Trout Fishing on the Pine River

Trout Fishing on the Pine River

Are there fish in here?

One of the great benefits we’ve enjoyed from starting to offer guided winter rafting trips is getting to spend more personal time with our customers. This close time spent with our rafting guests has given us a few insights into the questions and curiosities they have about the Pine. One of the most commonly asked questions we get is “Are there fish in here”? A question to which the answer is something we’ve always taken for granted. YES! There are fish in the Pine River, and not only that but the Pine River is a fabulously healthy fishery.

Although the majority of visitors to the Pine come to Canoe/Kayak/Raft (88%U.S. Forest ‘Pine National Scenic River Visitor Survey’), an additional 8% come to both boat and fish, while an additional 12% come strictly to fish. Not only is the Pine known for its title as a ‘Nationally Recognized Wild and Scenic River’, it also checks all the boxes necessary to be bestowed with the Title of being a ‘Blue Ribbon Trout Stream’. The criteria used in establishing a fishery as ‘Blue Ribbon’ are as follows:

Water quality and quantity: A body of water, warm or cold, flowing or flat, will be considered for Blue Ribbon status if it has sufficient water quality and quantity to sustain a viable fishery.

Water accessibility: The water must be accessible to the public.

Natural reproduction capacity: The body of water should possess a natural capacity to produce and maintain a sustainable recreational fishery. There must be management strategies that will consistently produce fish of significant size and/or numbers to provide a quality angling experience.

Angling pressure: The water must be able to withstand angling pressure.

Specific species: Selection may be based on a specific species.

To some of you out there this is common knowledge and perhaps a secret you’d prefer to be kept safe, but to many of you this might just be the nudge you need to incorporate some trout fishing into your next trip up North.

The Pine is home to three species of trout: Rainbow, Brown, and Brook. The minimum size limit requirement on the Pine for both Rainbow and Brook Trout is 10", while it is 12" for Brown Trout.

‘But how do we catch them?’ Every trout fisherman has their own preferred bait and tackle. Fly Fishing is common, some prefer Rapalas, others prefer live baits…. We can only speak to what we know. The Miltners stick to three tried and true setups.

    - On a hot sunny day, we often will go out with #2 solid silver or solid gold Blue Fox spinners. We enjoy spinner fishing as it is an active type of fishing - between casting and reeling, you’re always doing something as opposed to bait fishing. When spinner fishing, we mostly pay attention to the clarity of the water when deciding on what spinner to use. Should the water be clear we use the silver, if there’s some cloudiness due to sediment in the water, we use gold. Oftentimes if the trout aren’t biting our silver spinners, we’ll try the gold and vise verse…. If they aren’t biting on either… then they aren’t biting! Trout are very finicky that way.

    - When the Pine turns muddy from rainfall, sinking night crawlers or spawn to the bottom of the river can work well. However, you want to get out fishing early in the rainstorm as flooding events bring many food sources into the river and even trout can lose their appetite when food is plentiful.  

    - Our third and final bait of choice for trout are bait crickets. These are white crickets and can be bought from a couple of bait shops nearby in Wellston, either ‘Pappy’s’ or ‘Fisherman’s Headquarters’. We consistently catch more trout when we use crickets on sunny summer days when the water is clear than when we use spinners. The most important part of cricket fishing is getting the rigging right…. With a lack of pictures, I’ll do my best to explain. Starting at the hook, you want to work your way up the line a good 3-4 feet and place a sinker. After your first sinker you’ll want to add another series of sinkers spaced progressively further from the hook, roughly 8 to 12 inches. You want the sinkers to be enough to be able to sink the rig to the bottom of the river, while leaving the cricket floating & bouncing in the current further downstream from your sinkers.

In closing, please be aware that there is a trout season on the Pine - it is from the last Saturday in April - September 30th. Also please note that you do need to get a fishing license from the Michigan DNR, which can be purchased in a variety of convenient locations including the gas station just a couple miles north of the Pine River Paddlesports Center at the intersection of M-55 and M-37. We hope you all try your hand at catching a trout the next time you come to visit the Pine River.

P.S. Be ready to wade! The Pine River has a plethora of woody debris & snags in it. It is all but guaranteed that you will find yourself tugging to get a snag free at some point. Should luck not be on your side, it might be necessary to paddle or wade to your lure to free it from its snag. Please put forth the effort to keep the river free of hooks that others may swim, paddle, and wade in safety.  

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