May 16, 2009 at 1:00 am

For anglers, Lake St. Clair is a smallmouth bass paradise

John "Mini" Maniaci, a member of the Bass Pro Shops pro staff, shows off a smallmouth bass catch in Muscamoot Bay on Lake St. Clair. (Bob Houlihan / The Detroit News)

Matt Greenblatt has fished remote lakes in inland Mexico, lakes in northern Canada accessible only by plane, and just about everywhere in between.

But there's one place that's tops.

"If I was told I could go fishing only one last time, I would choose to fish Lake St. Clair," said Greenblatt, a professional angler from Palm Beach, Fla. "There is no place like it, period."

Greenblatt said he was introduced to Lake St. Clair's smallmouth bass action during an FLW Stren Series tournament in 2007.

"I was so amazed, that I flew my dad up to fish it," he said. "He was supposed to stay for three days, but ended up staying five. It was priceless to see his face as he kept whacking smallmouth after smallmouth."

While smallmouth action gets the attention, the thousands of anglers who will take to its waters in the coming weeks will attest the lake also is ripe with giant muskie, pike, largemouth bass and carp.

Greenblatt said he's never come across a body of water that consistently produces smallmouth catches -- both in numbers and size of fish -- more than Lake St. Clair.

"It's my No. 1 favorite place," he said. "The fish are everywhere, and they're not just 1- and 1 1/2-pounders. They average 2, 2 1/2 and 3 pounds."

Lake St. Clair's bounty partly can be explained by its geography. The 430-square-mile body is linked to Lake Huron from the St. Clair River to the north and to Lake Erie through the Detroit River to the south. The constant water flow flushes the lake about every seven days.

"The fact that the majority of the lake is shallow (average depth is 10 feet) and there is very good water flow ... makes it a perfect environment for smallmouth," said Eric Stuecher of Great Lakes Fishing Charters. "The smallmouth caught on Lake St. Clair aren't the ones that you sit here and wonder if they're measurable or not. They're all big."

Smallmouth season opens the third Saturday of June, although catch-and-release is allowed now.

Most charter operators agree the most productive area in which to catch smallmouth is approximately 3 miles northeast of the Belle River marina in an area referred to as the Belle River "Hump." The Hump is a narrow ridge of rock that runs due north from shore for about 4 miles and is about a half-mile wide.

"The fish are everywhere. I'll drive up from Florida to fish Lake St. Clair anytime," Greenblatt said.

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Fishing license

Resident

  • 24 hour (good for all species for a designated 24-hour period) -- $7; senior (65 or older), $4
  • Restricted (good for all species except trout and salmon) -- $15; senior, $6
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  • All species -- $42
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    Lost licenses
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  • John "Mini" Maniaci, a member of the Bass Pro Shops pro staff, ... (Bob Houlihan / The Detroit News)
    A hook is removed from the mouth of a smallmouth bass. (Bob Houlihan / The Detroit News)
    Serious smallmouth bass fishermen usually have a number of rods on hand ... (Bob Houlihan / The Detroit News)