Manistee River Trout Report
Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing report has us entering the second week of August and we are well into our late trout season. The hopper fishing has been mostly good, some streamer opportunities around rain events, and the night fishing has been sputtering at best. There are a few hatches happening, but the bugs have been inconsistent for the most part. Water temps continue to experience big swings of 8-12 degrees on the Hot days and show more stability on cloudy days. Water levels are currently at their highest point since May and are starting to drop.
We could use some more rain as we have been in low flow stage since the peak of the dry fly season. At this point I would take a blowout event, that should hit the reset button and give the river a little longer lasting bump in flow. The sun is still heating the increasing number of wide open shallow, sandy areas of the river. As responsible anglers we all need to make good habits and check the water temps before each outing. We have experienced 70 degree water temps even on days where the Air Temps only reached 74 degrees! Mornings will have the safest water temps for a while, but if you are planning on fishing later in the day understand that the Water Temps have been peaking around 7pm or around Sunset.
If you have not heard the news regarding Didymo on the Upper Manistee, please educate yourself on this very resilient invasive species. It can be spread between watersheds very easily and can be detrimental to our trout streams. The amount of Didymo that we are seeing on our floats on the Upper Manistee below CCC Bridge is truly alarming. So far I have found it in every section below the CCC Bridge, but not yet above CCC Bridge. I would consider the River upstream of CCC Bridge NOT TO BE contaminated and treat it as another water body. Clean, Drain, Dry your gear before entering any waters above the Bridge.
Currently, there are no effective methods to eradicate didymo once it is established in a river. To prevent spreading didymo and other aquatic invasive species to new locations, it is critical for users to thoroughly clean, drain and dry waders, equipment and boats upon leaving a waterway.
- Clean by removing mud and debris from all surfaces.
- Use a 10% Solution of Dishwashing Soap with hot water for 10 minutes (Example 1 gallon of water is 12.8 oz of Dawn Soap). Then it must dry for 48 hours (mandatory if your fishing different water systems).
Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing
Late Season Fishing
So far the hopper fishing has been decent on most days. With the warmer weather trips have been primarily going out first thing in the morning. Smaller hoppers in Tan, Black, Olive, and Yellow have been finding some fish. If you are not getting action try twitching and dragging the fly to elicit more strikes. With the low clear water you need to get your flies way out front and fish tighter to the structure. The Trico’s are in full swing and have been spinning on most mornings just before the heat of the day sets in. Evenings have been pretty light on the bug front, usually we will see a pretty solid Cahill event, but so far it’s been light and variable.
With some recent rains the streamer fishing has been giving anglers a few shots at some nicer fish. Smaller streamers in white/olive, black, yellow, and wet skunks have all had fish give chase. Keeping your bait moving but allowing the fish to have a kill shot, pause in your retrieve, has been key. Focus on the deeper water and structure right now for your best chances at larger fish. Streamer fishing will get better with more rains and cooler water temps, as we enter fall the streamer game should pick up some pace.
The night fishing has been less productive than I have seen in a very long time. There are a lot of reasons I can factor into that equation, but my biggest concern is the lack of willing participants. We had some good nights, but overall the fishing lacked consistency and opportunity. Hopefully it was just a function of the last New Moon phase, but we will get one more sampling period during round two here in a short while.
Change The Conversation
This has been arguably one of the toughest trout seasons I have ever experienced. The amount of change I have observed in the past 5-6 years is very alarming and there are some serious issues and neglected circumstances that need to be addressed on the Upper Manistee. Habitat loss, water quality issues, invasive species concerns, all have reached their tipping point. It’s time to change the conversation and make some major changes in our management approach of our most popular trout streams. Many of the issues are fixable, but it is going to take some time, $$, and hard work to make lasting change and to build resilient systems that will be far more productive and protected for the future.
Upper Manistee River Trout Fishing has been up and down throughout the entire season. Hatches this year were lighter and far more inconsistent than what we should normally see. Large water temperature swings are all too common now after long low flow periods that have increased sedimentation issues and increased the stream width. This trend was very noticeable with our Hex hatch. We had hatching Hex in significant numbers as late as mid July this year. What would normally be a two week long hatch was stretched to almost an entire month. This is the first year I have experienced so much inconsistency throughout our entire hatch season.
Unstable weather patterns have had some negative affects, but that isn’t the only noticeable change. The big swings in Water Temperature over a 24 hour period have been the only consistent variable throughout the water shed. Habitat loss is at a critical threshold and the rivers ability to buffer against change is losing ground. The Upper Manistee River has become dominated by wide, shallow, sandy areas that are exposed to more sunshine and lacking in structure. As a consequence we are now seeing huge losses in deep water habitat and decreasing Abundances of larger trout throughout those sections.
Didymo has had an immediate impact this season, especially in the sections below the CCC Bridge. Insect activity was greatly reduced and the consistency of our insect hatches was impacted as well. Didymo has definitely impacted trout abundance in all of these sections. Every section I have fished this year has suffered from diminishing returns, in other words you can’t catch what is not there! In the impacted zones we saw our catch rates fall 60-85% from what we would normally experience. We witnessed a big fish movement in the lower river last year during the heat wave that occurred in early June. Hindsight is 20/20, but reflecting back upon that timeframe now, the trout knew what was coming. I believe Didymo was already impacting fish movement early on in 2021 and maybe even as early as 2020.
So what does all of this mean and what will happen to the river? We are not sure, Didymo is a new threat and the river has gone through a considerable amount of change during the past decade. Time will tell, but Didymo isn’t going to just disappear and I am convinced Didymo is an indicator of overall poor stream health. Like a Cancer or Diabetes, you need to fix the root causes of the symptoms to become a healthy system again. TU is going to be adding Large Woody Debris to the river corridors, especially in greatly diminished habitats. There is also talk of establishing long term monitoring programs for nutrient loads and looking at mitigation strategies for future Didymo Blooms. As we find out more we will let you know how you can help to restore this river back to its recognizable form.
The 4 Mile Water Monitoring Station is back up and working! Make sure to click the link. 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.
Trout Guide Trip
If your looking to book a 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 Late Summer or Fall trout trip we still have a dates open. Have you seen the new Brown Trout T-shirt yet? Still have a few sizes remaining.