Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Days 2 & 3 on the rivers: The East Branch of the Fox and the Manistique

We’ve caught perch all morning, most too small to bother with even though there is no size limit on perch. I’m using a 4 ½ foot pack rod, an ultra-light reel with 4 pound test line connected to a 1/8th ounce Panther Martin spinner. The combination has worked well. Along the shore I spot a hole carved into the bank and cast the spinner into the middle of it. Bam! Something hits the spinner. This ain’t no perch. Catching a glimpse of a large fish, over two feet long, roll out of the hole, I set the hook and loosen the drag. This guy could easily break this line. He tugs and it’s a give and take. He runs with the line for a bit and I reel in a bit. Slowly, I work him up to the canoe, only to have him take off when he sees me. He’s a Northern Pike, and a big one. I let him take the line, providing just enough tension to tire him out and to keep him from empting the spool. A few minutes later, he again allows me to slowly reel him in toward the boat. This time I bring him along side. He’s big and ugly, with a prehistoric looking face. But he’s not done fighting. No way is he going to consent to be hauled into the boat. Seeing us, he takes off again and I give him plenty of line. J maneuvers the canoe over to the shore and gets out. The fish is too big for the net, but we’re going to try to land him. As I reel him back in, J comes around the boat and stands in knee deep water with the net. As soon as he sees J, he turns and runs again, this time snapping the line. A Great Northern, the one that got away.

We’re fishing the Manistique River. We’d put in that morning at the launch east of Germfask, off Ten Curve Road, and paddled upstream to the lake. Around one bend, a Great Blue Heron takes off. However, instead of flying away from us as they normally do, this guy comes straight at us, just 20 feet above the surface. We can feel the power of the air moving under his wings. There’s not much current and we fish the river from the lake down. It’s still stormy and a thunderhead passes north of us and thirty minutes later another one goes to our south, but we only get a light drizzle. This river was the site of extensive logging activity and the cut logs that didn’t make the float down to Lake Michigan can be seen lying on the bottom, waiting to snag a hook. At one point, just east of Ten Curve Camp, a set of railroad tracks can be seen, running off the bank and into the water. I wonder if it was a collapsed trestle from the logging days, or if someone used the rail to create a boat launch. Between the camp and the confluence with the Fox River, we’re surprised by a small dam. We now understand why there has been no current. The Manistique is a fairly warm river; as expected, we’ve caught no trout.

Once we join up with the Fox, we’re floating the section of river that we covered at night two days earlier. The storms pass us by; the afternoon is beautiful. Cloudless, the bright sun seems to have taken its toll on the fishing too. We paddle, occasionally casting a line, while picking out a few landmarks from our night float down the river. An osprey swoops down to check us out, before turning and heading for safety in the high trees. It’s a good day even if we’ve not catching any trout.

This is our third day fishing. We didn’t paddle Sunday. After we got up, around 9 A.M., having slept only part of the seven hours we’d been in bed due to servere thunderstorms. We all went out to eat breakfast. The short mile drive into town was enlightening as we had to navigate around broken limbs and pieces of tree. In the diner, we heard that much of the area was without power. B and H decided they were going to head back after breakfast (they were planning on driving back Sunday afternoon). As H said, we got our two days of paddling in; it’s just that we did it in one day.

J and I spend the rest of the day up at Grand Marias, walking around the Picture Rocks, and exploring the East Branch of the Fox River. We do a bit of fishing on the East Branch, wading the river above the M-28 Bridge, but have no luck. The water is muddy and the weather still unsettled. We head back to our camp late in the afternoon and fry up a bunch of potatoes and onions on a griddle and in a frying pan, fry the mess of brook trout. I also fix a pot of dark coffee. It’s a good camp meal. We both get to bed early in order to get a good start on the Manistique in the morning.

The Fox brings in colder water and this section of the Manistique has a rocky bottom with deep holes. There are also plenty of cut logs lying down there, left over from the last log float which occurred in 1935. We’re no longer catching perch. J catches a Walleye. It’s a nice fish, but not quite large enough and releases it. A few minutes later, I hook another Northern. This one is much smaller, maybe 18 inches, a good six inches short of the 24 inch size limit, so I release him. Through this section, we mostly spend our times trying to free lures that’s been snagged on submerged logs. We pull out about 6 P.M. After loading the canoe, we head to Curtis for dinner before driving at twilight up to the Two-hearted River.


  1. I've suddenly got an intense desire to plan some long river fishing trip. It's been about four or five years and that is way too long.

    I can't really think of anything that I've eaten over a campfire that tasted bad. Something about the outdoors and going back to our roots makes everything taste better.

  2. Even I have the desire to go fishing. How long does it take for someone to be good at it?

    I've never eaten anything over a campfire and getting in touch with my 'roots'. What am I missing out on?

  3. Sage, upon reaching home, did a bed ever feel so good? :-)

  4. Oh, that must have been frustrating when the line snapped.

  5. My aunt and uncle used to fish a lot and caught perch by the cooler full. Those little ones (bite or two-bite-sized) are awfully good!!

  6. Ed, some meals are better than others... yeah, a good river trip is a cure for lots of things.

    Murf, You should try cooking outdoors. The bed is nice, but I mostly slept in the back of my pickup--on a 6 inch air mattress, under a cab, which is pretty comfortable.

    Tim, I'm just glad to have had the chance to play him for as long as I did.

    Kenju, you're right. Perch are good, deep fried!

  7. Glad to hear of such a wonderful trip and thanks for taking us along for the ride.

    And about the one that got away ... perhaps you'll run into the fellow another day and return to your fish vs man epic struggle.

    But I have to ask about the camp cooking ... what, no s'mores?

  8. no s'mores! not to be judgmental or anything but s'mores are a waste of a perfectly good piece of chocolate (I'm not particularly fond of marshmellows)