman was soon designated Oakland County’s only catch-and-release lake (destinationoakland.com).
North Bay Park
This Ypsilanti Township park at north end of Ford Lake is only 139 acres, yet contains almost two miles of trail. That’s because half of the loop winds across the Huron River impoundment via boardwalks and bridges between small islands, making it both an interesting place to hike and a haven for shore anglers. You can “walk” across the water, stopping anywhere along the way to cast for bluegills, black crappies, and occasionally a largemouth bass (ytown.org/index.php/park-system).
This lake is the crowning jewel of the Reid Lake Foot Travel Area, a non-motorized, 3,000-acre tract in the Huron National Forest. The 13-acre lake is reached on foot, but the hike in is only a mile and adds to the sense of adventure for children. Reid is stocked annually with rainbow trout and also holds good populations of panfish, especially bluegill, that can be fished for on a pair of shoreline docks (fs.usda.gov/recmain/hmnf/recreation).
Fish Hatchery Park
This delightful Hastings park is surrounded by wooded bluffs along its south side from where a small stream emerges and flows through a series of five ponds before emptying into the Thornapple River. A state fish hatchery until the early 1970s, the facility was deeded over to city, which installed the usual park amenities but also small platforms and a pier on the ponds to encourage shorefishing (hastingsmi.org).
Just before entering Lake Michigan, the Elk River passes through the historic Elk Rapids Dam and then past three fishing platforms. You can cast from any of these or from the backside of the dam itself for smallmouth bass, rock bass and panfish. If the kids get bored, one of the area’s finest beaches is a short walk over a low dune (elkrapids.com).
I can’t remember if we caught any trophies, but I’ll never forget those afternoons on a dock waiting for our red-and-white bobbers to dip under water.
BLUE “Top 5” columnist Jim DuFresne is a Clarkston-based travel writer and main contributor to MichiganTrailMaps.com.