New Steelhead Limits

NRC Proposal for New Steelhead Limits Part 2

Current Status of Fisheries Order 200.22

The Natural Resource Commission convened the November 10th meeting by tabling the New Steelhead Limits for further discussion (Steelhead Proposal). Fisheries Order 200.22 will be back on the table and up for a vote at the December 9th meeting. There are a couple of probable outcomes for the Commissioner Nyberg Amendment at the upcoming December meeting. The NRC will either put the amendment to a vote or table Fisheries Order 200.22 for the upcoming 2022 agenda. If the Nyberg amendment is brought to a vote and passes then enforcement will begin on March 15, 2022.

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Manistee River below Tippy Dam

Manistee River Fishing Report

Manistee River Below Tippy Dam

Steelhead News

More to come about what is going on with NRC as Ed McCoy is hoping to write up a new blog post here soon (actually working on it today 11/29). Thank you for your patience. If your not aware of what I’m talking about, Please read the blog post about the New Proposal from NRC and email the NRC@michigan.gov with your feelings. They did not vote on the proposal at the Nov 10th meeting, the NRC is gathering more information and public input is vital.

Steelhead Fishing Report

Get ready to chip ice out of the guides and light the heaters!! Winter is here and the river looks amazing. With the snow on the banks and new chrome in the river its time to bundle up and enjoy the beauty of northern Michigan. Now lets talk fishing! The steelhead fishing report is primarily the float fishing game, and that has been the go to the past few days. The water is low and clear right now. It is a must to down size your game. Smaller floats, lighter line and leaders has made a big difference. Down sizing has brought more hookups. But with the new fish in the river being big, wild steelhead landing them has been a challenge to say the least.

Bright bead colors have been working early and late in the day but the bulk of the day the colors have been very pale. Dull quiet colors yellows and pinks mid day. Fish them slow. The lazy, smooth and deep water with some structure in it has been bringing some good fish.

Swing and lure bite has been fairly good even with the water temps dropping into the low 40’s. As the water temps continue to drop look for the steelhead to move into the slower, deeper water. The winter colors have been Black and blues and some perch style patterns. Down sizing your bait can be a game changer as the temps drop, also think about changing hooks this week. Time for that secret little weapon on the swing flies, check out our recommendation. Making sure your bait is sunk properly and fishing in the bottom third of the water column. It is also very important to fish slow. Taking the time to make more cast to cover the run. Moving a bit slower than when the water temps are warmer. Good luck out there! Stay warm!!

Booking a Trip

If you’re looking to book a Fall Steelhead Fishing Trip or purchase a Christmas Gift give us a call at (231-631-5701) or shoot us an email . We are booking trips now for 2022, so get your prime dates booked. We will continue to update the Manistee River below Tippy Dam fishing report on a weekly basis, even during December as we will continue to get out on a regular basis. We will start to offer 1/2 trips in December for steelhead, fishing during the prime bite windows of the colder days.

Tight Lines,

Jeff Topp

Fall Steelhead Manistee River

NRC Proposal New Steelhead Limits

NRC Proposal New Steelhead Limits

New Proposal

There is a new proposal up for consideration by the NRC that would reduce Steelhead bag limits on several sections/streams in Michigan. Here is the NRC Proposal New Steelhead Limits being considered by the NRC. The current steelhead management plan for Michigan needs to be revised to reflect current trends, conditions, and annual adult spawning migrations. We are not opposed to people having the opportunity to harvest a fish even though we practice catch and release. This request for change has nothing to do with gear restrictions and by no means should we dictate how people can legally fish for steelhead. Steelhead populations are in decline and have been on the long slide for over the past decade. Which raises several questions and highlights a need to address and discuss the future of Steelhead management in our state.

Data gaps and changing environmental conditions have muddied the waters, but indicators are everywhere. Anyone that has spent any amount of time on the water can see the changes that have occurred. Which poses several questions. What is the current status of spawning steelhead in our streams? Does the current management scheme reflect what anglers are currently experiencing in their catch rates? Can a declining steelhead population survive added angling pressure with todays current harvest allowance? The MDNR has admitted there is a problem, but currently there has been a failure to act even though there are plenty of red flags.

