Roscommon County: Year-round Family Fun and Fishing

Roscommon County is a dream-family-vacation destination for every month. Many readers have heard tales of the Tip-Up Festival in January, the 10-day festival that draws thousands, canoe liveries on the Au Sable and Muskegon rivers for canoeing or kayaking and tubing trips and the many groomed trails, including the Mason Tract through the Au Sable State Forest and even more adventures.

Here, you will also find great fishing on all three of the county’s lakes: Houghton, Higgins and Lake St. Helen. Species abound including lake trout, perch, crappies, smallmouths and largemouths, pike, brown trout, rainbow trout, walleyes, bluegills and more.

Houghton Lake is Michigan’s largest inland lake, covering 22,000 acres where you’ll find walleyes, pike, bass and bluegills with seven access sites strategically located. Higgins Lake is designated as the “sixth most beautiful inland lake in the world,” and at 10,185 acres, this lake features easy access as well as two gorgeous state parks.

Anglers have their favorites that they use on Houghton.

“The PK Spoons were developed for trolling or jigging and are deadly on trout,” said Pat O’Grady, who has spent countless hours studying wounded baitfish and years creating a spoon. “The flutter spoon can be trolled at speeds under a mile or even at 3 mph. The spoons have lots of flash and vibration and mimic a wounded baitfish.”

You can high-line the spoons on small inland lakes too, run them with downriggers or use a tadpole or snap weights.

The Houghton Lake area boasts a dozen great golf courses for you and your family to enjoy along with many other attractions and events.

Kurt Beachnau works with the tourist chamber and owns Lyman’s on Houghton Lake.

“I like to tell people our goal for the business is to be the “Cheers” of bait shops,” Beachnau says, “where ‘everyone knows your name’ and you look forward to coming in to listen to the stories and banter, have a good laugh and lie about the size of the fish caught and on the monster that got away.”

For fishing, Beachnau says they sell more leeches than anything.

“Some anglers use a slip float with a hook or teardrop and a leech. I like the Skandia or Sitka teardrops the best. The slip float is perfect when fishing with kids or used as a second rod.”

Other anglers like using the “leech rig,” a mini-spinner rig with one hook that’s designed for the bluegill anglers on Houghton.

Lake St. Helen is located just off Interstate 75 and covers 2,390 acres. Anglers will find fish in the 8- to 9-inch range. The crappie population in St. Helen is growing while largemouths, northern pike and walleyes are present. This man-made lake is extremely popular with boaters as well.

St. Helen enthusiastically welcomes ATV/ORV riders on its trails. Behind the trailhead on Airport Road is a DNR rock/pipe climb for full-size vehicles too with well-maintained trails.

More than 200 miles of snowmobile trails are groomed in the county too, and the only restriction is not to take the sleds on M-roads. Otherwise, it is permissible to ride on the shoulders. The Roscommon trails link to Michigan’s 6,000 miles of trails.

Cross-Country Ski Headquarters is a charming Nordic Skiing/Snowshoeing center, which includes 18 km of trails in winter, has facilities for night skiing and a cozy lodge with food and hot beverages. The store here sells and rents of cross-country and snowshoe equipment, clothing and accessories. They welcome local skiers as well as national and international skiers and snowshoers of all levels.

The crappie action starts to heat up once the ice comes of off these lakes. There are miles upon miles of man-made canals and channels and the warmer water draws in this species. All three Roscommon Lakes have tagged fish, with up to 200 released fish between these waters. The county has many prizes they award to anglers who bring in a tagged fish.

Roscommon County also has the Blue Water Trail currently being developed on Houghton Lake, and across from Higgins Lake South State Park is an electric-motor only Marl Lake that the Cut River runs through. The Cut flows into Houghton Lake, and you can reach Lake Michigan via Muskegon River.

There are also countless fine restaurants and shopping, family attractions like go-carts, movie theaters and miniature golf in the area. Plus, you are just a short drive away from “Elk country.” Taking a ride through the area with an elk population can be fun and relaxing for all. Hunters can enjoy the waterfowl roaming the vast swamps or they can look for deer and snowshoe hares.