The majority of our salmon fishing is done in the Manistee River below Tippy Dam down to the mouth and secondly on the Betsie River, in the lower stretches and finally on the Pere Marquette. Tippy Dam is the upstream barrier to the King and Coho Salmon migration on the Manistee, on the Betsie and Pere Marquette there are no barriers, they can make it to the headwaters.
King salmon usually start moving into the Manistee, Pere Marquette and Betsie Rivers in late July and early August. At that time they can be hooked using a variety of large, flashy streamers that we have developed specifically for them. Fresh form Lake Michigan these fish are full of energy and still on the prowl willing to take a stripped fly. When hooked these ultra fresh kings are a handful. Big and mean they are hard to land. Eight to ten weight rods and stout leaders are the rule. This is when fishing for Kings below Tippy Dam on the Manistee River is at it’s best.
As Kings move upstream and begin to think about spawning their color darkens and the aggressiveness that they exhibited earlier diminishes. Due to their size, even though they begin to weaken because of the rigors of spawning, King salmon still put up a tremendous fight.
As they begin to spawn the probability of hooking them on streamers lessens and nymphs and eggs come into play. As the spawn gets going the majority of the fish are concentrated in the first couple of miles below Tippy Dam on the Manistee River and near the larger gravel areas on the Pere Marquette and Betsie Rivers. By early September the spawn is in full swing. By mid-October the spawn is about complete.
In October we begin to see the arrival of Coho Salmon a much more aggressive feeder than King salmon. We will target Cohos with stripped flies similar to what we use for trout and fish the normally through November.
In summary fishing for kings on the lower Manistee River below Tippy Dam is fantastic. Early in the run they are tackle busting monsters, as the spawn begins they are a great way to introduce anglers to fly fishing for big fish.