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> > Michigan: Rogue River Reports

Report at a Glance

General RegionMichigan
Specific LocationRogue River

Details and Discussion

CbairdSeptember 16th, 2016, 10:20 am

Posts: 8
Are there any Troutnuts out there interested in reports on the Rogue River in Michigan? Let's collaborate to catch fish and care for the river!

September 15, 2016

Water low, clear, but cool enough for safe C&R.

Fish sporadically rising to size 20 BWOs and the occasional Ephoron. Size 18 WD-40 and size 20 soft hackles effective.

RogueratSeptember 16th, 2016, 11:21 am
Posts: 467

Welcome to Troutnut, a great site with great fly-fishing folks from all over...even a good-sized Michigan contingent!

The Rogue is my 'home' stream, and I fish it when I'm not somewhere else...a really nice little river even compared to more famous water here in the Mitten state.

tight lines, and maybe see you on the water,


'Less is more...'

Ludwig Mies Vande Rohe
CbairdSeptember 16th, 2016, 2:24 pm

Posts: 8
Hey there!

Thanks for the reply. The Rogue truly is a special stretch of river. I teach in Rockford which makes it very convenient!

See you out there,
(White 4Runner w/ rear-window orvis sticker)
PartsmanSeptember 16th, 2016, 8:38 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 361
Cbaird, I used to the rouge a lot for steelhead back in the late 80,s when I worked at a GM warehouse in lansing. There were some really dedicated steelheaders and rod builders working at that place at that time and we had many great after work road trips to Jericho rd. My daughter and son in law live in Grand Rapids, she works for the Grand Rapids foundation, and was wanting to put together a clean up on Rouge, she also wants to take flycasting lessons and learn more about this great endeavor. I might have to get over there and help her out.

CbairdSeptember 27th, 2016, 3:30 pm

Posts: 8
Hi Mike,

The steelheaders are definitely hitting the river now! I saw an outstanding fish yesterday that was (to me) unfortunately taken home. But, to each their own!

Thank you to your daughter for her efforts with the GR Foundation. I'd love to help with a Rogue River cleanup, so keep me posted.

I'd love to fish with you guys if you're interested.

CbairdSeptember 28th, 2016, 9:15 am

Posts: 8
Fish have been eating size 20 BWO's and small nymphs on the swing. Long leaders (~12') are recommended.

Steelhead fishing is picking up below the Rockford dam.
WbranchSeptember 30th, 2016, 8:09 pm
York & Starlight PA

Posts: 2701
Cbaird wrote;

I saw an outstanding fish yesterday that was (to me) unfortunately taken home. But, to each their own!

If it was a wild fish then it is a shame it was killed. However if it was a stocked smolt it was meant to be caught and probably harvested. I fish for Erie steelhead and without the enormous stocking effort by PFBC there would be no steelhead fishery. The daily limit is a ridiculous three fish a day. I see the same guys, day after day, roping three fish and dragging them out of the woods. I would love to see a reduction to no more than one fish a day but that will just never happen. Out of the couple hundred steelhead I have caught over the past six years I killed two fish.

Almost every fly fisherman I see on the PA creeks practices C&R but if they wanted to keep a fish once in awhile that is fine with me. My wife would love me to keep a fish once in awhile but since I live almost 400 miles from the creek it is a nuisance for me to try and keep a fish on my last day there and then dress it and keep it on ice for the drive home.
Catskill fly fisher for fifty-five years.
CbairdOctober 1st, 2016, 10:51 am

Posts: 8

I agree, the 3fish/day limit is ridiculously high. The C&R vs harvesting 'debate' is more of a social issue than a conservation concern in my opinion. Who knows how many of the trout we release actually survive? Of course, proper handling makes a tremendous difference in terms of survival rates. I am more concerned about the issues of climate change and invasive species than I am saddened by the occasional fish being taken home. Heck, those stocked fish can make a wonderful meal for a family, and I too enjoy a fillet of Lake Michigan King Salmon every once in a while. :)

I appreciate the fact that a lot of fishermen make a conscious effort to encourage self-moderation of the fish harvest in our communities. Thank you for your response!

Jmd123October 1st, 2016, 12:12 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2505
I fish a small lake that is stocked with rainbows and also has a thriving population of yellow perch that can get pretty big. I don't hesitate to keep anything from there as there is no inlet or outlet to provide spawning habitat for the rainbows. And it's a good fishing spot because it's a mile walk from the car to the water and the fishing isn't good from shore (I've tried), so you have to haul a boat in without benefit of a motor. As I like to say, I have only ever seen one boat on that lake, and I'm always in it.

On the other hand, the Pine River receives no stocking whatsoever, all of the fish in there are from wild reproduction. Which is sad because this stream is under Type I stream rules, meaning you can kill a 7" brookie, 8" brown, or 10" rainbow, and take home five per day. And guess what? It's damned hard to catch ANYTHING in there over 10" because the "barbarians" probably kill their limit every single time they go out there! From what I have seen, this stream has more than adequate habitat and food to grow some nice big fish, and I have personally caught rainbows up to 14" in there, along with brookies up to 12". And I can 100% guarantee that those fish were caught by NO ONE ELSE or they wouldn't even be in there for me to catch. I wish they would either stock it, or put special regs on it since it is ALL wild fish.

