Belle Isle’s South Fishing Pier

Attracts Fish and Fishermen Once Again

Restoring a fishing pier in Detroit has provided diverse habitat for fish to rest in, making the area suitable for fish and fishermen alike.


The Detroit River is listed as an Area of Concern—one of the most degraded waters in the Great Lakes region—due to historic and ongoing pollution from industry, urban development, shipping, and sewage spills. Impairments identified on the river include loss of fish and wildlife habitat, degradation of fish and wildlife populations, beach closings, and restrictions on drinking water consumption. Restoration projects underway and completed on Belle Isle—a Detroit-owned public park, now cared for by the state of Michigan—have focused on fish and wildlife habitat restoration. In 2004 the city of Detroit installed fish spawning reefs underwater just off the southeastern shore of Belle Isle.  Fish need a reef to spawn on, but fry fish need wetland areas or shallow water habitat to hide in while they grow, so in 2011 more sheltered habitats were created for fish to succeed. Almost three acres of protected coastal wetland was installed along the island adjacent to the pier, providing a nearby area for small fish to take shelter and find food. The south fishing pier also had breakwaters installed to slow the current, allowing small fish to make their way to safety and providing a more varied habitat for larger fish. The south fishing pier allows fish to rest, but it also is an ideal spot for fisherman to try their luck. In other areas, the Detroit River currents are too swift to catch many fish.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Lack of native habitat
  • Lack of ecosystem variety in the river
  • Eroding banks
  • Difficult fishing conditions


South Fishing Pier construction

The rocky shoal that blocks wave energy from reaching and eroding the shore of Bell Isle is installed. Photo credit: Friends of the Detroit River.

Results and Accomplishments

The south fishing pier is now surrounded by low, rocky outcroppings designed to slow the flow of water. Between the main shoal and the shore, the depth of the river has been varied to attract various types of fish. The native limestone used to construct the shoals provides an excellent habitat for small fish to hide in. Native plants, including partially submergible species, were planted to further enhance the habitat. Walleye, small mouth bass, channel catfish, white bass, largemouth bass, and even northern pike can now be caught off of the south fishing pier.