Little Manistee River

The Little Manistee River Weir boasts the best available data for returning spring Steelhead. This little river is the sister river to the Big Manistee. Albeit smaller in size, it can still shed light on the current trend of Steelhead returns in the Big Manistee River. Since 2002 there has been a significant reduction in Spring Steelhead in the Little Manistee River. The 6 year average from 2009-2014 was 3,433 returning adults and from 2015 to present it was 2,389 returning adults (excludes 2020). In the last 6 years there has been a 30% reduction in average spawning adults. If this trend continues, then what? The spring 2021 returns were the lowest since 1970. More importantly, every year since 2003, the spring steelhead counts have been below the 53 year average of 4,648 adults.

Are we just going to standby and watch our Steelhead populations decline to a point of no return? It’s not far fetched to consider the outcome of 10 more years of decline. The consequences could ultimately exceed the ability of the population to recover. There is a COST TO NO ACTION! Steelhead catch rates are declining statewide as well. Right now this state has a Steelhead catching issue. The proposed rule changes will probably not boost the overall population size, but a declining Steelhead population will not promote productive fishing. This proposal is a good start to a long overdue conversation. Catch Rates, Harvest, and Angler Satisfaction are currently out of balance. We can’t afford to wait for things to get any worse! Now is the time to have a serious discussion regarding harvest limits. What should our annual harvest look like based upon today’s current steelhead population trend? We need to bring the Harvest and Catch Rates back to the middle and rebalance Angler Satisfaction.

Big Manistee River

The close proximity of the Little Manistee River to the Big Manistee River also raises parallel questions. Is there a similar population trend occurring in the Big Manistee River? What about the rest of the Lake Michigan Basin? Is this trend occurring throughout the Great Lakes Region? We believe it is! How can we continue the “Business as Usual” model? To say there isn’t a biological reason to consider a regulation change is a dangerous claim. Just because you have an inherent lack of data doesn’t excuse you from responding to the problem. Changing the regs is a short term fix that will allow more time for data collection. Fully understanding the complexities surrounding the Steelhead population decline will take time. How long will “the data collection” take, 5-10 years? Can we justify waiting that long without taking action? Is it worth risking this popular fishery? Just a little food for thought.

Email NRC

We encourage everyone to email your own letter to the NRC. This is an important issue and if you enjoy fishing for steelhead you should be paying attention. Acting now may avert loosing something that is more than 100 years in the making. Here is the email for the NRC , please send your public comments to this address before November 10th.

Upper Manistee Trout Fishing Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing

Manistee River Trout Report

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing report heading into the second week of September has the river on a steady drop and the temperature is starting to stabilize. We received another series of storms this past week and some seasonable weather has settled in. Fall is in the air and water temps are the coolest they have been since May. The hopper fishing is still producing some good action on the warmer days and now with some cooler temps the fall streamer program is taking off. Banging attractors and small streamers on the structure and close to the banks is producing some good fishing opportunities.

Water temperatures are pretty much in check at this point. I encourage folks to continue to monitor the stations just to form good habits and a lot can be said by watching flows and gauge heights to help in the decision making process on where to fish. Please continue to use the USGS site at 72, USGS at Sherman, and the Monitoring Station at 4 Mile Access to give you the best up to date water temperature and flow information. The last few storms have disrupted the live feed at the 4 mile access station so continue to check back and pay attention to the date and time stamp below the graph for up to date conditions.

Fall Dry Fly Fishing

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing
Night Fishing for Brown Trout

The terrestrial fishing in September can still be a fun and productive way to fish at times, but there are other options available again. The fall Isonychia has been showing up with the latest temp drop and soon the fall olives will join the mix. Currently the eveings have been filled with White Miller’s and a random Ant hatch here and there. Timing the Ant hatch is always a welcomed encounter and fish will get very selective at times so pay attention to the size and color you see on the water.

