Rocky Mountain High

Hidden among forests of hardwoods and hemlocks that have never been logged is some of the most overlooked fishing in Michigan. // Photography by Tim Feathers
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Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park

The Porcupine Mountains were once as high as the Rockies, but two billion years of erosion have whittled them down to hills. Big hills. Chest-thumping hills. In their valleys, a trove of some of the state’s best fishing can be found.

Located on the western edge of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the Porkies are protected within 60,000-acre Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. Most of the park, including a 22-mile stretch of Lake Superior shoreline, is wild country you can reach only on foot.

But keep in mind that the trails are rough and the terrain is rugged. If you’re in shape for it, 90 miles of trails lead to dozens of streams and ponds. Most of them are populated with wild trout — brookies, browns and rainbows — and some contain steelhead and salmon in spring and fall. The rivers are fast and rocky, with many waterfalls. Remote ponds like Lost Lake, Lily Pond and Mirror Lake hold brook trout. If you’re willing to carry a canoe, kayak or float tube down the steep, half-mile trail to Lake of the Clouds, you might find smallmouth bass up to six pounds. Artificial lures only are allowed on Lake of the Clouds and anglers are urged to release trophy-sized bass.

Lake Superior offers great fishing near the park. In spring and early summer, you can cast spoons and spinners from shore and catch brown trout, steelhead, lake trout and coho, pink and Chinook salmon. By midsummer trout and salmon have moved offshore, where anglers in boats troll for them with downriggers and planer boards. Local charter boats are available at area ports.

While the big lake is spectacular, my own preference is for smaller backcountry waters. I like stalking brook trout in cascading streams where everything is green — the giant hemlocks that shade the water, the emerald pools, the moss-cushioned rocks you have to climb over, even the jade-colored sides of the brookies themselves. It’s easy to believe you’re the first person ever to visit those magical, otherworldly places.

It’s like fishing in Middle Earth.

To learn more, call (906) 885-5275 or search “Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park” at michigan.gov/dnr.

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