River Kayak Fishing

 

Sit on top or Sit in Kayaks

Kayaking has exploded over the last few years. Canoes and tubers used to be all you would see on a Michigan river, but now they are pretty rare compared to kayaks. Really I can see why. Tubes are fun, but hard to steer down winding rivers and can be hard on the butt. Canoeing can be hard to master without tipping several times and is much easier with two passengers. On the other hand, kayaks are great for only one person, they are easily maneuvered through tight spots, and are easily transported by yourself.

I just recently started kayak fishing in rivers. The first couple times I deemed it impossible to cast where I wanted, reel the lure back, get the fish off the hook and release it before needing to drop the pole and grab the paddle. Most Northern Michigan rivers are very winding and have a decent flow to them, so I just used the kayak to explore new holes and get out in shallow spots to fish. The only problem with this method was the amount of time it took to float a section of river. Pulling over, getting out and back in really slows up a trip and can be very loud which in turn spooks fish. Then, there are the places that look like great fishing spots, but you just can’t find a place to get out and stand. All of these problems were solved with experience.

I started out with a sit inside type of kayak. It had pole holders, which told me right away that it was meant for fishing. This summer we bought a sit on top. Wow what a difference. With this type you have everything right at your grasp and in site, instead of reaching inside, feeling around helplessly. It has weep holes so any water that comes in, goes right back out, but this does mean water is going to come in and you will get wet. Anyways, that was improvement number one.

It takes practice to be able to see a good fishing spot before you get to it. While floating down river, I am constantly looking ahead of me, scanning the river. When you see a spot you would like to cast to, you need to figure out where your kayak should be positioned. That is the most important part. I typically fish the outside bend of a curve in the river. This means I’m constantly paddling to the inside of the bend. Always paddle backwards right when you first see a place to cast. This slows you down and keeps you away from the hole while you get prepared. If you end up floating into the hole, don’t be disappointed. Just paddle on and realize what you did wrong so you don’t do the same thing at the next bend.

The other important thing to learn is when to give up on a cast. Every trip I have to decide between making a cast and dumping the kayak. It’s much better to lose a five dollar lure than get tipped over and lose all your gear. Sometimes I have to put my pole between my legs while fighting a fish so I can steer away from downed logs and rocks. This can allow the fish to get off, but still better than dumping most of the time.

It’s like everything else in fishing. With a little practice and patience it can be a great experience. Give it a try some time, but remember, I hated it my first couple times and now love it, so don’t give up.

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Little Manistee River Fishing

Salmon fishing

Salmon at Little Manistee River Weir

The Little Manistee River is one of those storybook trout streams in Michigan. It is a smaller Northern Michigan stream that is shallow and gravelly, yet has the deep 6-8 foot holes at many bends. Walking along it’s banks or kayaking it’s you can feel complete seclusion. There are several stretches of river that you will only see a couple private cabins while the rest is Public Land with low lying cedar swamps.

The “Little Man” or “Little River” as known by most, is famed for it’s trout fishing and early king salmon runs. The Michigan DNR has a weir off Old Stronach Road. The weir is in place each spring to collect Steelhead eggs and each fall for Chinook and Coho eggs. The river is closed downstream of the weir to Manistee Lake from September 1st to November 14th and from January 1st to March 31st. I know that sounds like a lot of time, but like I mentioned before, early salmon run.

Depending on weather, most northwest Michigan salmon streams don’t flood with fish until October. But, the Little Man has a fishable king salmon population in early August most years. The nice thing, you don’t get the crowds like October. From August 15th to September 1st you usually can’t find a day when the weir doesn’t have fisherman traveling the legal 300 feet downstream, but there are several access points below the weir that hold salmon.

Upstream of the weir, there is very little fishing pressure. Most people see the weir and the huge stacks of salmon and just assume the fish aren’t upstream of the gates. You won’t be getting the fresh run fish that come at every rainy day, but there are fishable numbers that have swam upstream before August 15th.

The river is small compared to the standard river in northern Michigan and very clear. This makes stealth the most important fishing tool. The big salmon and trout are found in the numerous log jams that can be found at about every turn in the river. The key is patience and stealth. If you see the fish swimming, it most likely has already seen you. There are many big fish to be caught all summer long, but the salmon can be tricky to land with the many log jams I mentioned. When hooked, the large kings will immediately head for the cover, peeling line off your reel. If you’re skilled enough at the fight, you can pull in quite a fish for a small stream. Otherwise, rainbows, browns, and brookies can be found in the same holes.

Whether it’s combat fishing or privacy you’re looking for, The Little Manistee River has it. Kayaking, fishing, wading and swimming are all fun on this river. With its many access points and abundant public land with beaten paths along the banks, the first time visitor can definitely find fish.

If you have any comments on the Little Manistee River, leave them below or go to http://www.fishmich.com/counties/manistee-lakes/little-manistee-river.php and share your fishing knowledge.

Fishing, Fire and Seclusion

Every summer Michigan residents pack their vehicle to the gills and head to their favorite campground. Some, in their deluxe R.V. equipped with satellite television and air conditioning and others in ginormous tents the size of their master bedroom with king size air mattresses. Most campers, I’ve noticed, have everything possible to make the woods as much like their homes and to keep themselves as clean as they can. I’ve camped every summer for as long as I can remember and in just about every situation. I have no problems with anyone’s idea of camping, but would like to remind people of the traditional sense of camping.

Life in today’s world has become so fast. With cell phones ringing constantly, internet everywhere we look and the kids glued to the television, a camping trip is the last place I want technology. Most people go camping in an area with a lot of attractions. I go camping to be outside and get the family back to nature. We all need to slow down once in a while and be reminded of the peacefulness of the outdoors. You can sit by a campfire for hours doing nothing without getting bored like while watching T.V. or playing video games.

Here’s my family’s idea of a great camping trip.

First and foremost is location, location, location. If you can’t see another person, there is no electricity or running water and staying there is absolutely free, you’ve got a great camping site. The only thing that would make me sacrifice any one of those features is water. It doesn’t have to be great water frontage, but it does need to be close. Whether it’s a trout stream, a sandy beach or a frog pond, water can keep anybody occupied for hours and hours.

Next is camping equipment or lack there of. With a propane camping grill and a cast iron skillet supplemented with a good camp fire, you can cook practically anything. We take one cooler filled with enough food to last two days unless it’s more remote. Then we add another cooler with dry ice for a deep freeze. We sleep in a tent on the ground with blankets, but I truly miss a sleeping bag next to the fire. That’s how I grew up camping with my dad. If it started to rain, I would get the truck cab and he would sleep underneath the truck. Just make sure you’re parked at the top of a hill.

That’s it food and shelter and the all important fishing gear. Our fishing gear will typically take up more room than the rest of the gear. This type of camping isn’t for everyone, but we are out there to get away from life and show our kids the true beauty Michigan has to offer. At 6 and 4 years old they have caught 100’s of frogs, turtles, lizards and snakes while camping and now have began asking if we can sell our house and live in the woods. When my kids ask if they can be homeless, it makes me proud. To me, camping in the woods is a great type of homelessness.

Thanks for reading and be sure to leave us a comment or check out www.FishMich.com for more Michigan Fishing information