Best attractor patterns have been crickets, stonefly, and hopper patterns in Olive, Tan, Pink, and Black. The best sizes have been anywhere from size 10 hoppers to size 14 Ants. Moving and twitching the fly when the fish were moody also helped to garner more strikes. If you aren’t getting bit you need to switch up the color and fly size until you find what they want.

This can be a fun time of the year to fish. There aren’t really any rules and the flies are very user friendly. I love the medium to larger flies right now as they can elicit some violent strikes, but also understand that as the day wanes on you will need to downsize and play with color. Fishing tight to structure has been key to finding some of the larger fish in the Upper Manistee River this year. How close? If it’s not rubbing it’s not close enough! The daytime visuals this time of year in the clear soft flows make it exciting for both the angler and the guide. Some fish will just lose their mind and crush it while others will do the slow approach and just suck it down like a Mayfly.

Fall Streamer Fishing

Fishing small streamers and twitch bugs have been a good way to tackle the high water times so far this season. Fishing the shallow mid river structure in heavy flows can produce some solid fish. Changing up your presentation, fly color, and size until you find the winning combination is the name of the game. If 2021 has one common theme so far, it is a lack of consistency. If it’s not working change! Fly selection has been all over the board, but small streamers in Black, olive and white, white, and yellow are finding a few. Don’t be afraid to throw some very simple patterns in the clear fall waters. Classic wet skunks, and feather winged streamers can produce fish at times when nothing else seems to be working.

The recent bump in flows had the fish fired up for the streamer again. As we continue through September and into October the cloudy and low light periods should give anglers some better shots at some quality fish. The fall isn’t typically a large streamer phenomenon unless the water gets really dirty, but stick to that 3″-5″ size range for the best results. The river finally looks good and is well primed heading into the fall as all the recent rains have maintained some higher sustained flows than we saw in the early summer months. It should be a fun fall of fishing heading our way.

Night Fishing

Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing
Trout fishing on the Upper Manistee River

The Night Fishing was pretty solid during the last moon phase. Despite the colder nights and higher water the fish were pretty active. Fishing was good overall and waking flies are always a hoot to fish as the trout tend to wake you up when they violently strike out at your fly. It was a pretty solid run with lots of great fish caught and some pretty cool nights with Coyote’s and Barred Owls entertaining us with their late night serenades. It’s always a bitter sweet end to another mousing season, but the river gave us some really nice fish and some lasting memories.

It’s been a great season so far with lots of great trips and great stories shared. This past season has been a lot of fun trying new flies, some working like anticipated, and some were just a great idea. So far 2021 has been presenting lots of “learning moments” as the weather has been anything but consistent and it seems to be having a bigger impact on the overall fishing. With that being said I’m looking forward to closing out another great trout season as we enter the fall season. Looking ahead there is still a lot of great trout fishing left. I am looking forward to the opportunities ahead, terrestrials, fall Isonychia, fall streamers, etc. One last hoorah before we close the books on yet another productive trout season.

Trout Guide Trip

You can reach us at 231-631-5701 (leave a message) or shoot us an email if your looking to book a fall trout trip we still have a few dates open. Fall is coming quick so its time to get your fishing trips booked and get out and enjoy Northern Michigan in all of its fall beauty. The fall is a busy time and availability is always hard to find. We have some openings available, but they will go fast so don’t miss out. Make sure to check out our new Fall Sweatshirt to keep you warm as well.

Tight Lines,

Ed

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

Pere Marquette Fishing Report

This will be my last report for a few months. I will be leaving for Alaska in early June. Looking forward to seeing the boys at Anglers Alibi. I have been lucky enough to see a few lodges over the past 20+ years. Anglers Alibi is the most fisherman friendly and well run lodge I have been involved with. Its a small 12 guest lodge on the banks of the Alagnak river in south west Alaska.

