Kayak Fisherman’s Paradise – The Sylvania Wilderness

Kayak Fisherman’s Paradise – The Sylvania Wilderness

By: Nathen Barto

The locations a kayak fisherman has access today are endless from the smallest creeks and ponds to the open ocean. One of the most beautiful and serene places I’ve kayaked is the Sylvania Wilderness located in the Ottawa National Forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

My daughter and I recently visited the Sylvania Wilderness for 3 days of camping, kayaking and fishing. I would suggest going later in the season, maybe august or September, when the mosquitos aren’t quite as plentiful. The last time I came here was in July of 2015 and the mosquitos were nowhere near as bad as they were this round. After talking with some locals, we’ve decided late August or early September for our trips here on out.

The Sylvania Wilderness is 18,327 acres and consists of old growth Red and White Pine forest and 34 named natural lakes. There are only 50 designated campsites throughout the Wilderness and most can only be reached by canoe/kayak or a very long hike. Camping is allowed by permit only ($10 per night) and they can be obtained on a first come – first served basis at the ranger station or by reservation at recreation.gov.

This year we camped at a site named Chipmunk on Crooked Lake. Our paddle was about 2.6 miles from the put-in on the north end of the lake to our campsite. We carried everything we’d need for the trip on, or in, our kayaks including a cooler with drinks and food.  We hammock camp and there were no shortage of trees on our site to hang from. Fires can only be made in the designated fire pit at each site and only fallen sticks, limbs and trees can be used for firewood.  



We only fished Crooked Lake this year. We caught Large and Smallmouth Bass, Crappie, Bluegill and perch. There are also Walleye and Northern Pike in this lake but we connect with any of those toothy critters.  In years past we fished Mountain Lake, which is only a short portage from Crooked. It contains only Largemouth and Smallmouth bass, and bluegill. It is catch and immediately release on all bass. In all the lakes but Crooked Lake, you are required to use only scentless artificial lures and hooks need to be barbless or the barbs crimped down on only the lures you are fishing at the moment. (You are required to crimp barbs on lures you don’t have tied on.) We didn’t make it to Mountain this year due to wind and weather. The last time we fished it we caught bass over 3 pounds on about every other cast during prime feeding time with quite a few in the 5-6 pound range.

As far as kayak fishing trips go, this is probably the least expensive place you can get to in the Midwest that can honestly give you that secluded and primitive Boundary Waters feel.

It’s not possible to convey all the information I feel the need to share in 500 words or less. There will be a Part 2 next month (and possible a part 3) where I’ll go into greater detail about the preparations and planning, equipment used, fishing techniques and wildlife.