Tawas: A Quiet Community Making Waves with its Variety of Fishing Opportunities

For anglers, watching a sunset over the west side of this Great Lake state as it disappears slowly over a lake, river or stream is a magnificent experience, marking perhaps the end of a successful day of fishing watching a sunrise or perhaps the beginning of a day of fishing.

Much has been printed, discussed, and experienced with the myriad of angling opportunities on the West Coast, with justification. However, there are indeed equal opportunities to enjoy the recreation of fishing on the East Coast. One such area is Tawas. Situated in Iosco County in northeast Michigan, Tawas Bay provides the best natural harbor in Lake Huron. Tawas Point shelters the bay from the strong northeast storms that can quickly rise, particularly in autumn and winter.

The East Tawas State dock is located directly in front of the Tawas Bay Beach Resort.

“The seasonal dock currently has 40 seasonal slips and 80 transient slips with $2.7 million allotted for harbor reconstruction and renovations,” according to Micah Jordan, member of the DNR stationed at Tawas State Park. “These updates to the harbor and neighboring boat launch will show that boating and fishing opportunities are indeed plentiful.”

Also, helping to make this bay one of the best fishing areas around, happened in 1987 when a limestone reef was constructed along the northern side of the bay, providing a natural habitat for smaller baitfish, which in turn attracted larger predator fish.

Tawas Bay averages approximately 15 to 25 feet in depth offshore and has a nearshore average water temperature in the summer months in the 70s according to local anglers. Fishing species in the Bay include walleyes, northern pike, yellow perch, brown trout and smallmouths. During the spring and fall, whitefish, steelhead, brown trout, lake trout and walleyes all move along the shoreline.

Yet, Tawas Bay and the surrounding areas offer a multitude of other fishing adventures. As mentioned, this area has year-round opportunities no matter the season or type of gear you have. Fish from the shore, riverbanks, the dock, your own boat or grab a charter from one of the many fishing charter services. In winter, it’s obvious why ice fishing is so popular. There are numerous bodies of water to try your luck on like the AuSable River, Tawas Lake, Sand Lake, Van Ettan and Cedar lakes in Oscoda, along with a host of 60-plus smaller inland lakes throughout the surrounding areas.

With that many lakes there needs to be go-to places for bait and gear, and Iosco County has plenty. Bait shops here offer a unique perspective of angling, and life here. I look forward to fishing stories, either of my own creation or those of others. Yet, in truth, the sagas of those who fish can be seen creatively in other venues other than just by word of mouth or in the written word. Walk into the M-65 Bait Shop of Ed Beckley’s, a small family-owned store, and the lore of local angling history can be seen on their walls, ceilings and counters. What is even more amazing, are the stories behind the wall or on ceiling mounts of bass, walleyes, pike, perch and lake trout. I could spend many hours listening to “how Leonard battled that bruiser pike under the ice” or “George hit the perch honey hole in 1975 and those jumbo perch mounts over there are just a few of the many he brought in that day.” This information is at times more telling by far than many angling stories seen in print.

One of the benefits of fishing is the chance to partake in an ancient sport that has evolved from its crude beginnings with a sharpened stick, to a cane pole with a string and hook haphazardly fashioned, and to the myriad of gear which now inundates many store shelves to help anglers get “more and bigger fish.” What stays the same, however, is the excitement of stories about angling, embellished or not. Shops like these are the focal point for locals and transients in need of live bait and specific gear in this section of the Sand Lake area near Tawas.

I am a West-sider, born and bred; fishing on the west side of Michigan is what I’ve done for decades. My angling adventures on the “Sunrise” side of the state had been limited to fishing for browns out of Rogers City a couple of times in my twenties. Now I realize what I’ve been missing after my first fishing experience in Tawas.