Brookies on the Black River

It’s pretty well known around northern Michigan of all the places Ernest Hemingway liked to fly fish. Well the Black River was his favorite. The Upper Black was very hard to get  to in Hemingway’s time. Even now it can seem very remote as it flows through the cedar swamps of the Pigeon River State Forest.

Because the river winds through so much state forest land, there are many access points. Either at bridges where you may see multiple fisherman or accessing the river by walking in remote areas, you will find some of the best brook trout fishing in Michigan. The Black actually has the largest population of wild brook trout in the state. I would describe the river as a shallow, fast, constant riffle with bottom completely covered in fist to head sized rocks and banks that are completely lined with downed trees and brush. By shallow I don’t mean there are no deep spots. There are several holes that could be 10 feet + deep. This section is a designated trout stream and has several tributaries that offer more trout fishing like Canada Creek and Milligan Creek.

Downstream at the Tower Dam the river becomes about a 60 acre pond that is mostly 5 feet deep. There aren’t many brookies in the Tower Dam Pond, but it is still a designated trout stream. The only exception is for a pike spearing season during the winter. With very little chance of catching trout the Pond has little fishing pressure except for the occasional pike fisherman.

Below this the river flows into Black Lake, the 9th largest lake in Michigan. This section from Tower to Black Lake is where the largest fish in the Great Lakes State comes to spawn. Check for river closings through this section because some areas are closed between April and May for spawning Lake Sturgeon. These pre-historic fish swim upstream to the many riffles to lay their eggs. The many walleye in Black Lake also swim up this section to spawn, but again sections are closed during these times.

The Black River again flows out of Black Lake and joins with the Cheboygan River before hitting Lake Huron. This river section has just about every type of fish that is in the lake. Panfish, Pike, Smallmouth Bass and walleye are just a few. It is a much larger river at this point and not the trout fishery of the upper.

The Black is a big river with many different fishing opportunities. It’s watershed is about 550 square miles with many tributaries and a 10,000 acre lake. Whether you like fishing the walleye spawn or brook trout on a fly, you can find it here.

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