DIY Guide to Fly Fishing the Little Muskegon River in Michigan

Most people coming to catch brown trout in Michigan will focus on rivers like the Pere Marquette, Manistee, and Au Sable. However, there are many great southern rivers like the Little Muskegon River that are just as capable of providing you with tons of fish. The temperatures tend to be a bit higher, but the streams are more productive despite that.

If you want to spend time in the southern lower peninsula, this river is an excellent choice for fishing for trout and smallmouth bass. There's plenty of public access so anglers can truly explore this part of Michigan while catching some nice fish as they do so.

Many people are aware of the nearby Muskegon River, Rogue River, Pere Marquette River and Little Manistee River, but may not give much thought to the Little Muskegon River. While the word "little" is in its name, it's actually anything but small. The river runs just over 44 miles and acts as a tributary to the main Muskegon River in the southwestern area of Michigan.

Beautiful Scenery 

The corridor for the Little Muskegon River offers gorgeous scenery and steep banks. In addition, there is a forest along the river that features everything from oaks, aspens, and pines to hemlocks and cedars. Anglers interested in experiencing the wildlife of Michigan will have plenty of chances to watch animals living life in their natural habitat.

Humble Beginnings

When the river moves through the Huron-Manistee National Forest, it starts as a riffle and pond stream before becoming deeper, wider, and slower while moving toward Croton Dam Pond. Most of the length features tranquil waters with riffles, and the shallow areas are passable even in the heat of summer.

Floating the Little Mo

If you plan to use a canoe or kayak in the Little Muskegon River, be aware that you'll need to navigate numerous downed trees, especially in the upper reaches. Keep in mind that the lower portion of this river is largely located on private land, which means you need to be cautious about where you fish.

Limited Access

One of the reasons this river is overlooked is based on the lack of public access, but that doesn't mean you have no options. For example, you can float from West County Line Road to the Croton Dam Pond to access a very remote, productive and scenic 10-mile reach of prime water.

Diverse Fishery

The anglers spending time at this river will run into all sorts of fish, from smallmouth bass and brook trout to brown trout, catfish, walleye, and pike. 

Little Muskegon River Map and Fishing Access Sites

Map of the best places to fish the Little Muskegon River in Michigan

Get directions to fishing access points and real-time stream flow data with the DIY Fly Fishing Map

Best Places to Fish the Little Muskegon River

Fishing in the Huron-Manistee National Forest is a great option and one of the most accessible areas on the water. First, take Interstate 31 east to Jefferson Road and stay on it for one mile. Then, take a left on 190th Street before making a second left onto North County Road and following it for half a mile. Next, turn left on Henkel Road to Maple Hill Road, where you will find a parking lot and boat launch area.

The area between Croton Pond and the Mecosta County line is a good choice for those in canoes. Cross Croton Pond and move under the causeway to reach the destination. There's no camping or parking in this area, but there are restaurants in the area for refreshments after a day of angling.

Another public access point without all the boats is in Hazelwood at the east end of 72nd Street. Park your car and walk a short distance to reach the river. You can fish right off the shore or make your way north or south to more isolated areas if there is a crowd.

Since a lot of the river is on private land, always be respectful with your fishing. You can wade through private areas as long as you stay within the waters. You should only make your way onto the banks if there is a hazard and no other way to make it through a plot of land.

Best Time to Fish the Little Muskegon River

The best time to visit the Little Muskegon River will depend on which fish you want to bring in. Smallmouth bass are one of the most prevalent species in these waters and you can catch and release them at any time of year. For fish you can take home with you, the season lasts from the end of May through the end of December, with a fish size limit of 14 inches.

While there is an official trout season in Michigan, not all rivers are required to adhere to the rules. When the regulations are in place, anglers can fish from the last Saturday in April through the end of September. On other rivers, you can fish trout throughout the year. 

In most cases, the best time to catch trout will be throughout spring and fall. Make sure to check any gear restrictions during the off-season since those can vary by year. With the Little Muskegon, trout fishing can occur year-round and there are no restrictions on gear.

Stream Flow and Current Conditions

Be sure to check the stream conditions before heading out to fish the Little Muskegon River. The USGS stream gauge near Oak Grove, MI provides a good indication of current conditions.

The graph below shows the stream flow (discharge) for the past 7-days. If flows are considerably above or below historical norms (yellow triangles on the chart) then fishing conditions maybe not be ideal.

LITTLE MUSKEGON RIVER NEAR OAK GROVE, MI

  • Temperature: 53.96 ° F
  • Streamflow: 202 ft³/s
  • Gage height: 3.31 ft
Temperature GraphStreamflow GraphGage height Graph
USGS

Best Flies for Little Muskegon River

Using flies that match seasonal hatches is the best way to catch trout on this river.  Dependable hatches include caddis, Hendrickson, blue-winged olives, sulphurs and stoneflies. 

