Great Lakes Fish: Where It’s On The Menu In Northern Michigan’s Pinky Region

(Photo via The Cove on Facebook)

By Karel Vega

September 7, 2023

Savor some of the best seafood the Great Lakes have to offer at these Up North spots.

You might think that having the world’s longest freshwater coastline means every restaurant in Michigan can serve fresh, local fish. Particularly in the northern part of the Lower Peninsula (aka Michigan’s “pinky”), where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron flow into one another via the Straits of Mackinac, and inland lakes and rivers seem to be everywhere. 

The truth is, however, that much of the seafood served in Michigan doesn’t actually come from the Mitten. In fact, in 2020, only 16 commercial fishing businesses were active in Michigan. 

But Northern Michigan has a history with keeping things local—and we found nine restaurants and businesses serving Great Lakes fish to put on your local culinary bucket list. After you’ve worked up an appetite collecting the state’s unique rocks or visiting our beaches, make your next stop one that supports local folks by visiting one of these businesses serving up Great Lakes fish.

Market Fish

Ed & Cindi John Treaty Fish Co

3400 West Bay Shore Dr., Peshawbestown, 49682

The John Family’s fish tug Linda Sue. (Photo via Cindi John on Great Lakes Fisheries Heritage Trail)

This tribal and family owned business has been serving up fresh and smoked lake trout caught in the West Bay since 1989.

Along with selling fish at the Arthur Duhamel Marina in Peshawbestown, you can buy the family’s catches at the Sara Hardy Farm Market in Traverse City on weekends from summer through October.

Carlson’s Fishery

205 River St., Leland, 49654

(Photo via Carlson’s Fishery on Facebook)

A family tradition for more than a century, the Carlsons were instrumental in the creation of Leland’s historic Fishtown district. Here you can find locally caught lake trout, lake whitefish, salmon, walleye, and yellow perch.

John Cross Fisheries

209 Belvedere Ave, Charlevoix, 49720

(Photo via John Cross Fisheries on Facebook)

This third generation fish market has been serving lake-caught fish since 1945. John Cross catches more than 10,000 pounds of fresh fish daily and is a major supplier to Northern Michigan restaurants. But you can stop into their shop in downtown Charlevoix to pick up your local catch of fish like salmon, walleye, whitefish, trout, perch, and other seasonal varieties.

Maxbauer

407 S Union St Traverse City, 49684

(Photo via Maxbauers on Facebook)

This specialty meat market in Traverse City stocks loads of local farm-sourced meat items, including beef, pork, and poultry. But a huge draw is their wild lake-caught whitefish, walleye, and perch. Maxbauer sells its seafood items frozen, which allows the fish to remain fresher longer, and to be sold cheaper than at some other shops.

Restaurants

Blu

5705 South Lake St., Glen Arbor, 49636

(Photo via Blu on Facebook)

Locally sourced ingredients are at the heart of Chef Randy Chamberlain’s constantly evolving menu at Blu. Enjoy panoramic views of Sleeping Bear Dunes as you dine on exquisite Lake Superior Walleye Pecandine, perfectly paired with a wine selected by Sommelier Mari Chamberlain.

West End Tavern

12719 S West Bay Shore Dr., Traverse City, 49684

(Photo via West End Tavern on Facebook)

Located right on Grand Traverse Bay, dig into pub menu selections including lake perch fish and chips, a walleye sandwich, or their weekly market fish.

Apache Trout Grill

13671 S. West Bay Shore Drive, Traverse City, 49684

(Photo via Apache Trout Grill on Facebook)

Take in the beautiful view of West Bay while enjoying amazing seafood dishes like Lake Superior walleye, locally farmed rainbow trout, or their whitefish dip. Apache Trout was founded in 1994 and was heavily inspired by owner Mike Connors’ love for the outdoors and fly fishing. You’ll feel that love through the ambiance created in this restaurant, which features wood paneling and nautical-themed decor.

Terry’s Restaurant of Charlevoix

101 Antrim St, Charlevoix, 49720

(Photo via Terry’s of Charlevoix on Facebook)

Get ready for a new experience at Terry’s. This restaurant participates in Michigan’s Catch & Cook program, meaning they will cook and serve your fish caught with a participating charter fishing business. Or just stop in and enjoy their rotating selection of Great Lakes fish entrees, including Lake Michigan whitefish and walleye.

The Cove

111 River St, Leland, 49654

(Photo via The Cove on Facebook)

Enjoy stunning views of Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands at The Cove, which has been called Michigan’s Best Waterfront Restaurant by MLive. Given its location at the head of Leland’s Historic Fishtown, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that The Cove specializes in serving fresh Lake Michigan whitefish. If you’re feeling adventurous, try their famous Chubby Mary, which is like a traditional Bloody Mary…with the twist of an included smoked fish.

Author

  • Karel Vega

    Coming from a long background in public radio, Karel Vega strives to find stories that inform and inspire local communities. Before joining The ‘Gander, Karel served as managing editor at WKAR, the NPR affiliate in East Lansing, Michigan.

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