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Fishing History on Saginaw River and Its Tributaries.
-- Early fishing was was good inspite of polution from lumbering.

1888 article - Added July, 2009.

The American Angler, Vol. XII, William C. Harris, 1888


All day long on the docks along the river's front, wherever there is any show at all for fishing, there is an angler. The desire of all to become disciples of Izaak Walton pervades the atmosphere and large crowds, irrespective of sex, age, condition or color, resort to the wharfs, the mills, lumber docks and all the small craft available. Wearing a broad smile, using most any kind of rod from a scantling to a bamboo (sometimes a jointed one is visible), they spit on the hook with becoming regularity and cast their lines in the waters of the Saginaw and await further developments.

The river is very roily throughout the year from the constant floods and the log-driving on its upper tributaries and it is rather late in the summer or early in the fall before it becomes clear enough for the fish to come out of the upper waters and live in the river. The season is now approaching when the water becomes clear, and as log-rafting has almost ceased for the season, the scaly denizens of the upper waters are taking to the river, and the catches are beginning to appear respectable in size. The fish now caught are principally perch, some pickerel and now and then an eel.

As there is a great deal of interest here in the outcome of the Boganixing Creek dispute I thought I would write about it, and you in turn interest some of your readers by informing them how fishing has been done in creeks that flow into the Saginaw River, and how the fishers are vigorously prosecuted by all the game wardens of the county. The creeks are all now open, and everybody realizes the benefit done to anglers by the fish and game warden system and all are loud in praising it.

Boganixing Creek is about five miles from the heart of East Saginaw, a half mile from the village of Crow Island, and directly opposite the village of Melbourne. The creek is surrounded by marsh on all sides, is about 30 ft. wide at the mouth, and its course for about two and a half miles is about southwest, the source being in the spring, a vast sheet of water, which dries up in the summer and leaves only large ponds here and there connected by small “trails.” In the spring of the year all the finny tribe that are native to these waters come up the river from the bay (Saginaw Bay) in search of spawning places, and great schools of them go up Boganixing Creek and rear their young in the marshes adjoining it. The city angler often enjoys himself on its waters trolling, catching mainly what are known here as grass pike, and often black bass are taken from the spoons.

There are two men (McLean and Wiggins) who string a net clear across the creek in the winter, about a half mile from its mouth, and as the shallow waters in the marshes are being frozen solid ice, the fish, in search of deep water, take to the creek and keys, working down to the river proper, that is, all those that escape the meshes of Wiggins and McLean's nets. These men do such a thriving business in the winter that they ship about a car load of fish a day, as much as all the other fishermen on the Saginaw River.

It is only within about a half year that Michigan has had game wardens appointed, and a deputy for Saginaw County has been given this case to look after, and he has been trying hard to find out whether (Wiggins and McLean claim they own the marsh adjoining) anybody has a right to fish in the manner that is done every winter in this creek. The fish laws of Michigan do not allow net fishing in the tributaries of the Saginaw, the river proper being only specified in the laws beside the great lakes and bay, Detroit and St. Clair rivers.

These men claim that the creek is their undivided property and that they will fish as they please, and although the creek has some depth of water for a considerable distance, it is not used for navigation purposes, as there is not anything on it course or near it worth going after, and is used only duck hunters as a thoroughfare to the rice ponds at its source that are the homes of the wild duck; wild rice, weeds, “flags” and marsh grass consequently grow far out to the center of the creek along its entire length.

The method of fishing above mentioned has been followed in all the creeks along the river for years, and each case of this kind has been stopped and the fisherman punished by a fine. The outcome of the Boganixing case is watched with interest.

East Saginaw, MI, Sept. 20.

(Page 237)

Bay City, Mich., Sept. 25. -- A short time ago Mr. Verner and myself went to Long Lake, Alpena County, to fish for black bass, and had some very good fishing, for in two weeks we caught about 120 black bass and about 35 pickerel. The average weight of the bass about 3 ¼ lbs. and the pickerel 5 ¾ lbs. I may state that we did not catch the heaviest fish caught during our stay, as a 6 ¼ lb. bass and an 18-lb. pickerel were taken by an Alpena gentleman whose name I do not remember just now. We did not fish much early in the day, as our fishing was mostly done between 2 P.M. and 6 P.M.

Long Lake is located about eight miles northeast of Alpena, Mich., and is reached by the Mich. C. R. R. and the D., B. C. & A. R. R. There are good accommodations for anyone who wished to stay, and everybody will always be welcomed by old Charley Hall, who will look well after their welfare, and his wife Jane will see the inner man is well taken care of. It is a beautiful lake and well worth the while of any lover of fishing to spend a week or ten days there. They will always find what they go after – black fish.


1902 Article - Added July, 2009.

Recreation by George O. Shields, American Canoe Association, League of American Sportsmen, 1902


We have excellent yachting and fair fishing in the Saginaw river and its tributaries. A 20 mile run down takes us to the bay and if the weather permits we can take a limited run on it. Our favorite run is up the river. We have the Tittabawassee, Shiawassee, Cass, Flint and Bad rivers, all navigable for boats of 3 feet draft or less, and all tributary to the Saginaw. The Tittabawassee is shallow and swift, and from June until September affords a fine small mouth bass fishing, supplemented with an occasional 1 to 20 pound catfish. The others are clear and not so swift, surrounded by miles of marsh and woodland, furnishing fairly good trolling for big mouth bass and grass pike. From about September 1st to November 15th perch are caught in large numbers in both the Shiawassee and Saginaw rivers. It is a sight to behold during our perch run to see the docks and river fairly alive with men, women and children of all ages, sizes and colors, from every station in lfe, and with every conceivable kind of tackle out for a few hours' sport with the little toothsome fellows. I county 216 boats filled with anglers during a 6 mile run last September. Commercial fishing is prohibited in the tributaries, but in the Saginaw it commences November 15 and ends April 15. The annual catch is amazing. It consists of suckers, mullet, perch, rock bass, sunfish, wall-eyed and grass pike, bullheads and carp.

Commercial fishing has been the bone of contention between Saginaw county sportsmen and the market fisherman for several years. The latter have won out at every Legislation, except losing the tributaries 7 years ago; but the sportsmen have not lost all hope of abolishing net fishing entirely, as the Saginaw is only inland stream in Michigan in which it is allowed. duck marsh, and overrun land practically does away with spring shooting here, as no waterfowl get here before the season closes, April 10th, except a merganser ducks.

I thoroughly agree with Mr. W. L. Steward in February Recreation relative to the destruction of small fish by herons and kingfishers. I also add the merganser, or sawbill ducks. A friend killed a heron and found about 30 little grass pikes in his pouch, and I have seen half a pint of little fish come from a merganser duck's mouth after he was dead and hanging head down.

Lee Man, Saginaw, Mich.

Related References & Pages

{1877 Scalable MI Map}

Grayling Fishing

Related Links:
Black Bass Fishing
Grayling Fishing
People Referenced
Hall, Charlie
Hall, Jane Mrs.
Man, Lee
McLean, Mr.
Verner, Mr.
Steward, W.L.
Walton, Isaac
Wiggins, Mr.
Subjects Referenced

Bad River, MI
Bay City, MI
Boganixing Creek, MI
Cass River, MI
Crow Island (vil.), MI
Det., B.C., Alpena RR
East Saginaw, MI
Flint River, MI
Long Lake, MI
Michigan Central RR
Melbourne (vil.), MI
Saginaw, MI
Saginaw Bay, MI
Saginaw, Co., MI
Saginaw River, MI
Shiawassee River, MI
Tittabawassee River, MI
WRITINGS: History As It Was Written Then.