Dry Fly

Its dry fly time!!! After doing a evening trip with flies and also a morning trip with lures I can tell you that it is for sure time to put the lures away and switch to night mode. We had good night fishing a couple days ago and turned around the next morning never moved a trout. This tends to happen every year around this time. The trout will wait until the bugs hatch. Sleeping in the log jams all day and moving into their feeding lanes for the evening hatch. A variety of bugs hatching and a buffet of insects for the trout to fill up on. We have had Sulphurs, Brown Drakes and some Caddis on the water. The trout seem to be liking them all. The caddis have been popping from mid afternoon on. Look for your mayfly hatch to start around dinner time. The best of it just before dark. Check out Ed McCoys all day boondoggle. It has been a goto for me as the weather and river temps start to warm.

Lures

If you are planning to fish lures start early. Very early. I would plan on getting out there a bit before the sunrise. I would bet the lure bite will be done by mid to late morning. The river has a fair amount of small minnows in the eddies. 2-3 inches in length. also some small stocker browns. The key to catching some nice trout on lures will be to get as close to the size of the food source. AKA match the hatch but with baits. Try to get a close as you can to the size of the minnows in the river.  Learn more about how I crank-bait fish, check out the YouTube video we did.

Future AK Trip


Mangled Fly is putting a AK Trip together for September 2022!! We are reserving the lodge for a week. This is going to be EPIC. The majority of the fishing that week will be hunting for monster rainbows. This is the time of the year when the trout are the fattest and fastest. Beads, Flesh and Mice will be the flies of choice. Mousing during the day! We are also planning on spending a day or two chasing Silver Salmon. Cohos if you are from the midwest. Silvers love the fly. And sometimes the silvers will eat topwater skating bugs. We also have spin rods ready to go for those windy days or after a few fish have worked your arms over. I am super excited to show our mangled fly friends the neighborhood I have spent my summers in for the past 25 years. Check out link to our future AK Trip

If your looking to book trips with this fall, contact Jon Ray via our contact page or give him a call.  I will be difficult to reach most days, Jon has my schedule.

Jeff Topp

Chestnut Lamprey

Chestnut Lamprey

Chestnut Lamprey
Chestnut Lamprey attached to a Brown Trout

Chestnut Lamprey

The Chestnut Lamprey, Ichthyomyzon castaneus, is a Native Species commonly found in Lakes and Rivers throughout the Great Lakes region. They are considered to be an indicator species and their presence in a body of water has been closely associated with healthy clean water. There is, however, one negative component to their presence in a watershed and that is the negative impact they can have on fish populations during their parasitic phase.

The chestnut Lamprey has two primary life stages to complete its life cycle. The first life stage is the larval phase, commonly referred to as ammocoetes, in which the larval form is primarily a filter feeding organism. The larva will live in the fine and silty bottom sediments in slower backwater pools for an average of 5-7 years. When the larva reach 4-6 years of age they go through a metamorphosis and develop teeth and a sucking mouth disk characterized by the adult parasitic phase of their life cycle.

The metamorphic phase appears to take place from October through the end of January as the ammocoetes enter the second life stage as parasitic adults. As the water begins to warm up in April the larva exit their burrows and enter the parasitic feeding phase of their life cycle. The Chestnut Lamprey tends to be more active at night and during low light periods. Peak feeding periods for the adults range from May through July with some adults holding over until the following spring to spawn. The adult chestnut lamprey will continue to feed until the peak spawning season occurs from June to July. After spawning the adults will die and the cycle is repeated. (Hall, 1963)

Manistee River

In Michigan, most of our trout streams have an established population of Chestnut Lamprey, but, the Manistee River has been mentioned as having a highly abundant population in the upper portions of the watershed, especially from County Road 612 to Sharon Road. As the water temperature reaches 50 F degrees the adults begin to feed. (Hall, 1963) This temperature change coincides nicely with the obvious annual appearance of Chestnut Lamprey on the trout we catch throughout the first half of our trout season. Most of the trout in our streams will react to streamer patterns tied with a long and “leechy” appearance and lots of undulating movement in the materials.

