Small Stream Trout fishing in Michigan

Archive for the tag “Leverentz Lake”

Folks that Share Their Bluegills

Chuck and Rita on Shelly Lake

Chuck and Rita on Shelly Lake

There’s two kinds of people that share bluegills. The ones trying to get out of cleaning some because they didn’t catch enough for a mess (um me?) and then there are the wonderful people that open a bag of fillets, start cooking, and invite their friends. Feral and I lucked out last night up at Little Leverentz.

I had fished once with Chuck Raison on Leverentz and met his wife his Rita once also, but yesterday it turned into guided adventure fishing two new lakes for Feral and I, topped off with a gourmet meal: deep fried cajun batter bluegills, butter fried wild mushrooms and fresh corn.

gourmet dinner

Feral said Rita was a cook and that was an understatement. We almost didn’t have fish with the meal because we started eating them the minute they came out of the fryer. I mentioned in a earlier post that Chuck is a lake expert, which means two things – being adventurous enough to find new lakes and knowing what to do when you get there. So our fish dinner was compliments of his and her expertise.

Chuck with a bluegill

Chuck with a bluegill

We started the day fishing a small pond down by Brohman which had small gills and soon left there to fish Shelly lake, also near Brohman. This lake is a hidden treasure with nice campsites and I can see Feral and I hitting this lake for over-nighters in the future. Lots of bass and bluegill. It was the middle of the day however and the sun was taking its toll on us so we headed back toward Baldwin to camp and to fish Little Leverentz. It gave me a chance to grill chuck on some of his fishing tactics and of course then there was the cook out. Thanks from Feral and Luther!

Spring Trout

Feral on the Little South Branch

Feral on the Little South Branch

Managed to get away for an overnighter with Feral whereby we fished the heck out of Leverentz (for pike and bass) with lake fishing specialist Chuck Raison who was kind enough to bring a boat. We had our kayaks with us but there was a strong wind directly out of the east that would have kept us paddling instead of fishing. So Chuck was kind enough to motor us around. Unfortunately it was a cold front also. I don’t have to tell pro anglers what that means for fishing. I saw one Pike that came up for a look. I was the guy with all the luck.

Chuck and Feral

Chuck and Feral

So Chuck headed out and Feral and I decided to hit the streams. First choice Pine River up by Tustin to a small upstream stretch we hoped would not be flooded. The cold front followed a whole day of steady rain so it was taking a chance to drive up there. And it was flooded. We threw some lures from the bank but didn’t stay long. We decided to try an upstream stretch of the Little South Branch of the PM and that was wadable, but high. Right off the bat Feral hooked into a nice fish, a brown trout about 17 inches. He kept that and I took the lead. Another ten minutes I had a nice brown hit my lure but it didn’t stay on. I cast back to the same spot and she came up again. She was hungry. A couple more casts and she grabbed the small minnow lute and we had two fish. Feral wanted them both so we had two on the stringer.


The stream was more interesting than we remembered. We used to fish this stretch when we were very young. Our Grandpa would spot us along the river which has a couple parking spots along a high ridge. You can’t get lost and the river is generally shallow so it’s a great place to introduce young kids to wading and spin fishing. I couldn’t help but think of him when we caught the two trout – thinking just how much we owe him for teaching us not only trout fishing but for sharing his appreciation of the outdoors.

We had a campfire, a guitar and a 4-string banjo and ripped off a couple old Johnny Horton songs then got creative on some Neil Young songs. Feral finds some interesting lead parts flat picking the banjo and I was willing to sacrifice my vocal chords to hit the melodies so that was a good way to close out a tough but fun day on the water.

Spring Trout Camp 2015

Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette

Little South Branch of the Pere Marquette

I need to start calling it fish camp or just drop any reference to fishing altogether because when my buddies and I meet up in the spring it can be hit or miss. This year we caught some good northern pike out of Big Leverentz but the trout streams were so low and clear I quit after a half hour. Natch pulled a small brown out of the Little South and that was a miracle. Mike and Denny arrived the evening before Feral, Natch and I broke camp (wet camp, it rained that night) so they had the advantage of rain and caught some steelhead out of the Baldwin. OK, “Fish Camp” is sounding reasonable.

Mike's Steelhead

Mike’s Steelhead

Feral with a Northern Pike for Dinner (Big Leverentz Lake)

Feral with a Northern Pike for Dinner (Big Leverentz Lake)

“Beer Camp” may be a better name since it’s the only constant. Feral, Natch and I drink Labatts Blue and just before heading up I saw a new Labatts TV commercial. It starts with a guy in a black bear suit carrying a six of Labatts and suddenly he’s surrounded by beautiful women and a song starts playing which has absolutely nothing to do with beer or the happy guy in the bear suit. The song is “These Eyes” by the band Guess Who. Pretty killer song and totally irrelevant to the commercial which adds a coolness factor. So I learned the chords before heading to camp. When I started playing the chords on my acoustic guitar Feral jumped right in singing. Wow. So if we change the name to “Beer Camp” it would have it’s own theme song.

