HARRISON TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WXYZ) - It’s not often you’ll find Lake St. Clair empty.
Years of work to improve the health of the lake has created a storm of activity. It’s quiet as much of the traffic consists of fisherman, but it’s booming.
“You can catch so many fish here,” said Mark Modrak, a fisher who has competed in tournaments around the United States.
“I’ve fished other lakes — I’ve been all over the country fishing, there’s hardly any other lakes that even compare.”
That’s music to the ears of Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel.
Hackel joined Modrak and 7 Action News’ Matthew Smith out on the water Thursday afternoon for a few hours of bass fishing.
“When you talk to fisherman, people like Mark, they’ve known that all along,” said Hackel, explaining the unique attributes of Lake St. Clair. “They’ve always realized how important this lake is.”
It seems the rest of the world is catching on. The Bassmasters Elite series was in Michigan recently, and is returning this season for a tour event. The best-of-the-best fishers from around the globe will converge at Macomb County Metropark for a tournament beginning August 24th.
“These guys love coming here,” said Modrak. “They know they’re going to catch a lot of fish.”
Kevin VanDam, a legend in the fishing world, has even gone on record calling the lake the “greatest fishery on the planet” for smallmouth bass. It’s that type of hype that’s drawing more and more professional anglers. If VanDam gives it the stamp of approval it means something given his more than $6 million career earnings in various fishing tournaments.
The money isn’t just flowing during tournaments. According to the latest figures, the lake accounted for more than $3.8 million in economic impact.
The draw of Lake St. Clair is believed to have been a major appeal to Cabela’s recently opening their anchor store for a new complex in Chesterfield Township too.
Asked whether Macomb County is hatching new strategies to continue to push the lake forward, he told 7 Action News it’s less about changes and more about following through on the course they’ve already created.
“We’re much more strategic,” said Hackel. “It’s even how we’re using the property along the lakefront right now.”
He means an increase in access to locals, not just homeowners who pepper the 30-plus miles of lakefront property — at last check there are more than 7,200 waterfront homes in the area.
Macomb County also holds the highest number of fishing licenses of any county in Michigan. As Modrak explained, that makes sense given the large quantity of fish and the various species. Lake St. Clair boasts a whopping 76 different species of fish at any point in time of the year — and thanks to the St. Clair River the water is constantly refreshed by a steady stream of water directly from the upper Great Lakes.
“Someone with a family can come out here and stumble upon these and catch a bunch of them,” said Modrak, after hooking and bringing a 3 1/2 pound smallmouth bass onto the boat. “This lake is loaded with fish this size.”
Later this month it’ll be on display for a national audience as ESPN 2 will broadcast the upcoming Bassmaster Elite event.
The winner will be decided on weight of the top-5 bass they reel in — while the professionals will get all the glory, locals will also have a chance to check out various events including the Bassmaster Elite Series Bass, Brews and BBQ Festival which runs August 25th, 26th, and 27th.
For more information about the tournament and surrounding events you can check out the event website: www.shrcci.com.