History of the River
Few rivers in the Great Lakes have such a storied history as the Big Manistee. From the initial steelhead plant of 500 fry in 1897 to being one of the first sights chosen to receive plants of pacific salmon in 1967, this river has seen it all. The upstream limit of migrating fish is the venerable Tippy Dam, constructed in 1918 as a power generation station. This dam site has become a haven to steelhead fisherman from all over the country since this is the stopping point for all migrating fish.
The Big Manistee River is unique in the fact that steelhead can be found in its clear, gravel strewn waters every month of the year. It's one of the few rivers in the Great Lakes whose flows rarely vary, thanks to the constant flows released from Tippy Dam. With the plethora of fishable days, annual hatchery plants of approximately 80,000 fish and an infusion of naturally produced fish from smaller tributaries, it's no wonder anglers from all over the country flock here each season.
Just about any steelhead technique catches fish on the Big Manistee, but float fishing and drift fishing are the two most popular. Spawn, wax worms and live hex nymphs are all excellent bait choices, but don't over look lure options like plugs, spinner and spoons. In the high flows of spring, drift bobbers like the Wobble Glo are a local favorite.
Finding a place to fish is not an issue when it comes to the Big Manistee. Most of the river flows through the federally managed Manistee National Forest that offers many access points, along with state managed land as well. From Tippy Dam to Lake Michigan, there are a number of boat ramps and public parking lots anglers can utilize.
The Big Manistee has become famous, thanks in large part to its fish rich waters and abundance of access. It will test your water reading and fish finding abilities but those who put their time in will be rewarded for their efforts.