Friday, April 25, 2014

Want to fly fish in southeastern Michigan? Here's where to go!

Trout fishing and southeastern Michigan aren't often thought of at the same time, but there's
at least one shining exception to the rule. Paint Creek, in Oakland County, is simply a dynamite trout stream. The 15 miles of designated trout water below Lake Orion Dam to its confluence with the Clinton River has offered close-to-home trout fishing to southeastern Michigan anglers for decades.

"We've been stocking and managing Paint Creek for brown trout for more than 50 years," said DNR Lake Erie Basin Coordinator Jim Francis. "It's always been a good trout stream. And in the past few years it's improved."

Two relatively recent occurrences - a change in the strain of brown trout strain stocked in the stream and the removal of a dam about midway down the designated trout water stretch - have both contributed.

"We're seeing more trout and more big trout," Francis said. "Our pounds-per-acre has gone up and we've seen a substantial increase in natural reproduction as well. This strain really appears to be performing better than previous strains."

"During the last survey we conducted we saw quite a few fish more than 20 inches than we ever had previously."

Paint Creek is fed by a bottom-draw at the dam at Lake Orion but also has good ground-water input, keeping it cold.

"It has lots of good rocky substrate and woody debris," Francis said. "These are important habitat traits that provide both food and shelter. Even though Paint Creek is in a very heavily populated area, the stream itself has a very nice riparian corridor - very few houses actually back up to the creek."

Although it's relatively narrow, Francis said, it's open enough in many areas that it can be fly fished. Paint Creek Trail parallels the stream, providing excellent access for anglers over most of the 15-mile stream course.

In 2011, a dam that had been in the middle of the trout section since the 1840s was removed, allowing fish passage for the entire creek. That same year, Fisheries Division enacted special regulations for that same stretch - artificial lures only, a two-fish creel limit, and a 14-inch minimum length limit. Otherwise, the usual Type II trout regulations apply to the rest of the creek. Consult the trout designation map at ww.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_63235-211883--,00.html for exact locations of these regulations.

Fisheries Division stocks about 4,500 brown trout annually spread over four sites between the dam and downtown Rochester.

"It's a popular fishery, especially during the early trout season," Francis said. "It produces good fishing. As summer progresses the creek receives less fishing pressure, largely because a lot of trout anglers - especially catch-and-release practitioners - don't want to stress the fish."

Paint Creek is not ground water driven and will exhibit wide temperature fluctuations.

The stream supports decent mayfly and stone fly hatches, and had sculpin introduced by the DNR in the 1980s. That introduction did well and sculpin have prospered, producing a good forage base for the trout.

"You really see anglers across the board - worm dunkers to spinner fishermen to people fishing flies," Francis said. "This is a great trout stream for people to learn how to fish for trout and it's so close to so many anglers in Southeast Michigan. It's kind of a good training stream to teach people how to trout fish."

Fisheries Division plans to maintain trout stocking into the near future. Managers ideally prefer any trout stream to be self-sufficient with good natural reproduction. That may not be possible for Paint Creek. The DNR will continue to monitor the stream to evaluate the effects of the dam removal as well as the impact of the regulations change.

"We're pretty devoid of trout waters in southeastern Michigan due to our geology and lack of significant ground water flows," Francis said. "It's a quality trout stream, but given that opportunities are so limited in southeastern Michigan, it's even more important."

Don't know what it takes to fly fish? Visit our fly fishing primer atwww.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153-10364_52261_65983---,00.html.