The Huron River is Metro Detroit’s best fly fishing destination. Ok, there are others that you could argue. The Paint Creek and Clinton River are pretty good too. They have a decent trout population, and the Clinton gets a decent spring steelhead run, but the Huron River offers world class smallmouth fishing, and throws in some winter/spring steelhead in the lower sections. The Huron River is best fished by canoe or kayak, but there are plenty of parks for walk in access as well. Several impoundments create some still water access for warm water species. Drift boats can access the river as well, but be prepared to drag your boat in and out in the prime smallmouth areas in Ypsilanti and above the city of Ann Arbor. Kent Lake, Belleville Lake, and the park at the mouth of Lake Erie have boat ramps, but the only other formal boat launches are near the town of Flat Rock, in the lower sections of river.
Huron River: Species and Tactics:
Most of the Huron River is a reputable warm water fishery. Largemouth, pike, and panfish can be found in the slower waters and lakes, but the river really shines as a smallmouth fishery. The river above Ann Arbor around Dexter, and below Ann Arbor through Ypsilanti are prime areas to find these fish. The city of Ann Arbor has several dams in place which create ponds where you can find the other species as well as carp and catfish.
Below Belleville Lake and concentrated under Flat Rock Dam you can find fall/winter/spring steelhead. I don’t view this as a premier run of fish, its actually a little over pressured for the amount of fish. But it turns the Huron River into a four season fishery. It’s great to be able to get out when you get the bug during the cold months but don’t want to make the drive up north.
I have to plug a local fly shop here, Schultz Outfitters. Mike and his shop are pretty much synonymous with the Huron River and the smallmouth that live there. With a shop in Ypsilanti, right on the water, Schultz Outfitters gives us down state residents a taste of a true fly shop. There’s not many around down here. With a fully stocked fly tiers paradise, guided trips, and great selection of equipment (don’t forget the local knowledge), you have to stop in before you hit the water. Mike does a lot of community outreach to try and promote and protect this local gem so please support your local fly shop!
Smallmouth in the Huron River can be caught in the moving water from ice out in spring until late fall. Streamers are the order of the day throughout the season. Sculpin patterns, leeches, and baitfish patterns can all have success. Stripping around logjams and boulders and swinging through seams and pools should find you putting fish in the net. Popper fishing in the evenings in the summer time is very productive. There is nothing quite like top water fishing, for any species, and these smallmouth don’t disappoint.
Below Belleville Lake, during the fall, winter, and spring, steelhead can be caught. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a prime fishery like our gems up north. In the spring it can feel like there are more fisherman than fish. But they are there, and the locals are pretty good at getting them in the boat. Plenty of fish are caught indicator fishing and with chuck-n-duck rigs. And there are even some real die-hard’s that claim swinging is the way to go. Most of the fish will be caught by people who have went to the dark side, float fishing spawn, and back trolling plugs.
The river in this lower section is pretty featureless. The water is a little colored up, so it can be hard to find good holding water and pools. Log jams are present, and give you the best opportunity for fly fishing. Back trolling plugs using the “wall of death” method is the best way to consistently put fish in the net. Putting 4 lines or more with crank baits and kwik-fish tied on, equal distance from the boat, and then slowly zig-zagging your way through a run is very effective.
The Huron River has many parks along its banks, and they are well documented online already. The Huron-Clinton Metro Parks website has a great PDF map here – And they offer a water proof map book for paddlers that you can order from their page. Most of the sites listed for paddling also offer some kind of fishing opportunity. For the sake of this page I will focus on spots that we fish. Keep in mind that this is a new site so we will be adding more over the summer.
- Not that I want to draw any more attention to it, but the DNR stocks trout at Proud Lake for the trout opener on April 1st. Its a bit of a fiasco there, but if you can find a spot its a good way to brush off the winter rust.
- Heavner Canoe Rentals has a put in just off Wixom Rd down from Proud Lake. I’ve had luck launching my boat there free of charge, but it depends on who you ask and how busy they are. The float from there down to Milford park is a good family trip, and you can paddle back up stream to the launch. Their isn’t a launch in the park to take out, so it would be a long portage up to a vehicle there. Largemouth and panfish will be the majority of the fish here
- Kent Lake has a couple boat launches and has a varied list of fishing opportunities. We have mostly caught largemouth, but we have moved some large pike as well. It’s a fun top water lake in the evening when you don’t want to worry about spotting cars for a river float.
- Hudson Mills to Delhi Park is a good stretch of river for smallmouth. Gravel bottomed runs with some current, and slow pools and log jams form your targets. There is a small stretch of rapids above Hudson Mills as well as a rather well known rapids at Delhi. Personally, we don’t run either. The rapids above Hudson Mills looks like an accident waiting to happen, and Delhi rapids vary greatly depending on flow. When the water is high they can be dangerous, and you will see white water kayaks playing in the swells. And when the water is lowest it is hard to get down them on anything but a tube due to grounding. There is a small launch just above the rapids for those who decide not to venture over them. Keep in mind that these aren’t formal boat launches. They are rustic canoe launches, so you will have to drag whatever craft you take down to and back from the water’s edge.
- Delhi Park to Argo Pond is a stretch for canoes and kayaks due to the portage at Barton Pond. Lack of current means a lot of paddling and a switch back to largemouth and pike as the primary species.
- The section through Ypsilanti is a goal of ours this summer, but it has a good reputation for smallmouth.
- From Ypsilanti we will skip down river (and over some more likely fish holding water below Belleville Dam) to the steelhead section of the river. Flat Rock Dam and Huroc Park are the places most people walk in to fish. But for the float fisherman there are a couple of boat launches that create a good float. Check with local sources, but the stretch between launches at Telegraph Rd and I-75 (Dodge Park) is typically open year round. It’s about a two hour float and offers probably the best opportunity to pick up a steelhead in southeast Michigan.
- Below I-75 ice can be a problem in winter, but if its open there will be people fishing down to Lake Erie.