A Magical Outdoor Wonderland

A Magical Outdoor Wonderland

The forests and rivers of Newaygo County are a magical outdoor wonderland where nature is on display year-round. The dense Huron Manistee National Forest, the rivers, lakes and streams — all spring fed, produce some of the most amazing trout, steelhead, and salmon fishing in the world.  It’s the unique ecosystem of the aquifer with sandy percolating soil that traps every bit of moisture and stores them it in underground springs.

The rich canopy of conifers and hardwoods makes you feel like you entered the Black Forest of Germany. The logging era almost decimated the forest ecosystem, but it has since recuperated and provides lush foliage especially in the autumn — where the woods become ablaze with fiery orange and red maples that intoxicate the senses.

The Muskegon River is a giant watershed of over 200 miles. Below the Croton Dam the tail water is solid gravel — thanks to hydro-peaking operations of decades past which scoured the river. Today Consumers Energy manages the river for stable run of the river flows. As a result, the populations of wild Pacific-Kings and Coho salmon and steelhead rainbow trout are increasing every year and it has achieved a world-class status. It is not uncommon to catch 30-pound king salmon and 20-pound steelhead that can compare only to the West Coast empires of these fish.

What is so unique about Western Michigan rivers like the Muskegon and White, especially in Newaygo County, is that these rivers, despite being dystrophic and originating from marl and peat conifer bogs, are on the alkaline side. This means they harbor a tremendous amount of aquatic insects and vertebrates/invertebrates that fuel and render the much needed food chains.  Here the brown, rainbow and brook trout all gain weight and become trophies.

For the most part fishing is allowed year-round especially below Croton and Hesperia dams. In addition to the salmon and steelhead populations you will find lake run browns, lake trout, walleye, pike, and bass in prolific numbers.  The mayfly hatches and caddis provide incredible dry fly fishing.

The amazing baitfish population of these rivers, along with crayfish, give the hardware and bait fishermen plenty of river to be effective.  April, May and June are abundant with stonefly, sulfur and Isonychia mayfly hatches, while August through October are the months for incredible caddis hatches. In the summer, fly fishing and tossing crank baits for bass are equally exciting sports.

In the fall and spring massive runs of steelhead and salmon allow fly fishermen who spey or nymph fish and bait fishermen who use salmon eggs and plugs to target these amazing beasts.

The beautiful thing about the Muskegon is the availability of public access points.  These entrees to the rivers can be found at the Croton Dam Park, Pine Avenue, 72nd St. off of Thornapple Avenue, Thornapple Avenue boat ramp, Henning Park, New Bridge, Old Women’s Bend and Maple Island.  Fishing the river by drift boat or jet boat is a very popular method. Wading is an option but be very careful in high river flows.

Due to the clarity of the water, fish can be very selective to both flies and hardware.  In addition, the fish can be very picky due to the existing tremendous food source.

The Muskegon has many tributaries that are excellent trout streams in their own right.  Cedar Creek, Penoyer Creek, Bigelow Creek, Little Muskegon and Tamarack, along with the Hersey River and Clam, provide wild brook, brown and rainbow trout — in addition to runs of salmon and steelhead.

These are cold water spring creeks that can be fished year-round in some cases. Read your Michigan DNR rulebook for closed seasons. There is nothing more exciting than wading tiny little creeks and watching trout scurry from the logjams to take your offering.  Plus, it’s a great way to get exercise and walk for miles in the dense wooded forests.

The White River near White Cloud and Hesperia is one of the most esteemed trout and salmon rivers in the country. Its head waters produce wild brook trout in amazing numbers, along with the populations of brown trout and rainbow trout. It’s mayfly, caddis and stonefly hatches bring trout to the surface during their peak emergence.

The upper White River is loaded with tiny, “no-name” tributaries as they are about as wide as your bathtub and harbor tons of wild brook trout. They are often very challenging to fish, but with a short rod and a stealth approach, a small stream connoisseur will have a field day.  Below the dam at Hesperia, steelhead, salmon, lake run browns and walleye pike cruise on the river all year long.

Public access can be found near the dam, Garfield Rd., Podunk and at Pines Point. The trout fishery also is very healthy in this entire stretch with amazing catches of large lunker bound trout. To the big fly fishermen, the Hexagenia hatch also very strong in the lower reaches.

One can spend a whole lifetime exploring the streams of Newaygo County. There’s so much water, and so little time that one need not travel to any faraway remote destination to find trout and salmon utopia!