Matching the Hatch

Chestnut Lamprey will range in size from 4-5” early in their adult development and will attain lengths of +7” at maturity. It’s not a coincidence that as the lamprey continue to become more active that the streamer fishing becomes more consistent for us, especially on the Manistee River. The trout are not only actively feeding at this time, but they are also combating the presence of an “alien intruder” that will parasitize them if they let their guard down! It is not uncommon to see some pretty exciting visuals while fishing “leechy” patterns at this time of year. Some fish will recklessly chase them out of their territory and oftentimes will strike with violent takes.

Take this information for what it is worth, but having an understanding of the natural phenomenon that occurs during this time of the year can only help you. Fly selection, fly movement, and presentation are all critical components to angling success and having one more arrow in the quiver can only be a positive. The Chestnut Lamprey life cycle is really just an example of one more hatch that you should pay close attention to as we move closer to the opening day of trout season here in Michigan.

Hall, J. 1963. An ecological study of the chestnut lamprey, Ichthyomyzon castaneus, in the Manistee River, Michigan. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan.

Changing Floats based on Water Type

Changing Floats based on Water Type

I can still remember the day when the light bulb turned on and I finally understood the need to change my float to match the water type I was fishing. Changing floats based on water type isn’t something you hear much about. Actually it’s a simple change that can make a big difference, especially in the spring, when steelhead themselves are changing the water types they utilize.

Fishing Story

Let’s start with a real world scenario, or as I like to commonly refer to it, my lightbulb moment. It was December and I just spent the past 60 days fishing for steelhead on the lower Manistee River, the section closest to Lake Michigan. Most of those days were spent primarily fishing floats in the lower end of the river. I had my confidence rig all setup and ready to go and for whatever reason I decided to change it up and shift the guide trip towards Tippy Dam.

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Dry Flies for Trout

Dry Flies for Trout

Dry Flies

As many of you already know, in 2019 I entered a new partnership with Montana Fly Company to produce and sell some of my favorite patterns. Last season I released several new Dry Flies for Trout. These new releases are patterns from my personal arsenal that I rely upon heavily for catching fish within our region. I am excited to have Montana Fly Company producing and selling my signature fly patterns as we move forward, the quality and attention to detail is second to none! Their is a limited quantity available for sale on our site, but please shop local at your nearest Fly Shop.

The flies that I currently have in production are available in two series. All of the flies are foam based Mayfly patterns that are designed to be fished all day with a touch of realism and an impressionistic silhouette that fish can’t resist. They are all mainstays in my arsenal and have been tied in multiple forms to imitate the Isonychia, Brown Drake, and Hex hatches that are found in Northern Michigan.

Here is a breakdown of all the flies that are currently available through MFC to complete your arsenal of Northern Michigan dry flies for trout . Ask your local fly shop about these patterns and pick some up today!

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Michigan Fall Steelhead

Fall Steelhead on the Big Manistee River

Back on the Big Manistee for the Fall Steelhead season, wanted to share some quick pics of the first few days back. First impressions are we have some big fish again this year. They are strong and hard to hold onto. Without a doubt these are my favorite fish to chase during the season, the speed and power of these Great Lakes strain of steelhead is truly impressive.

Check back through out the week as I will continue to post additional images and links. Also make sure to follow Mangled Fly on Instagram as we post additional pictures and videos on our Feed and Stories.

Still have a few open dates at the end of November as well and plenty of availability in December too. Open Nov dates are 26,27,29. Contact me if your interested. As reports from my charter lake captains is this run of 2019 Fall Steelhead should be special. Have a great fall!

Great Blue Heron

Two Great Blue Herons eating Pike

Had the opportunity to shoot two different Great Blue Herons enjoying a shore side lunch this week.  I have never seen this before a Heron eating a Pike, but in less that one week it happened on two separate occasions.

Great Blue Herons now have my attention to say the least with how they hunt and how effective they are.  They can really do a number on a fishery.  I thought they really only targeted smaller fish and smaller amphibians.  But that is not the case.

Great Blue Heron

Down the hatch it goes, another Pike meets his maker.

Great Blue Heron

Blue Heron trying to figure out how to slurp down a pike.