The Little Mo is always loaded with crayfish, which are a favorite of smallmouth bass and larger trout.

Here is a list of general fly pattern recommendations for the Little Muskegon River:

Dry Flies

  • Yellow Sally (#12 - 16)
  • Yellow Humpy (#10 - 18)
  • Parachute Sulphur (#14 - 18)
  • Parachute Adams (#12 - 22)
  • Light Cahill (#10 - 18)
  • Elk Hair Caddis (#8 - 16)
  • Yellows Stimulator (#8 - 14)
  • Chernobyl Ant (#8 - 12)
  • Griffith's Gnat (#16 - 24)

Nymphs

  • Pheasant Tail (#12 - 20)
  • BH Hare's Ear (#12 - 20)
  • Rainbow Warrior (#14 - 22)
  • Pat's Rubber Legs (#4 - 12)
  • Golden Stonefly (#6 - 10)
  • Tellico Nymph (#12 - 18)
  • Zebra Midge (#16 - 22)
  • WD40 (#16-20)
  • Y2K Egg (#12 - 16)

Streamers

  • BH Wooly Bugger (#2 - 6)
  • Sculpzilla (#4)

Need flies? 

Ventures Fly Co. offers a great selection of dry flies, nymphs and streamers that will catch fish just about anywhere.  Set includes 40 high quality, hand-tied flies (see list below) and waterproof fly box. 

Dry Flies
- Adams Dry Fly
- Elk Hair Caddis
- Blue Wing Olive
- Royal Wulff
- Griffith's Gnat White
- Stimulator, Organge
- Chernobyl Ant

Nymphs/Wet Flies
- Rubber Leg Nymph, Brown
- BH Pheasant Tail Nymph
- BH Prince Nymph
- BH Hare's Ear Nymph
- Barr's Emerger Nymph
- Zebra Midge Nymph, Black

Streamers
- Wooly Bugger, Black (Size #8x2)
- Wooly Bugger, Olive (Size #8x2)

Gear Recommendations

A 9-foot 5-wt fly rod and matching fly reel with floating line is perfect for fishing for trout and smallmouth bass on the Little Muskegon River. A tapered 9-foot leader, with tippet size 3X to 5X to match the flies you are throwing, is pretty standard.

Need Gear? 

Below are recommendations for essential gear to make the most of your time on the water.

Quality rod, reel, line and rod tube at a reasonable price. Backed by Orvis 25-yr guarantee, a brand you can trust.

High performance nylon leader, great for fishing Dry Flies, Nymphs and Streamers.

Excellent knot strength, stretch and suppleness make this the finest nylon tippet.  3-pack of the sizes you'll need the most.

Heavy duty, waterproof, yet breathable.  If you are tough on waders, these are for you. Backed by Simms Wader Warranty. If they leak, they got your back.

Most durable, yet comfortable, boot on the market.  Excellent foot and ankle support.  Great for rocky rivers. Lightweight and designed for all-day wear.

Sweet pack with ample storage. Unique harness system reduces neck strain. Sleek tapered face improves visibility - you can see your feet when wading!

Durable and lightweight. The carbon fiber frame floats.  Hooks don't get stuck in the rubber mesh bag . Extra length makes it easier to net fish.  Simply the best nets on the market.

Tough, waterproof and priced right. Hold 900+ flies in slotted foam.  If you need more storage - you have too many flies!

Simple, sharp nippers at great price. Clip on retractor keeps this must have gear at your fingertips.

Strong with a fine tip. Perfect for removing split shot and hooks. Simply the best fishing pliers.

The 580 Glass polarized lenses are super clear and somehow relaxing on the eyes.  Game changer.

Note: DIY Fly Fishing earns a commission (at no cost to you) on sales made using the links above. Thank you for your support!

Little Muskegon River Fishing Report

Area fly shops, guides and websites that can provide a Little Muskegon River fly fishing report and update on current conditions are listed below:

Fishing Regulations

The state of Michigan requires that all people who are 17 years of age and older have a valid fishing license. There are resident and non-resident sport fishing licenses available.

You can purchase a Michigan state fishing license and learn about the most current regulations through the  Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Trip Planning Tips

The Little Muskegon River is just a stones throw away from Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Here you will find plenty of restaurants, hotels, and other needed businesses for your fly fishing trip.

Looking for more places to fish? Check out our DIY Guide to the Best Fly Fishing in Michigan

About the author

Ken is an avid fisherman of 40+ years who loves to explore and find new places to fish. He created DIY Fly Fishing to help you do the same.

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