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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
by Carmen Faulkner All right everyone, the winter thaw is over! The few days of warm weather and the reminders from green grass poking up from under the usual January snow was wonderful, but wintery conditions have made their way back into the forecast for the...read more
By Samantha Breza What supplies are needed on a snowshoeing trip depends on where the snowshoer is going and how long they’re going to be there. Snowshoers hiking on mountain trails during the winter need hydration systems, avalanche transceivers, signaling mirrors,...read more
By Samantha Breza Want to do something new this winter? Try snowshoeing! Snowshoeing is an easy sport to get into. The equipment is relatively cheap, snowshoers don’t have to register the equipment, or pay annual fees for it. Snowshoers don’t need to take classes or...read more
By: Nick Smith As a new Newaygo County Resident, I was very excited to find a place to hunt this deer season. Over the past year, I have heard many successful hunting stories from people I have met, and seen some nice size deer while traveling from place to place. ...read more
By Wendy Sinicki Tucked in the southeastern corner of Newaygo County is a wonderful place to spend time hiking, especially with the family. The Ensley Township Nature Preserve, 6985 136th Street, Sand Lake, just west of Cypress Avenue, is designed with children in...read more
Are you Two Dam Tuff? It's a question that gets asked the first Saturday in October each and every year in Newaygo County. For those "in the know", The Croton and Hardy Dams are separated by about 6 miles as the crow flies, and are spectacular tourist draws in...read more
The Hardy Dam Rustic Trail is just that: rustic, but in the best sense. This gem offers tree lined trails and picturesque views giving hikers of all abilities a sense of reconnecting with nature even for just a short time. For the first-time user, it is helpful to...read more
Newaygo County teems with an abundance of water for the experienced or casual fisherman. Thousands of acres of dam-supported backwaters, large and small beautiful lakes, and even hidden ponds provide plenty of opportunity for anglers to enjoy still-water fishing. ...read more
Indoor and Outdoor Art Every season provides a chance to enjoy all those things we love about living in Newaygo County. The beauty of seeing the “best sunset ever” every night of the summer, the sound of loons echoing over the lake, feeling your kayak glide along...read more