Manistee River

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Fishing in Manistee River

Countless rivers in the US offer great fall fishing experiences but Manistee River fishing has to be up there with the best of them. Located in northern Michigan, the river passes through many villages and great fishing spots, before finally flowing into Lake Michigan. The Manistee River is rich with strong currents, calm pools, rocky bottoms, and cool waters that move swiftly. This means it's the perfect habitat for a whole variety of famous freshwater fish.

Where to Go

Even though the river is around 230 miles long, the most popular fishing spots are in its lower part. Only 25 miles long, between the Tippy Dam (close to Brethren) and Lake Michigan, this part of the river doesn’t freeze during winter, which makes it a year-round getaway for fishing. The local fishing guides take pride in these “Gold Medal” waters, which means you can find huge Rainbow and Brown Trout here. Trout are a part of everyday fishing trips and a fantastic species for novices to target. More experienced anglers catch them too, but they make the pursuit more challenging by using fly fishing equipment.
The Manistee River is wadeable in most parts, so check if your fishing guide runs these trips as well. Use this as a chance to explore the river’s creeks, especially Bear Creek around Brethren. You only need a pair of reliable chest waders and you’re ready to go.
Full day trips are the safest way to reach your catch maximum but you can also take a half day trip and use the rest of the day to hike on the Manistee River Trail.

When to Go

Trout fishing is persistent year round and you can always count on Rainbow, Brown, and Lake Trout action. But the target list doesn’t end there – the Manistee Rivers also holds Chinook and Coho Salmon. Giant Salmon start their annual spawn run in September, when they move upstream from Lake Michigan to Manistee.

Need to Know

  • Every angler over 16 years of age needs to purchase a Michigan All Species fishing license (daily or annual). You can purchase it online or at any sports shop and license retail center.

  • Depending on the section of the Manistee River you’ll be fishing, there are different regulations when it comes to catch size and number of fish you can keep.

When your fishing trip ends, it doesn’t mean the fun is over. All fishing guides in the area let you keep your catch, so you’re bound to have a tasty lunch once you return to land. With so many species on offer, it’s easy to see why fishing the Manistee River is one of the best river angling experiences you can have!
Manistee River
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Manistee River Fishing Seasons

The beginning of the year is best for Rainbow Trout. Parts of the river downstream do not freeze during winter and you can target this species here on a fly or using live bait.
Rainbows and Browns are still your best shot at this time of the year. Find a fishing guide that will take you anywhere between Lake Michigan and the Tippy Dam.
Different types of Trout still rule these waters, so you only need to choose which fishing technique you’re going to use to catch them.
Trolling close to Lake Michigan is popular, as well as pier fishing. Upstream, wade fishing is a better option. Trouts are the main targets. 
As the water gets warmer, Chinook and Coho Salmon are on their way to the lake. Fishing the river just got that much more exciting!
This is often considered to be the Manistee River’s peak fishing season. Both Trout and Salmon can be found here in huge numbers, so you just need to choose what you want to catch.
If you’re fishing in the area close to Lake Michigan, head out to the lake and target Walleye. You can’t find them in the river.
Salmon are still in the deeper water of the lake, looking for colder spots. Trolling for them should do the trick. Trout are in the Manistee River, as always.
Chinook and Coho start their autumn run, so the best places you can fish for them are at the mouth of the river. 
As it gets colder, the main action moves from the lake to the river. Salmon are still present in good numbers, so catch them while they’re still here.
Once again, Steelhead and Brown Trout reign supreme! Explore the Manistee River but don’t forget to check the creeks. Challenge yourself with a fly rod!
Downstream, the river isn’t frozen and you can catch fish the usual way. If you want to try ice fishing, make sure to go with an experienced fishing guide.

Manistee River Fishing Calendar

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What People Are Saying About Manistee River

Half day trip with Captain Greg
Tiffany H. fished with Dog Bone Charters on June 26, 2020
Contact Dog Bone Charter. They are true professionals and want you to catch fish!
Half day trip with Captain Lenny
Gary K. fished with Slipknot Charters on July 25, 2019
Lake fishing was great, did a river fishing trip, not much fish caught, but scenery was more than great. Would do again.
Half day trip with Captain Nick and mate Mason
Robert A. fished with Reelsteel Charters LLC – Manistee on July 24, 2019
Fishing Lake Michigan for the first time was fun and I would do it again.
Hap day trip with captain Lenny
Ilie A. fished with Slipknot Charters on June 24, 2019
Take your picture camera. If not nobody will believe how big of a fish u catch.
A day worth every penny!
Jim/jan K. fished with Slipknot Charters on May 31, 2019
Contact Captain Lenny and be ready to be ready to crank away bringing in your own monsters of Lake Michigan. Worth every penny.
Very nice trip.
Gavin J. fished with Mainstream Guides - Wellston on September 22, 2018
Be prepared to catch a monster fish. Your arms will get a great workout realing monster king salmon in
Morning half day trip with Captain Sean
Shannon P. fished with Reelsteel Charters LLC – Manistee on August 19, 2018
Get a charter that knows where the fish are.
8-11-2018 half day with captain Sean out of Manistee michigan
James D. fished with Reelsteel Charters LLC – Manistee on August 11, 2018
Meet with the crew prior to departure and confirm location of boat.

Top Targeted Species in Manistee River