Pure Michigan is the slogan for this northern state, which is known for its freshwater sports of all kinds, and trout fishing is no exception. The most famous trout streams in the state are the Manistee and Au Sable Rivers, but according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, there are some 35 “best trout streams” to fish statewide.
The Muskegon River is another popular stream, but less so than the Au Sable, which is the best stocked source of rainbow, brook, lake, cutthroat, and brown trout. The DNR lists several accesses and sites on both of those major streams, which still teem with trout every season, but there are more than 20 lesser-known streams which might allow you less competition for the best fishing.
Paint Creek is a stream that flows into Lake Orion and out to the Clinton River. Regardless of its varying water level you can find a good stock of rainbow and brown trout all season long. There are lots of great access points along its 18-mile flow.
The Klacking and Houghton streams are often overlooked because of low water levels, but according to some Michigan guides they are two of the best bets for larger individual catches due to deeper holes. A 16-pound fish caught in the Houghton held the state’s record for largest catch for decades.
Kids Creek is another passed-over spot. It received its name because it was thought it was an easy stream that children could fish. DNR stocks this steam with salmon too, but “resident” trout are plentiful as well.
The Ontonagan, Brule, Baldwin, Two Hearted, and Pine Rivers are just a few of the others where DNR stocked and native trout can be found. Gilchrist Creek, like Klacking, picks up extra nitrogen from farm run-off and is recommended by some guides.
Many Michigan fishermen remind newcomers that while the “main drags” on the Au Sable are often rod-to-rod with flyfishers come spring, the farther flung northern tributaries are often overlooked and are just as well stocked with fish, but not with poles.