7 Top Trout Streams in Michigan

February 2, 2023
River with rocks near trees

Get ready to reel in the big one! Michigan is a fisherman’s utopia with crystal clear streams throughout the Great Lake State teeming with trout species, from big brown trout to brook, rainbow, and steelhead varieties. 

With rivers like Au Sable and Manistee providing endless exciting fishing spots, it’s no surprise why this Midwestern state has become an angler’s paradise.

Before planning your fishing trip, it’s vital to review Michigan’s fishing regulations and familiarize yourself with the state’s best trout streams and rivers. Prepare yourself for some of the best freshwater sport fishing around by exploring the top seven trout streams in Michigan for your next fishing outing.

Au Sable River 

For anglers looking for a big catch, the Au Sable River is an ideal destination. It’s renowned for its translucent waters and abundance of brown and rainbow trout.

The Upper Au Sable River, which runs for around 140 miles from Grayling to Mio, is considered the best spot for brown trout fishing east of the Rocky Mountains. The river is narrow and intimate with various riffles, runs, and pools that provide ideal habitat for brown trout.

The Au Sable River is famous for its three distinct sections: the South Branch, the North Branch, and the Holy Water main stream, which is catch-and-release only. It is an excellent spot for wading and fishing and can be easily reached at various public access points.

The river boasts excellent hatches of mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies, offering ample opportunities for dry fly angling for resident trout. However, night fishing is the most productive time to fish for those looking to catch larger trophy brown trout.

Black River

The Black River in Michigan, with a 73-mile mainstream, is the only river in the Lower Peninsula solely managed for brook trout.

The Upper Black River is situated within the Pigeon River Country State Forest. When searching for the late-season brook trout in their characteristic vibrant colors, it’s not unusual to hear the distant call of an elk.

The river offers ample opportunities to catch large brook trout up to 15”, even among obstacles like tag alders. However, it also offers a wide-open tree canopy that appeals to fly fishermen.

Boardman River

For anglers looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of more popular streams, the Boardman River offers an unparalleled fishing experience. Boasting sparkling water, lush banks lined with trees, and a trout population untouched by overfishing, it is easily one of nature’s most picturesque fishing sites in northwest Michigan.

It has become increasingly attractive to anglers due to its bountiful fish population, maintained through catch-and-release practices. The trout fishing season kicks off in mid-spring, around April.

The river is sustained mainly by underground water and maintains a low temperature throughout the year. This causes some delays in hatches during the spring, but it results in superb fishing opportunities throughout the summer.

Manistee River

The Manistee River is located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and offers excellent trout and steelhead fishing opportunities. With a mix of forests, wetlands, and agricultural lands, the river serves a diverse fish habitat.

The best time to cast off is from late spring through early fall when the water is warm and the fish are most active. There are numerous public access points along the 26-mile river, providing abundant opportunities to find the ideal fishing location. There are also numerous local outfitters that offer guided tours for anglers looking for an extra edge to boost their chances of landing the big one. The Manistee River also has a large population of hatchery-raised fish that are perfect for anglers new to the sport.

Muskegon River

The Muskegon River is an important tributary in Michigan, originating from Higgins and Houghton Lakes and stretching for 219 miles to its confluence with Muskegon Lake. It offers picturesque scenery and unbeatable fishing opportunities, particularly for brown and rainbow trout.

During the spring or fall months when the water temperature ranges between 40-50°F, anglers have a better chance of catching these species as they move closer to shore. Aside from trout, the river also has a healthy largemouth bass population, making it an ideal spot for novice and experienced fishermen.

Pere Marquette River

For anglers seeking a great fly fishing experience, the Pere Marquette River is an ideal haven. Situated in Western Michigan’s Lower Peninsula and surrounded by breathtaking wilderness vistas, this renowned trout stream offers spectacular catches including hefty wild browns with larger specimens occasionally spotted.

The Middle Branch is home to a large population of brown trout. The riverbed is typically gravelly, and during the last weekend of April through May, anglers primarily target steelhead. The Little South Branch and its two tributaries, Pease Creek and McDuffee Creek, also offer excellent trout fishing.

The Big South Branch is distinct from the other streams in the Pere Marquette with  slower and warmer waters. However, in northeastern Oceana County, Ruby Creek enters the Big South providing the ideal nursery stream for brook trout fishing.

The river also offers salmon such as chinook and coho, making it one of Michigan’s premier fishing destinations.

Rifle River

The Rifle River is a small but productive stream in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Anglers will find plenty of brown trout and brook trout in the river’s clear waters and occasional steelhead.

The river is open to fishing all year round, but the best time to visit is during the warmer months when water temperatures are optimal for trout and other game fish. The Rifle River has several public access points and outfitters that offer guided tours or equipment rentals, so anglers of all skill levels can enjoy their fishing experience.

Find Comfortable Gear for Your Next Michigan Trout Fishing Trip

Men's Heavyweight Oversized Urban Camo Flag Hoodie

Michigan’s beautiful rivers are great trout fishing locations, perfectly suited for an avid fly fisherman’s next outing. Whether you have just received your fishing license or are planning your fourth trip this year, find comfortable, patriotic clothing at Freedom Fatigues.

We carry stylish hunting-inspired camo options like the women’s Betsy Ross Black Camo Hoodie and Urban Camo Flag Hoodie for men. We also have hats and beanies to keep you warm on early-morning fishing trips to Michigan’s most popular waterways.

With Freedom Fatigues, you can also support animal conservation organizations like Howl For Wildlife when you shop our Howl For Wildlife Collection.