On the Rifle, everything above Sage Lake Road is now closed until the end of next April. In this section, Type I stream rules are in effect as described above. Below this, the river stays open year-round (so I still have a place to go if October is nice!!), and the limit on brookies and browns goes up to 15". Well folks, guess where I catch most of my bigger fish??

I have heard it said many times that the average cutthroat trout in Yellowstone National Park is caught and released ELEVEN TIMES during it's life. I'm hoping that's not just an "urban legend", but if C&R kills a lot of fish, then why didn't most of the sunfish I hooked on WORMS as a child go belly up and die?? There was an insane movement we talked about on here that claimed all fish should be killed because fishing was torture and if you're just catching and releasing them you're just torturing these fish for your own enjoyment...OK, does that mean you're going to take home and clean every single 4" bluegill that your kid catches, EVERY TIME you take them fishing??? Really???

C&R sustains fisheries, period. Not meaning to brag or anything here folks, but after 31 years of throwing flies, if I kept everything I legally could, I would be putting a significant dent in fish populations nearly everywhere that I fish, especially a small unstocked stream like the Pine, and especially with hordes of worm-dunkers doing exactly the same.

Just my 2 cents, but backed up with significant experience. BTW Carl, I don't think I've officially welcomed you yet, so...Greetings and welcome, fellow Michigander!!

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TimCatOctober 1st, 2016, 3:25 pm
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
C&R definitely contributes to bigger populations. No question, especially on a river like the Rogue, right by the second largest city in the state. I've always found it odd that rivers without salmon and steelhead are usually closed during spawning seasons, yet it's ok to fish for salmon and steelhead during their spawning migrations (arguably the most crucial time for sustaining a population). I know this is only due to access to them without having to fish deep water. I bet if the rivers were closed just like all the type one streams in MI, the DNR wouldn't have to plant so much... but this again would limit fishing for them to only the lakes...

I've read and heard theories that harvesting fish does provide for healthier fisheries though. Mainly because the competition for food is so high, so all the fish are half-starving and under-sized. I haven't done enough research to be certain of this at all though.

Jonathon, although I've never caught any bows over 12" in the Pine, I do catch A LOT of little rainbows every time I fish there. I wonder if it is solely based on over-harvesting like you suggest. I've fished the upper reaches of the Pere Marquette that are C&R only. I've caught TONS of little bows and spooked the occasional HUGE brown. I wonder if the bows would be a little bigger if there was harvesting allowed.
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
Jmd123October 1st, 2016, 5:10 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2505
Tim, of course one has to remember that "little rainbows" can also mean baby steelhead, of which I am certain there are PLENTY of in the Pine. Going in there in spring right after the start of the season, I always see lots of churned-up gravel in the riffles and it is not uncommon to spook out an adult. In fact, a few years ago there were three of them sitting in the hole right above Buhl Dam, having no trouble whatsoever jumping the logs that were holding up the water I would be worried about those fish having to traverse a heck of a lot of open, unsheltered waters on their way up through that stretch...

But I digress...even in the stretch of the Pine that I recently explored, including a one-mile walk through the woods to get to the water, I found fishing line hanging from a tree quite a ways upstream from where I got in. Not only that, but I have noticed the banks on the Rearing Pond Road stretch look like herds of cattle had been trampling them, especially near every decent hole...hard to not pin down the underabundance of fish to overharvest when you see that. If all you catch are little ones in places that are big enough for fish 3-4 times that size, somebody is keeping all the big ones and I don't think it's eagles and I said, not too many years ago there were a lot of nice rainbows in there, where they gone since 2012 beats me, but I think a lot of frying pans were involved.


P.S. I don't think food abundance is an issue in the Pine, as there are so many long stretches of gravel and I have seen quite a variety of insects out there. Plus there are some chubs and crayfish in there, so there's some big trout food too.
No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
PartsmanOctober 1st, 2016, 5:45 pm
bancroft michigan

Posts: 361
I'm, with Jonathon on this, most of the little rainbows are baby steelhead, I have personally seen many spawning steelhead in the Pine, and apparently that word got out this spring when opening weekend as I camped out at the campground and fished for a few days some guy claiming to be a guide from the west side of the state cornered me at the bridge and wanted to know were the steelhead were spawning here. My reply was you might hook or more than likely snag some fish here but the odds of landing were slim or none. I went for a big hike one day and some nice brookies, all released only to come up one to 2 guys worm fishing. Of course they caught 2 really nice brookies and both went in the old creel. Who knows how many fish these guys catch and keep. Its also no big secret that poaching and violating fish and game laws is a favorite past time of lot people up north. Its a wonder rivers like the Pine produce what they do. And yes, I think the MDNR turns there head the other way on rivers like the Pine to protect the big name rivers. Just my thoughts.
TimCatOctober 1st, 2016, 6:59 pm
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
Now that you guys mention it... Last year, I was on the pine late summer, and I caught a lot of silvery little rainbows mixed in with the darker-green-backed normal looking ones. I didn't think much of it, but I'm guessing they were smolts now that I think about it(?).

