Fishing returns to Portage Creek

The soothing sound of Portage Creek whispering over the rocks will soon include the sounds of fishing lines whizzing through the air as anglers cast their bait. Residents will once again be able to fish in Milham Park and nearby Blanche Hull Park.

Here, the creek is relatively shallow and easily accessible through green spaces. For these reasons, it offers an opportunity for anglers of all ages. City of Kalamazoo Parks and Recreation Manager Patrick McVerry said this was one of the positive results of the restoration of the creek and the removal of the Milhan Park Dam in 2021.

“This question has come up, do you think fishing could happen again here?” said McVerry, who researched and worked with the city attorney and the Michigan Department of Resources to seek grants. “We all came to a resolution that we would like to try to overturn the ordinance to allow people to fish, not only from a conservation perspective but also to allow children who may not be exposed to the peach to have this opportunity.”

McVerry acknowledged that this year could be disappointing for anglers. He said they had seen some big carp under the bridges, but not much else.

“Because the creek had the dam in place for so long, the aquatic life and temperature of Portage Creek let the creek suffer a bit, so there was nothing that could really thrive,” McVerry said.

From the collection of the Kalamazoo Valley Museum.

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The Kalamazoo Valley Museum

Over the years there have been exceptions to the city’s ban on fishing at Milham Park, as shown in this 1960s postcard. There are also late 1950s newspaper articles about the results a monthly fishing contest for children.

But that will soon change. McVerry said the state plans to stock Portage Creek with trout next year, which should make for good fishing in the future, as long as you have a fishing license.

“Our hopes are that over the next two years, with the restoration of the creek and the removal of the dam, the temperature of the creek will drop, which would be excellent habitat for trout and then for other species as well.”

McVerry pointed to signs that wildlife along the creek has already started to thrive. The water is clearer and a large flock of geese have taken up residence in the creek, taking their time crossing the road from one side of the creek to the other.

Along with the fishing, McVerry said plans are underway to restore more of the creek and a new playground will be set up in Milham Park near the large picnic shelter.

“A brand new playground will be built there starting this fall, with a hope of completion by the end of October, beginning of November,” McVerry said. “All that old play equipment will actually be retired and we’ll have brand new, great play equipment that all the kids can use in the park.”

Milham Park is next to E. Kilgore Road and Lover’s Lane in Kalamazoo. Blanche Hull Park is adjacent to it. The Blanche Hull Park entrance and parking lot is on Burdick Street near E. Kilgore Road.

About Patricia Kilgore

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