Keith, Natch and Feral enjoying the lake and telling stories

Keith, Natch and Feral enjoying the lake and telling stories

Or maybe “Guitar Camp” works. We had a couple good guitar jams over the long weekend. Keith played some great acoustic and then switched to the Les Paul and played some absolutely killer lead on Adios Amigo by Ween and also over some Tom Waits songs. I played rhythm and Feral belted out the lyrics. Live music at camp doesn’t get any better.

Keith jams on my 000-16 RGBT Martin

Keith jams on my 000-16 RGBT Martin

Keith pulled out Sunday morning and Denny and Mike came up Sunday evening. Denny had his Martin D-35 and played some very interesting obscure songs. He’s a walking encyclopedia of songs so we never know what he’ll play. So we had a great jam Sunday night too. Natch auditioned as bongo player for Rock Bottom and the Out of Tuners and I’m waiting to hear from Feral if catching the only trout disqualified him from band membership.

Denny warms up his 70's D-35 Martin

Denny warms up his 70’s D-35 Martin

Feral and Mike discuss world affairs

Feral and Mike discuss world affairs

Finally, we could call our spring get-together “Luther’s Car and Trailer Repair Camp.”The starter went out on the Slownoma and I managed to crawl under the vehicle and install a new one Sunday afternoon with the help of Natch and Feral. They drank beer and encouraged me. On the way home a wheel bearing went out on my 1961 Apache Chief camper so I did a roadside repair on that. Fortunately I carry tools, spare wheel bearings and grease in my rusty tool box so I didn’t need to leave the camper on the roadside. All told, I’d rather have mechanical problems at camp or on the way home. Main thing is getting there!

Hauling Kayaks

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Feral and I decided to attack the kayak hauling problem last weekend and went though several “floor engineering” solutions ranging from PVC pipe to galvanized pipe to a couple treated lumber designs and finally cobbled together the construct in the above photo. We may have overengineered the final product but then we won’t be worried about the kayaks falling off and the upside is we can use it to store the kayaks off the ground in his garage this winter. Drop the tailgate and it slides right out of the back. The whole project took us a couple hours and of course we had to try it out so we ran over to Big Leverentz.

I heard thunder as I was setting up my tent and ten minutes later the rain came down in sheets so we killed about and hour back at Feral’s while it blew through and sure enough the sun reappeared like magic and the temperature went from 80s to 70’s and it doesn’t get any better than that for camping. The lake was calm as glass and I know from experience a summer rain can turn on the fishing so we launched the kayaks and proceeded in opposite directions around the lake and met midway to compare fish stories as we didn’t have actual fish to compare. By the time we reached the dock we had 3 bass total and decided to sell the kayaks and go back to trout fishing. Not really, but we should have gone trout fishing.

Jim and Eric at Leverentz

We met a couple interesting guys on the dock that were casting for bass. Eric and Jim were up from Indiana for the weekend. Jim has some property over by Wolf Lake and they had spent the day checking out smaller lakes and happen to end up at Leverentz. Jim showed us his top bass lure, a Heddon Baby Torpedo which is a floater with propellers at the front and back that churn the water. He said he caught one bass off the dock and we were inclined to believe him in spite of the fisherman’s code.

Back at our campsite a young guy stopped by and asked us if we had change for a twenty so he could pay the camping fee ($13). He mention he was from St Joesph, MI and we mentioned a nephew who’s a photographer that lives in St Joe and he came back with Josh Nowiki? and we said: That’s him!  So Josh is getting famous. I mentioned the photo he took of the Chicago skyline from across Lake Michigan and the young camper said he had seen that one also and knew Josh’s work. So we need to mention that to Josh next time we see him.

Feral had his mandolin and I had my guitar so we jammed out some Tom Waits and even a couple original songs before calling it a good night.

Spring Trout Camp 2014

Natchl with 66 Apache Chief

We had a late start camping this year finally meeting up at Leverentz Lake which is centrally located in Lake County, Michigan and therefore putting us close to several great trout streams. We set up camp on wet ground and were surprised when Natch showed up with a vintage 66 Apache Chief camper. I had my 61 Apache Chief so if you are a fan of old campers and swung in you would have seen two classic campers made in Michigan a half a century ago. Natch’s 66 Chief is in great shape including the canvas. His version has a rubberized floor (Nice!) and an add-a-room option that zips into the awning. (click on any photo to enlarge, backbutton to return) I’ll do a separate post on his camper sometime in the future.

