Brown trout are native to Europe, western Asia, and northwestern Africa. They were first imported into the United States from Germany in 1884 and dispersed in the Baldwin River, a tributary of the Pere Marquette River in Michigan. Brown trout have a long, narrow head and a slender, reddish-brown body with black and (sometimes) red spots surrounded by halos along the dorsal surface. They mature after two years. Some of them migrate to the Great Lakes for several years and then return to the river where they were born to spawn. We have a lovely Brown Trout Skin Print and Cedar and Epoxy piece highlighting the beauty of these Midwestern fish.
Brown trout are predatory. They eat mostly insects, crustaceans, small fish, and even small mammals. They rarely feed on the surface of the water, except during heavy hex hatches. They can grow to 45 pounds, although in smaller rivers, a mature weight of about 2 pounds is common. Nowadays the DNR regularly stocks brown trout in Michigan rivers.
In Michigan, the best places to fish for brown trout are as follows:
• The Manistee River, which flows for 190 miles from its source in Antrim County to Lake Michigan at Manistee.
• The Au Sable River, a 138-mile-long river that begins in the same icy cold headwaters as the Manistee River, but instead of flowing west into Lake Michigan, it flows east to Lake Huron at Au Sable.
• The Huron River, a 130-mile-long river that flows from the Huron Swamp in Oakland County to Lake Erie near Rockwood.
• The Whitefish River, a 12-mile-long river in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, with an eastern branch that arises in Alger County and a western branch that arises in Marquette County. The two branches join together in the Hiawatha National Forest, and the river flows into Little Bay de Noc near Escanaba.
• The Muskegon River, which begins at Houghton Lake and flows for 216 miles until it empties into Lake Michigan at Muskegon.
• The Black River, which flows for 15 miles from its source in Alcona County, through neighboring Otsego and Montmorency Counties, until it empties into Lake Huron. • The Jordan River, which arises from freshwater springs near Mancelona in Antrim County and winds for 25 miles until it empties into Lake Charlevoix.
• The Boardman River, which flows 28 miles from its headwaters in Kalkaska County until it empties into Grand Traverse Bay.
• The Rifle River, which flows for 60 miles from its source in northeastern Ogemaw County through Arenac County and empties in Saginaw Bay.
• The Fox River, a 36-mile-long river in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula that flows into the Manistique River, which empties into Lake Michigan.
Brown trout are a common species in the rivers we fish often including the AuSable and Rifle River. There is nothing like heading out on the water in early spring to fish dry flies and try to catch these wily trout. But perhaps the most exciting time to catch these fish is in the early evening and even at night when they are most likely to eat insects from the top of the water. There are about two weeks each year known by fly fisherman as the "Hex Hatch". Hexagenia Limbata, a large fish fly, hatches, mates and lays eggs in the dark in late June in the Upper Midwest. During these weeks, you'll see cars lined up at river accesses and full campgrounds along the river in the evenings.