The Big Manistee River is known as one of the world’s best combination steelhead/salmon and resident trout fisheries. Anglers flock each fall to the waters below Tippy Pond Dam for the anadromous fish, while trout fishers hammer the upper stretches for healthy browns, brooks and rainbows. It is generally less pressured than the nearby Ausable River.
The trout grow quickly here, as evidenced by the world record brown trout that was landed in 2009 – biologists determined that the 41-pound, 7-ounce fish was only 6 years old. The Manistee’s best trout water is from the headwaters to Hodenpyl Dam Pond, although the water tends to get warm in the downstream reaches. In that bit, walleyes and smallmouth bass enter the picture.
Downstream of Sharon, floating is a good way to approach the water as wading can be potentially dangerous in spots. The stretch between the ponds is a good place to target big browns with streamers. Smallies and walleyes are here, also. It’s a beautiful, woodsy section of river. Night fishing the hex hatch in June and July can be one of the most rewarding ways to fish the Manistee. Big trout will slurp the adults off the surface, giving anglers a royal opportunity to pound big fish on dries.
Tippy Dam Pond is as far as the lake-run fish can go, so anglers looking for the big ’uns should focus on this stretch. Steelhead will be here from September to April, and chinook and coho salmon and lake-run brown trout can be found after August. Both fish and anglers tend to be more dense right below the dam.
Bear Creek, a tributary between Tippy and the mouth, receives good steelhead and salmon runs. Check the current regulations to assure you’re fishing legally, as many sections have special regulations.