We ran up to the Pine River with the idea of stopping at our morel mushroom spot first and then hitting the stream. The morels were up. Feral scored a nice bag of about 30 and Natch and I picked up another dozen or so. The Pine River was flooded but we had guessed that ahead of time. We went in south of six mile road and cut off a couple short stretches mostly casting from the bank. I caught a brown trout about 17 and tossed him back figuring we were camping for a few days and would likely catch more if we wanted a trout dinner.

Thunderstorms blew in and the next morning we woke to a downpour. When that happens, and in Michigan we count on it, we put on waders and rain jackets and look for fishable trout water because hanging out at a wet camp is no fun. We knew the Pine was flooded and, from experience, the Little Manistee, The Baldwin and main tributaries to the PM, the Middle Branch and Little South would be at flood stage and impossible to wade. So Natch, Feral and I drove to a far upstream (headwaters) stretch of the Little South where the water is is normally a foot deep. It too was flooded but at least we could get in the river. Rain came down in sheets and wind gusts rocked the treetops. Feral commented it looked like tornado weather as the sky took on a strange color.

Natch and Feral are trout addicts like me so we spent several hours getting in and out of the stream and casting every piece of trout cover. I went fishless but Feral and Natch each caught several in the 12 to 16 inch range and released them. Natch was wearing a go-pro camera so at some point maybe he’ll send a video I can post.
Natch and Feral, Little South

This might sound like blasphemy but one reason we released all trout is because we were thinking about pike for our trout camp “fish dinner.” When the weather broke we went out on Leverentz Lake with our kayaks and I was fortunate to catch a pike around 26 inches that provided a nice plate of boneless fillets. Natch also got lucky and caught the biggest bass I’ve ever seen come out of Big Leverentz.  Might have gone 5 pounds but we didn’t have a scale handy. He released it because it wasn’t in season and we don’t normally eat bass.


Luth with Pike

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Feral prepared a fried morel mushroom appetizer as a prelude to our pike dinner. A couple beers and trout camp magically transformed from dreary Kansas to the Land of Oz.

On Saturday, Keith rolled in. Keith has been to a couple trout camps now and when the guitars come out at dusk it is his job to play the heck out of some of the classic rock songs that we all know but can’t remember the words to. So that puts Feral, lead vocalist for “Rock Bottom and the Out-of-Tuners” in a position of having to make up words on the fly while I struggle to recall old songs that combine killer electric guitar with some acoustic guitar – so I am at least contributing something. Not an easy job if the Labatts beer is flowing.

Keith with Gibson

I always mention Keith’s exceptional guitar playing but he is a story teller like Feral and Natch with a vast reservoir of odd experiences. So the guitar is great but he fits right in as person. When Natch and I took him morel mushroom hunting with dubious results (2) it wasn’t a problem. We just knocked down a cold beer and talked about whatever came to mind. So guitar or not, he’s in.

I’m always circumspect about asking non-fishermen to trout camp mainly because if it rains we fishermen take off for the streams. If it’s overcast we hit the lake.  Keith seems to have a radar about the weather and shows up at just the right time – sunny and seventy and time to jam.

It was all over way to fast. The lake was beautiful and we had the campground to ourselves. We caught trout and pike. Morels were up. A great start to another year.

Camp 2014


Big Leverentz Lake

Heading west on 10 out of Baldwin I asked Feral to keep an eye out for any sign of the Baldwin River since we would be driving directly over it – but alas, there was no sign of the river. Michigan has been in a drought for most of the summer and after this weekend I can report something new about this phenomenon. We camped at Big Leverentz and it started raining while we were out on the lake (fishing for bass and pike). It rained for a good half hour. We could see the rain dapple the lake and we could feel a cooling of the atmosphere.  There was a thick overcast blocking out the sun completely (a huge relief since we had been baking in the sun). Here’s where it gets interesting.  We didn’t get wet. After half hour our clothes were still dry. When we pulled the boat back in for the evening – the camp was dry. It occurs to me this might make a good Twilight Zone episode.  For added drama substitute desperate farmers for fishermen.

As usual the folks we met camping and fishing were friendly and three guys who waited patiently for Feral and I to launch the boat were treated to a comedy of boat launch errors and may they live by the adage that what happens in Baldwin stays in Baldwin. They were out for panfish and we understand they had around ten though I didn’t get a picture, except for a group photo as proof that they were at the lake.  I apologize for the quality of the picture since it is so fuzzy it could be just about any three guys. If called to testify I’ll vouch they were at the lake if they vouch for my seaworthiness.

In spite of the intense heat and murky lake with strange gunk floating about we did pretty good on the bass and caught one decent pike. Feral tossed a weedless mouse on the pads and had some action but mostly we fished power worms, culprits, and some top water baits late in the evening. Total bass for 2 days around 20 with a few three pounders. For those who know how hard that lake gets fished – I suspect we did alright. The bad news of course is we don’t eat bass. If we get a real rain maybe I can post something for trout fishermen and eat the proceeds.

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