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Best of Fall Fishing: The Manistee River

There are countless rivers in the US that are great for fall fishing, but none offer opportunities like the Manistee River in Northern Michigan.

If you’re not familiar with the Manistee River, it is located in Northern Michigan and flows off of Lake Michigan. The town of Manistee is a four seasons getaway for vacationing, snowmobiling, boating, and of course, fishing.

But the best fall fishing on the Manisitee River isn’t in the town of Manistee, it’s down the road in Brethren. This small town is home to the Tippy Dam, Bear Creek, and of course, the Manistee River itself.

The Manistee River during the peak of the season.
The Manistee River during the peak of the season.

The fishing opportunities for trout anglers are bountiful  above the Tippy Dam, where the river doesn’t freeze during the winter. The state of Michigan likes to boast about its Gold Medal waters, and this particular section of the Mansitee is probably the best of them for trout. Huge browns and rainbows are a part of everyday fishing adventures for everyone from novice anglers to master fly fishermen.

Related: Return of the Kings

The section of the river below the dam offers amazing opportunities for pike, bass, and steelhead year round. Fishermen often report catching huge northern pike by accident while casting for bass, and also catching huge steelhead while fishing for pike.

Most parts of the river are wadeable with a nice pair of chest waders. The river is great, but don’t neglect the creeks that flow off of the Mansitee—they offer plenty of fishing opportunities.

In early September, the fishing starts to pick up, as the giant king salmon from Lake Michigan begin their annual spawn run. Fly fisherman cast streamers and casters throw big jerkbaits for the monster chinooks that crush everything that moves in the river.

The author with a nice king salmon
The author, Brad Smith, with a nice king salmon.

Once the salmon run comes to an end, lake-run steelhead flood the river system the same way the kings did the month before. These silver bullets give anglers a good run for their money. Fisherman are often lined in very close distances to one another while they focus on the holes and runs that contain these powerful fish.

Related: Salmon Are Waiting for Your Crankbaits, Here’s How To Deliver [VIDEO]

There are multiple places for lodging in the area and all of them offer reasonable accommodations. The R&J Resort and Campground is where I tend to find myself staying the most. They offer a cabin and camping spots that will fit just about any budget, and they usually offer rentals when everything else is booked up during the peak of the fall fishing run. R&J is located right outside of Brethren, close to Bear Creek, Tippy Dam, and several other access points along the Manistee River.

I will be up on the Manistee this winter sometime in February or March fishing for winter run steelhead. If you see me on Bear Creek, or somewhere on the Mansitee, be sure to say hello!

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What other areas around the country are great to fish in the fall? 


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Best of Fall Fishing: The Manistee River