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Huron River, Michigan
The Huron River is the quintessential Southeast Michigan flowage; mud banks, slow stream flow and a low gradient define this river. With its 100+ miles of fishable water it offers the opportunity to seek out just about every major species available in the state including Trout, Muskie, Salmon and Steelhead.

Native American tribes used this river as a major canoe route; just north of the river around Ann Arbor used to exist a major interchange of old trails. The Native Americans called the river "cos-scut-e-nong-sebee", meaning "burnt district river", due to the periodic openings or clearings in the dry oak on the highlands above the river.

Stretching roughly 125 miles from it source in Big Lake and the Huron Swamp northwest of Pontiac, the Huron flows southwest past Milford, Brighton, and Pinckney before turning south-east and passing the towns of Dexter, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti, Belleville and finally Flat Rock. It stays on course for a couple more miles until finally entering Lake Erie at Pt. Mouille. The rivershed is comprised of over 900 square miles and drains a large percentage of metro Detroit. With a total elevation change from source to mouth of 446 feet, a raging river it isn't. Coupled with the installation of well over 90 dams and lake level control structures, almost all the high gradient stretches have been lost. Of these 900+ square miles of river shed, more than 570,000 acres (85%) is under private ownership. Most of the remaining 32,000 acres is under either state game area control (9,942 acres) or part of the Huron-Clinton Metroparks (6,595 acres).

The State of Michigan has designated 27.5 miles of the mainstream, plus an additional 10.5 miles of three tributaries as "Country Scenic River", the only state designated scenic river in Southeast Michigan.

The DNR has been very active stocking the river over the past decade with various types of cold water fishes. From at least 1979 to 1989 it stocked an average of 30-40 thousand Coho Salmon each year. Limited returns and no natural reproduction halted the stocking shortly afterwards. Currently it stocks a large number of Steelhead fingerlings. In 1999 and 2001 massive stockings took place. In 1999 over 300,000 fingerlings we planted and 2001 found over 200,000 unclipped fish plus another 50,000 RP clipped fish placed in the river. Watch out in 2003-2004!! In 2002 about 60,000 RP clipped fingerlings found a new home and with any luck are currently out in Lake Erie growing. Stocking has taken place each year since at least 1983.

There are 11 private campgrounds within the Huron River watershed, which provide 585 vehicle campsites and 1,285 tent sites to the camping enthusiast. In addition, other campgrounds in the counties encompassing the watershed provide roughly 2,000 campsites of various sorts. Other recreational activities provided by private sources include golf courses, archery ranges, horseback riding, boat and canoe rentals and fishing ponds and lakes.

The Huron River above Barton Pond is classified as top quality warm water. Although game fish are common and species will vary from area to area, generally Rock Bass are the most abundant; Bluegill, Sunfish, Small and Largemouth Bass are common and Northern Pike are occasionally taken in the area. Kent Lake is heavily fished and provides an excellent winter fishery for Bluegill and Black Crappie. A short segment of the upper mainstream near Milford has received attention and special management for Trout in recent years. The planting and "catch and release" harvesting of trout in this area has proved to be very popular with local anglers.

It should be mentioned that rough fish such as suckers and carp are present throughout most of the river system and probably make up a large part of the entire fish population. Rough fish populations caused serious competition to game fish populations in the river and impoundments below Barton Pond. Fisheries managers initiated chemical treatment of Barton Pond in 1972. From the initial treatment until 1974, the lower river and impoundments were treated down to Flat Rock Pond to eliminate or reduce rough fish. Restocking game fish has produced a varied fishery, which should be good to excellent for a number of years.

In general, the following species are found in the impoundments and river to Flat Rock: Northern Pike, Walleye, Tiger and Northern Muskie, Large and Smallmouth Bass, Channel Catfish, Bluegill, Hybrid Sunfish and Black Crappie. The river from Lake Erie to Belleville Dam receives fall and winter runs of Coho (most abundant), Chinook and Steelhead. Spring spawning runs of Walleye, Northern Pike and White Bass also contribute to the fishery.

The Huron is truly a diverse fishery. From fall run Salmon and Steelhead to summer Smallmouth and Muskie it provides the high-density population of southeast Michigan the chance to experience a wide variety of species in an unlikely urban environment.



Factoids:
  • There are more than 2,000 campsites within the watershed.
  • Well over 300 lakes drain into the Huron.
  • A total of 11 major dams exist on the main branch between the headwaters and Lake Erie; over 90 on the entire river system.
  • From 1972 to 1974 the lower river down to Flat Rock and Barton Pond were chemically treated to remove rough fish.
  • There are 24 major tributaries totaling about 370 miles in addition to the mainstream.
  • In 1999 the DNR planted over 300,000 Steelhead fingerlings. Look out in 2003!!



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