 

Writer/Photographer Matt Supinski

Our First Hike

Our First Hike

Kelley and I had always dreamed on having a home near water when we retired.  A place where we could sink down solid roots and flourish after many years of working and building a life for our family in the Detroit and the Grand Rapids areas.  So, on weekends we’d go...

read more
Camp Newaygo: A Special Day, a Special Place

Camp Newaygo: A Special Day, a Special Place

It was a chilly Saturday morning for late April but I knew the Tai Chi would warm me up. It was the second in a series of free classes offered through the AmeriCorps Safe Routes to Health initiative at Camp Newaygo. The class, like the first one, was to be held in...

read more
Newaygo: A Truly Magical Place

Newaygo: A Truly Magical Place

This truly is a magical place.Nestled on the banks of the Muskegon River in Newaygo County rests the nostalgic town ofNewaygo, MI. The historic district of this town still features all of the old world charm and design;restored vintage buildings, bustling...

read more
Early Spring Hike Reveals Surprises

Early Spring Hike Reveals Surprises

Spring fever had struck. I needed to hike and thought Loda Lake Wildflower Sanctuary would be a good place to explore and get my walking legs broken in. I didn’t think I would see many wildflowers, because even the daffodils weren’t up yet, but it was sunny and...

read more
Time to Fish? Always in Newaygo County..

Time to Fish? Always in Newaygo County..

Having grown up in Newaygo County I never really thought about how blessed we are with all the rivers, lakes and streams we have around us for fun, and recreation.  After moving to Indiana I was shocked and missed this great natural treasure of Newaygo County.  ...

read more
Freedom Fest

Freedom Fest

          When I grew up, it was a seemingly simple affair. We were a small family, myself an only child, and our extended family didn’t visit often. During the cold-weather holidays, we would always venture their way, with some dish wrapped tightly in towels and hot...

read more
Guiso What?

Guiso What?

Guiso What?  The joy of cooking – over a fire! Campers, holiday-makers, hostesses and hosts: what is your favorite table to sit around? Is it one that you decorate during the holidays with special napkins, plates, crystal or glass? Is it the one you congregate on...

read more
Power Paddle

Power Paddle

            On Saturday morning at 10am, under sheets of rain, they sat waiting for the gunshot. The solo canoeists (known as C1), steadied their boats in the chop. The shot rang out, barely audible over the wind and rain meeting the lake; the racers plunged their...

read more
A Tale of Shaky Legs

A Tale of Shaky Legs

            “I don’t like it,” Ron says, smiling. I’m holding the board as close to the dock as I can, trying to steady it while he steps on. “I don’t like it,” he says again as I push it gently away, and hand him the paddle. (He’s still smiling, mind you). His legs...

read more
How About a Walk on The Edge?

How About a Walk on The Edge?

The Edge is a hiking and biking trail that runs along the Muskegon River on roads from Hardy Dam to Croton Dam. It's a slightly downhill stretch, so if you are running expect to have a fantastic pace per mile. I participated in a race a few years ago that started at...

read more
Take a Walk – Art Gems in Fremont

Take a Walk – Art Gems in Fremont

When the weather and schedule permits, I walk to pick up my children from school. This gives us a chance to talk about their day without having to navigate after school traffic and attitudes. If we drive home, the ride is filled with complaints about car-sickness and...

read more
A Branstrom Park Afternoon

A Branstrom Park Afternoon

With the sun shining brightly and spring in the air, one Sunday afternoon was the perfect day to hit the trails. I headed for Branstrom Park, in Fremont, to take a tour around the hiking trails there. The trails double as the Fremont Cross Country course, and the fun...

read more
Birds of Newaygo County

Birds of Newaygo County

In Newaygo County we’re lucky to have a plethora of birds to see and hear while exploring the trails and natural outdoor spaces throughout the region. It is true that many birds don’t stay in Michigan during the winter-yet even then we have many bird species. One...

read more
Michigan-Made Syrup

Michigan-Made Syrup

Tapping and Boiling: A (Mostly!) Spring Guide to Michigan-Made Syrup The Tap I’ll never be one to complain about the coming of spring. Every year I look forward to the snow being replaced by morning frost, warming throughout the day. I look forward to the budding of...

read more
Success at Dam to Dam 2018

Success at Dam to Dam 2018

by Carmen Faulkner At sunrise, the serious contenders went out. They walked or snowshoed or rode snowmobiles. Some carried ice shanties, others stuck true to what I would consider to be the ‘old school, torturous’ tradition of sitting on buckets in the wind and cold....

read more
Acquiring and Operating Snowmobiles

Acquiring and Operating Snowmobiles

By Samantha Breza There are no places to rent a snowmobile at in Newaygo County at this time. Snowmobilers have to own a snowmobile already or purchase one at David Allen Racing Motorsports on Maple Island Road. Winter clothes and goggles can be purchased at Dunham...

read more

About The Author