The Little Manistee River is one of the Great Lakes’ best steelhead rivers, and is also a great resident-trout fishery. It runs about 40 miles to the northwest, from the town of Luther to Lake Michigan.In its uppermost reaches, it’s a brook trout fishery, but it’s too small for a back cast in many spots. By the M-37 Bridge, it’s large enough to flyfish. As the brook trout population thins, the brown trout population rises. As you head downstream, baby steelhead (not-yet-anadromous rainbow
trout) join, then salmon, adult steelhead and lake-run browns.
Although it’s known more for its steelhead, it’s an excellent trout fishery. Myriad hatches offer plentiful dry-fly opportunities, and the fish get hefty. Hexes, brown drakes, gray drakes, caddis, tricos, terrestrials, and many other bugs make seasonal appearances. Look for hexes and brown drakes in the siltier stretches.There are many more steelhead in the fall than in the spring, and there are many more chinooks than steelhead. Coho numbers have been abysmal since the early 1990s, but a few still run.
A weir that is put in place in early March blocks all salmon from moving upstream, and all but the young steelhead until the egg quota has been reached, which is usually sometime in middle to late April. In the fall, the weir is in place from mid-August to mid-November, but only the salmon are blocked.All the steelhead in the Little Manistee are native, wild fish. They usually stick around into May.There are numerous access sites, including Old Grade Campground, Driftwood Valley Campground and Bear Track Campground.
Regulations differ in different sections, so be sure you’ve got an updated copy of the Michigan fishing regulations brochure.