T he Muskegon River went through a very interesting transition at the close of 2015 and well into the first week of 2016. The calendar may have said “December 25” on Christmas day, but the river said it was closer to early December based on water temperatures. Surprising to many was how high the Muskegon River stayed from late November to late December, with flows fluctuating between 2500-3000+ cfs, with normal being in the 1800-2000 range.
We had some of our better fishing at the tail end of 2015, and it continued into early 2016, with both resident rainbow and brown trout, as well as steelhead being brought to the net quite regularly. With the return of more typical winter weather in January, the river has changed accordingly, and we’re now set up for some pretty good conditions for winter trout and steelhead fishing through February. With both fly fishing and light spin tackle gear, we’re focusing our attention on the best “lies” for fish in both pools and runs, from Croton Dam down through Newaygo itself. A 7-9’ long, 3 or 4 weight fly rod works great for presenting #18-22 midge dry fly patterns to rising trout.
For both the fly fisher and light spin tackle angler, your attention should be on the slower moving, medium depth – deep runs, with slower current and where possible, well defined “seams” to fish around.
A good setup for this would be a 9-10’, 4 or 5 weight fly rod, casting small nymphs such as caddis, pheasant tails, scuds, midge and stone flies. Not much to be said for pulling streamers this time of year, but for those looking to “swing” some streamers for either resident trout or steelhead, focus on slower water, with sparse fly patterns and light sink tips.
For the conventional tackle angler, a longer rod in the 10-12’ length, in medium action, using tippet/line in the 4-6+# test range works best. For the most part, the fly fishing and spin tackle “rigs” are pretty much the same from the bobber/indicator down. Other offerings for both resident rainbow and brown trout, as well as steelhead, include spawn bags and wax worms, either on a basic #6 or 8 hook, or jig heads.
February has a way of throwing “weather curve balls” at us, as we occasionally get the calm and mild days with air temperatures in the low 30’s, which can be a trigger for the fish to turn on.
Things are looking good overall on the Muskegon River from a health of river and health of fish standpoint, as well as water flows, and insect activity. Happy fishing, get out and rid yourself of that cabin fever!