Brenke Ladder brings fishermen to Old Town

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Whether it’s to head down to the river to relax and watch the water flow over the dam or to try and catch a meal, the Grand River and the Brenke Fish Ladder have become a communal place for people of all backgrounds to appreciate what nature and Old Town have to offer.

“I come down to the fish ladder almost five days a week,” said Kurt Scobie, a fisherman from Everett, Michigan. “I love being by the water, it’s peaceful, calms me down and allows me to catch some dinner.”

The Brenke Fish Ladder was built in 1981 as a way to aid fish who were swimming upstream to spawn. Designed as a circle, the fish jump over barriers that slowly get taller and taller until they are safely above the dam and can continue up the river.

“I fish here all the time,” said Azid Rodriguez, a Dewitt local who was fishing for catfish. “I come here for the dam. That’s where all the fish are.”

A view of the Grand River, taken from inside the Brenke Fish Ladder.


The dam and the fish ladder act as an obstacle for the fish, causing them to slow down and congregate. This mass of fish becomes an optimal location for hopeful fishermen trying to catch catfish, trout, smallmouth bass, and even salmon.

The fish ladder doesn’t just attract people from outside of Lansing. Old Town resident Tyler McMillan grew up with his grandfather taking him to the ladder where he was introduced to the world of fishing.

“This is the first time I’ve brought my friends here, we used to always catch some nice sized suckers,” McMillan said. “It’s got good fishing, and a lot of memories.”

McMillan said that the more people come to fish at Old Town, the better.

“They come here to fish, they get hungry and go to our restaurants,” he said. “Passing stores, they see something cool in the window and go buy something. It’s all connected.”

Fishing at the fish ladder comes with a few restrictions. Since it was created to help fish navigate the river safely, there is absolutely no fishing allowed within the ladder itself. Anything around it, however, is fair game. There is also a strong current surrounding the ladder so swimming is prohibited.

A warning sign posted at the entrance of the Brenke Fish Ladder.


For more information on the Brenke Fish Ladder, click here.

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