Big Manistee

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Big Manistee River
The Big Manistee River is perhaps one of the best known angling destinations in the Midwest. With over 230 miles of fishable water just about every species is available to the angler, from Brook and Brown Trout in the headwaters north of Deward to Bass, Pike and anadromous species such as Salmon and Steelhead down to its culmination into Manistee Lake and Lake Michigan.
Like most other major rivers in Michigan, the name was taken from the Indians and is loosely translated as “Crooked River”. One trip down the upper portions and you’ll see just how well the name fits.

The Big Manistee is one of Michigan's longest river systems, stretching about 232 miles from its origins in a cedar swamp in southeast Antrim County to it’s eventual culmination into Manistee Lake. The river system drains some 1,780 square miles and includes parts of 11 counties. Over its course there are 109 named tributaries which flow into the big river, not to mention an equal or better number of unnamed ones as well.

In years past the upper portion of the river was known for its Grayling populations. Now days the species has been completely wiped out in the state due to logging practices and loss of habitat. These days the river is thought to contain no less that 80 species including 13 non-natives such as Salmon, Steelhead, and Muskellunge.

Sixty-three dams and impoundments are located within the watershed including 2 major power producing sites, Tippy and Hodenpyl dams. Tippy, or Junction Dam as it was called, was completed in 1918, Hodenpyl in 1925; both of these sites are still operational. As a condition of re-licensing, Tippy will one day become a bottom draw dam. Don’t hold your breath for it; Consumers and the DEQ are notoriously slow!

Currently, the MIDNR stocks the Big Manistee with a tremendous number and variety of fish species. Some of these include, Wild Rose, Seeforellen, and Gilchrist Creek Browns, Michigan strain Chinook and Coho Salmon, Eagle Lake Rainbows, and Skamania and Michigan strain Steelhead, not to mention warm water species such as Catfish and Walleye. In 2002 almost 200,000 brown trout were stocked in Wexford county alone.

Since the Big Manistee is such a long system and has distinct sections we broke it down into segments. Please click the piece of water you're interested in:

Coming Soon   Headwaters: Deward to Sharon

Coming Soon   Middle: Sharon to Mesick

Coming Soon   Lower: Mesick to Tippy Dam

Lake: Tippy Dam to Lake Michigan

  • Almost every one of the 109 named tributaries have a good to very good trout population.
  • Archaeological evidence of Indian burials, village locations and transient campgrounds date all the way back from 8,000B.C. to 500A.D.
  • Average discharge; M-55 2,001cfs, CR-612 116cfs, CCC 256cfs, Sherman 838cfs.
  • In 1987 angler creel survey showed a total of 267,159 angler hours fished below Tippy Dam.

Big Manistee River Info


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