The Little Manistee River is located just south of its "big
brother" the Manistee River.
Starting a few miles east of the town of Luther the Little
Manistee takes a northwesterly track for approximately
40 miles to where it spills into Lake Michigan. The river
is known for being one of the best steelhead rivers in
Michigan as well as an outstanding resident trout fishery.
There are a few Special
Regulations to look over before venturing onto the
At the town of Luther the Little Manistee is small
and littered with brush and overhanging trees. It averages
14-20 feet wide and harbors a good population of brook
and some brown trout. Casting is difficult in some
areas and a small stream rod is recommended (2-4 weight,
At M-37 the river is still considered small (20-30
feet wide) but increases in size as you move downstream
towards the town of Irons. The brown trout population
also rises and the size of the fish begins to increase.
Eventually rainbows join the browns below M-37 and
give opportunity to catch all three in one day; brown,
rainbow, and brook trout.
The river below Six Mile Bridge slows as it nears the
lake and has many good areas to fish. Look for appropriate
holding water with better velocity to find trout and
The river bottom for much of its length is made up
of sand, gravel, silt, and small stones. Fallen logs,
undercut banks, sharp bends, deep runs, and dark pools
all create good holding cover for both steelhead and
trout. Quality hatches of mayflies, caddis, and stoneflies
make for excellent dry fly fishing for resident trout.
The diverse water below Irons creates excellent habitat
for the steelhead that make their journey up this river
Access can be found in many areas along the river.
Bridges, pull-offs, and parking areas will help in
finding access the river. A few areas are found at
Six Mile bridge, near Nine Mile bridge, and near M-37
bridge. Private lands do adjacent the river in some
areas so be careful to not trespass.
Steelhead can be caught on a variety of techniques
and flies. A couple of productive techniques include
using a floating line and leader with split shot (similar
to standard nymph fishing for trout) or a sinking line
and short leader with wet flies (spey flies, woolly
Hatches include many different mayflies, stoneflies,
and caddis. Some of the mayfly hatches include Blue-winged
Olive, Sulphurs, Hendricksons, Hexagenia,
and Gray Drakes. Caddis include a variety of species
and colors ranging in size from 12-18. Stoneflies are
an important part of the food chain and include several
species from little black stones early in early spring,
larger brown stones in late spring, to little yellow
sallies in mid summer.
The Little Manistee is a wonderful fishery every angler "needs" to
try from its tight headwaters teeming with brookies
to its charming water below Irons harboring large acrobatic
steelhead and mysterious resident browns. The Little
Manistee is also located a short drive from the "Big" Manistee
River and other quality Lake