I've only fished the pine about 6-7 times, but I'm always surprised with the amount of fish I catch, and the lack of size. Especially during the couple times I was lucky enough to fish during a hatch. You are probably right about it having enough food, I was just being devil's advocate I guess. I didn't really think that river got that much pressure, since I've never seen anybody on it, but I have pulled some line and a couple of jigs out of the trees and banks on occasion (along with trash) :(

Jonathon, Your other post just reminded me of a section of Bob Wyatt's book, "What Trout Want: The Educated Trout and other Fly-fishing Myths" about the moral debate about C&R fishing. The section was posted as an article on Midcurrent here:

BTW that book is also excellent. I highly recommend picking up a copy.

"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
CbairdOctober 2nd, 2016, 8:28 am

Posts: 8
I love this! It's great hearing from some other conscientious anglers.

Jonathon, thank you for the warm welcome. Here's a fascinating podcast about steelhead biology. The interview covers anadromy and phenotypic plasticity.

Jmd123October 2nd, 2016, 10:40 am
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2505
Carl, this is a typical discussion on here. We have a great bunch of folks who give lots of good advice and thoughtful commentary, and we all have plenty of stories to share. I'll check out the video once I'm more awake (not a morning person, my favorite time to fish is as the sun goes down), but again, welcome.

Mike also makes a great point about folks around here not obeying the rules. A buddy of mine at the gun club always says, "They're in there before the season opens and they're in there after it closes." Also, my favorite brookie hole, [REDACTED] Pond (always discussed this way in public to keep the barbarians out!) had plenty of 12"+ brookies in it the first two years I fished there. In fact, it seemed like fishing right out of my dreams or fantasies, 20 brookie nights with dry flies! Well, in the past three years I haven't gotten a 12-er and in fact very few 11's either, and even 10-inchers don't seem that abundant. The dam was rebuilt in 2010, having been removed to kill an overpopulation of yellow perch (supposedly put there by someone's bait bucket). Thereafter, the Forest Service stocked it with some incredibly beautiful brookies in the 8-12" range, plus there were smaller leftovers from the creek, so for the first two years the fishing was unbelievable. Lately, not so much...

The regs are one fish per day, 15" minimum size, artificials only, only open during regular trout season (last Saturday in April - September 30th). If everyone was obeying these rules, I should have pulled some 16-ers outta there by now!! Not that I would keep them, but still the bragging rights...I have found bait rigs in there, came across some guys who said they were fishing with live grasshoppers, and if they are not aware of the no-bait rule I doubt they're obeying the size or creel limits...another complicating factor is the remaining perch population, which is certainly heavy competition, though the perch are not stunting, I have pulled 12-inchers outta there, and of course eaten them! There is also a large minnow population, and a decent sucker population as well, which provide plenty of food for both perch and brookies, and I have seen lots of hatches (and wonderful dry-flying as a result). The food and habitat are there to grow some fat, beautiful brook trout, plus plenty of cold water in the form of springs. So the lack of bigger guys has me wondering about buddy who runs Nordic Sports in Tawas talked to someone who said they went ice fishing out there!

Too many people harken back to the days when you could keep ANYTHING ANYWHERE in MI so long as it was over 8" long. And refuse to obey the rules meant to insure they could actually catch something OVER 8" in the future.

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
TimCatOctober 2nd, 2016, 11:46 am
Alanson, MI

Posts: 121
Carl, Vokey's podcast is great! I've listened to it for a while now. Those two episodes in particular are fascinating for sure. If I remember correctly, that's the episode when he says that there is no genetic difference at all between a rainbow and steelhead. That kinda blew my mind! Listen to it when you have time Jonathon :) I like to listen to podcasts when tying flies or while I'm doing one of the more monotonous tasks at work.
"If I'm not going to catch anything, then I 'd rather not catch anything on flies" - Bob Lawless
CbairdOctober 5th, 2016, 8:57 am

Posts: 8
Upper Rogue Update from Oct. 4

Fish eating size 20 BWOs regularly from ~7:00-7:30pm. Some larger browns have moved out of the tributaries. Some fish feeding occasionally on small tan caddis.

Nymphing game was tough yesterday, but I'm sure they're eating something down there...lots of midge action in late afternoon.
Jmd123October 6th, 2016, 3:29 pm
Oscoda, MI

Posts: 2505
I saw a scattering of flies on the Rifle yesterday, a few caddis here and there, and got fish to rise to a #12 EHC in tan/ginger and a #12 Royal Wulff (the old secret weapon). I did see a few fish feeding. Fall hasn't fully settled in around here yet, I need to tie up a last few hoppers and crickets while our nice weather continues..

No matter how big the one you just caught is, there's always a bigger one out there somewhere...
CbairdOctober 14th, 2016, 1:31 pm

Posts: 8
Still haven't caught a steelhead... starting to get that crazy look in my eye! People are saying they're there.....

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