The best U.P. brook and brown trout waters and the best of the best…


April 01, 2014

All an angler has to do is observe a brook trout in its natural habitat and he will naturally believe that they are created in perfect harmony with Michigan environs. The beautiful browns originally came from Germany but they sure have thrived in the U.P. Here’s some of the best U.P. brook and brown trout waters and some specific locations. Plus the best of the best, most of which are designated by the State of Michigan as Blue Ribbon Trout Streams.


Two-Hearted River

Luce, Schoolcraft and Chippewa Counties: To look at the Two-Hearted River at dawn, as it drains into Lake Superior, is a sight you will not soon forget. Earnest Hemingway made it famous by naming it the “Big Two-Hearted River,” while actually fishing the Fox River. Nevertheless, it is notable for its four branches, running over 100 miles from west to east across northern Luce County.

According to Cory Kovacs of the fisheries division of the DNR office in Newbery, there are good brook trout populations from County Road 407 (High Bridge) and up; there is good steelhead fishing from the High Bridge downstream to Lake Superior.

I still think that the brook trout population is almost completely self-sustaining in this river system.

Most of the Two-Hearted can be fly-fished and if you like solitude served with your trout fishing, try the upper reaches of these beautiful trout environs.

Fox River

The fabulous Fox begins close to Lake Superior, near Grand Marais and northwest of Seney. It flows in a southwesterly direction for 35 miles, almost all of it in Schoolcraft County. It empties into the Manistique River, near the town of Germfask. The Fox and its East Branch are heavily fished but is still one of the best places in the U.P. to catch quality brook trout. The Fox River and its East Branch have been included in Michigan’s Wild Rivers Program. And more accolades –18 miles of the Main Stream and 15 miles of the East Branch from M-77 to the Luce County line have been designated as a Michigan Blue Ribbon Trout Stream.

• Beautiful brookie rising to a fly! Ray Kauffman is also an artist and knows when to snap an excellent photo. With rod in one hand and camera in the other, Ray caught the essence of U. P. fly-fishing. Ray Kauffman photo

The brook trout are doing well and natural reproduction has been successful in the Fox. Cory Kovacs tells me that they are dredging the sand traps in the river. The sand covers up the spawning habitat and makes for more self- sustaining populations.

If there are any drawbacks to these special waters, it is not always an easy place to wade or canoe. Therefore, float tubes are popular in the deeper areas. And yes, redworms and crawlers with split-shot sinkers added to small hooks and spinners will fool these wild trout.

Taquamenon River

Designated as a Blue Ribbon Trout Stream, the East Branch of the tea-colored Taquamenon is also a good place to fish. The downstream limit is North Hulbert Road (T46N, RO7W, section 9).

The brook trout population is doing very well; travel along 421 and fish it,, even though there is a mixture of state and private land. Most people on the private property will let you fish and that anglers can also follow two-tracks that access the river via state land.


Iron County: The State of Michigan designates the following waters as Blue Ribbon Trout Streams and Yoopers silently reward these “criks” as being the “coolest, funnest, and fish-friendliest places on the planet.”

Paint River

The South Branch of the Paint is widely discussed. It rises from Paint Creek Springs. It purls and curls across western Iron County. It connects with the North Branch a mile west of Gibb City (the town burned – it is now a location) at a placed called the Forks. It is a beautiful camping area, so much so that the bears love it too. Refrain from fishing and simultaneously eating hamburgers fresh off the grill. My wife, Sue, and I camped and waded here in our tennis shoes. We kept enough brookies for a meal. We cooked them at home.

Locals discuss the Gold Mine area with reverence, and for good reason. It is well populated with brookies and big browns. Take U.S. 2 west out of Iron River to the Gold Mine Road or Forest Road 3470. Go over the 1st bridge to the 2nd bridge. Fish downstream in this area and around the bend. It is here that locals seem to smile and disappear into the crisp air of the Ottawa National Forest.

One last “fishy” spot: take U.S. 2 west to about one mile before Hwy. 16. Turn right on a small logging road and go one mile to “The Meadows.” Ask around. It’s a dandy spot. Bigger browns swim near the remnants of old logging dams. Find these old structures where deep pools still remain.

Iron River

Outdoor writers and trout anglers sometimes glorify some of the picture-perfect brook trout havens. Check this one out: Travel down U.S. 2 into downtown Iron River. There is a bridge next to the Riverside Pizza and Bowling Alley. Fish downstream from there. You can access the Iron River at the Iron River RV Campsite just a block down from the bowling alley. The shiny, varnished lanes are exquisite.

This Blue Ribbon Stream is overlooked, folks. The fishing is excellent from the bridge to the mouth of the Brule River.

Here are two more hot spots, courtesy of Gloria of Luckey’s Sport Shop (906)-265-0151, on Spruce St. in Stambaugh, “Both the Spruce St. Bridge off of Highway 189 and the Caspian Bridge in Caspian are five minutes from our store. Nice brookies are available on opening day.”

Honorable Blue Ribbon Mention

Experience the Fence River, which includes portions of the East Branch Fence and the Wilson Creek Tribs from the Fence River grade downstream. Cooks Run Stream from U.S. Forest Hwy. 16 downstream to the mouth of the South Branch of the Paint River is a spectacular place to fish and enjoy nature. The National Forest Service in Iron River has maps and can help with directions. Call (906)-5139.


Ontonagon River

Ontonagon, Gogebic and Houghton: That’s it! Fish the Ontonagon River and its branches and tributaries. Daniel Boone would have loved the western end of the U.P. Talk about elbow room. This system drains an enormous area, including southwest Houghton, northern Gogebic, and Ontonagon Counties. You can wade, canoe, walk the shoreline or fish from a boat, while enjoying the flow through wild, scenic country.

In the Middle Branch, the best trout fishing is split into an upper and lower section. The upper section is between the Gogebic County line and the town of Watersmeet. Brookies predominate but there are good numbers of browns and rainbows. The lower section flows from Bond Falls down to M-28. Here, brookies will be the main catch.

A 12-mile run of the East Branch, from Lower Dam Falls to Sparrow Rapids has been designated as a Michigan Blue Ribbon Trout Stream.

The Jumbo River, a tributary of the East Branch, also supports good numbers of brookies.

Overall, though, the village of Watersmeet is the key area for the greatest of the great trout fishing. Downstream from Agate Falls, browns up to 6 pounds are found, fished, and caught.

For more information on the Ontonagon River system, contact the DNR at (906)-353-6651.

Marginal Trout Streams

Mark Mylchreest, DNR Fisheries Biologist at the Crystal Falls Office, and an excellent angler, says that brook trout fishermen who are looking for some fun, adventure, and bigger fish should try marginal trout streams once in a while.

“Warmer waters tend to grow larger trout – has to do with thermal units. Insect are attracted to warmer water and chubs and minnows are common. 14 to18-inch brookies are present and they eat grasshoppers, chubs, and mice,” said Mark.

What waters are we talking about here? The West Branch of the Sturgeon River, the Ford River, and the Brule River are good places to start your hunt for big brookies and browns.

Finally, before you start fishing, be sure to carry a current copy of the 2014 Michigan Fishing Guide. The Inland Trout & Salmon Lake and Stream.