Betsie River

The Betsie River

The Betsie is known for its Steelhead and Salmon runs, but it also has a decent trout fishery in sections. Located 45 minutes from Traverse City, anglers can get there easily. From Traverse City, take US-31 South until you get into Benzonia – which is the town where the “River Runs Through It”

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Michigan’s Betsie River is a tributary to Lake Michigan, run with Steelhead and Salmon. It also has a very good population of resident trout. Hatches can be prolific providing exciting dry fly fishing. The river averages 40 to 50 feet wide in most areas and is one of the most scenic in the state.

The spring and summer months on the Betsie are the best time for the river’s resident trout with hatches of mayflies, caddis and stoneflies existing. Resident brown and rainbow trout are found in excellent numbers, some of which reach large sizes. Some resident browns have been known to easily break the twenty inch mark, especially in the river’s lower reaches.

Late fall, winter, and early spring are the best times to fish for the Betsie’s salmon and steelhead. The salmon runs occur in September and will last into late October. Some steelhead will usually follow the salmon to eat their eggs. Steelhead will continue to enter the river through the winter and will stay to spawn in the spring.

The upper Betsie, above where the Little Betsie empties in, is a small river littered with fallen trees, shallow runs, quiet pools, and beautiful trout. The upper portion of this stretch, from Green Lake (The Betsie spills out of this lake) to where Grass Lake Creek flows in, is not know for being a very productive stretch of trout water. It is still considered small here, averaging approximately 30 feet across with a sand and gravel bottom. Although trout populations are still good, they are better below Grass Lake Creek where the Betsie gains some volume, cool water, and has more deep pools and runs.

The river continues and flows through the town of Wallin before reaching the junction of the Little Betsie. A few access areas are found in this stretch, one of which is at Wallin Road bridge. Three species of trout can be found in this area: Brown, Rainbow, and Brook Trout.

Below the junction of the Little Betsie, the river gains a little more volume, size and cool water, averaging 50 feet across with a gravel and sand bottom. Wolf Road crosses the river a short distance below this junction. The river above Wolf Road is closed after September 30th. Check the regulations before fishing. Below this point, steelhead and salmon fishing can be outstanding all the way to Lake Michigan.

The best steelhead and salmon water is found below Route 115. Resident trout fishing also remains excellent throughout this stretch. Several roads cross the river and many of them provide access for anglers. A couple of these access points include Psutka Road bridge and Rout 31 bridge. Below Route 31 the river bottom consists mainly of sand, silt gravel and clay with an average width of 60 to 70 feet. Several beautiful pools, deep runs, and charming riffles are found in this approximate 25 mile stretch from the junction with the Little Betsie to Lace Michigan.

Access can be found in many areas along the Betsie. Several roads cross and/or parallel the river. Route 31 and Route 115 are the two major roads that cross the river. Wading in the Betsie is fairly easy. Most anglers will wade although some choose to use a canoe.

The Betsie River is an excellent Michigan fishery. Although smaller than many rivers it still harbors a superb population of resident trout and is run with tremendous numbers of steelhead and salmon each year. The Betsie River is a short drive from its neighbors the Manistee River to the South and the Boardman River to the Northeast.

NOTE: Check the most recent fishing regulations for the Betsie River before going out. Some stretches near the mouth may be temporally closed because of problems with fish passage due to the low water levels of Lake Michigan.