Cool Facts About Lake St. Clair
Updated: Mar 28
If you Google “the sixth Great Lake” you may be in for a surprise. The first page of your results is probably lined with those of a musical group with the same name. (Hmm, I need to check them out.) When you finally get to links that lead you to actual bodies of water, you’ll see several candidates. There is Georgian Bay, Lake Nipigon, Lake Champlain, surrounding Great Lakes groundwater, and finally, Lake St. Clair. They all get a shout out for candidates to join the family of the most notable geographic features in North America. Who doesn’t recognize the aerial view of the mitten state surrounded by the largest basin of fresh water in the world?
I can tell you this. As a mariner, when I’m out on Lake St Clair, I’m bound by the same navigational rules and licensing as the big five Great Lakes. Lake St Clair is a connecting waterway of the Great Lakes and thus falls into the jurisdiction of the U.S Coast Guard. To me, that puts Lake St Clair as a leading candidate as the “Sixth Great Lake. Regardless of the competition and their advocates, here are some Lake St Clair fun facts.
Michigan’s environmental agency – EGLE, calls it “The Heart of the Great Lakes”
It is categorized as a Mesotrophic type lake and was created by retreating glaciers 14,000 years ago
It sports 420 square miles of surface area
It’s home to one of the largest sport fisheries in the world
I can make the 27 mile run across the lake from my slip in the northern reaches of Anchor Bay to the mouth of the Belle River in Canada and only occasionally see depths over 20 feet. The average depth is 11 feet
Its name comes from the landing of French explorer Robert de la Salle on the Catholic feast day of St Clare.
The “Big Four” of popular Lake St Clair angling targets are Muskellunge, Walleye, Bass (both smallmouth and largemouth) and Perch. There’s a host of others waiting to challenge your fishing skills including, but not limited to, Northern Pike, Catfish, Salmon (in the adjoining channels and rivers), plus several panfish species that include Bluegill and Crappie
If you have a naturalist bent, it’s a bird watchers paradise. The main body of water and the St Clair delta is home to scores of resident and migratory species. If you do book one of my charters, there’s a good chance you’ll spot several of the local bird species.
The lake does suffer from multiple personality disorder, characterized by switching to alternative identities depending on varying weather conditions throughout the four seasons. Having lived on the lake for many years, I witnessed every one of those firsthand. From losing part of our boathouse and one of the boats inside to a violent spring storm, to winter ice so flat and sheen that you could shoot a hockey puck aimed at Canada and kiss it goodbye as it left the county never to be seen again. That said, the summer months bring more docile conditions, disrupted only by the occasional blow out of the southwest. And of course, the always challenging boat wakes that crisscross Anchor Bay on the weekends.
Unfortunately there are several ecological challenges that the lake faces. These range from invasive species to algae blooms to unwanted bacteria from sewage overflows. The lake is ever under onslaught from these constant threats, yet it continues to showcase its beauty, diversity and sport fishing thrills. Whenever you’re out there make sure to appreciate this Michigan gem and be a good steward by practicing clean and responsible boating and fishing practices to help keep up its luster.