Hunting & Fishing

Michigan Walleye & Walleye Season

Walleye season opens today in Michigan (May 15 – March 15), so here’s a little bit about this tasty sport fish. The Michigan DNR page on walleye (Sander vitreus) explains that they are the largest member of the perch family:

Walleye Glory Days by UpNorth Memories
Walleye Glory Days by UpNorth Memories

They lack the distinctive vertical bar makings of the yellow perch and have fan-like canine teeth. These battling fish are exciting to catch, delicious to eat and because they feed actively all winter, they provide a fine year-round sport fishery.

…Walleyes are greedy predators. They eat small bass, trout, pike, perch and sunfishes. Prime feeding times are early morning and evening. Although in turbid waters walleyes are active throughout the day. Walleyes often associate with yellow perch, smallmouth bass, northern pike and muskellunge.

In April and May, walleyes spawn over rock shoals. Males mature at age two to four years, females at three to six years. The average walleye caught by anglers is three years old and weighs from one to three pounds. Northern pike and muskellunge prey heavily on walleyes, while yellow perch, smallmouth bass and lake whitefish compete with walleyes for food.

We found a nice list of the top 10 walleye lakes in Michigan. They say that experts believe Holloway Reservoir in Genessee County holds the most walleyes per surface acre of any lake in Michigan. One reason – something you can use when fishing for walleye – is that the movement of the water attracts baitfish which in turn attracts walleye.

If you’re in the Saginaw area this weekend, you can check out the Michigan Walleye Tour tourney on Saginaw Bay. There’s also the Marbleye Classic on the St. Clair River (May 18-20).

If you manage to land any of these tasty fish, you’ll want to cook them up. MyNorth.com has a great recipe for Roasted Lake Michigan Walleye with Fennel – a perfect way to appreciate the delicious flavor of walleye! In closing, here’s a video of fish at the Port Huron Water Intake that opens with a nice walleye!

Roundup: Opening Day of Michigan deer hunting season


Buck on the run by oakwood

Opening day of deer season probably ranks pretty high in the list of Michigan holidays. The Michigan DNR has all the details on deer hunting in Michigan, including a reminder that much public land is open to hunting – be aware!

Michigan saw just 650,000 hunters last season, but that number is expected to climb to about 700,000 for the November 15-30 firearm deer season. As in 2011, some of these will be 10 and 11 year-olds due to Michigan’s Hunter Heritage Act. The Michigan DNR is your best source for information and their MI-Hunt program allows you to locate public lands open to hunting.  There’s also a lot more info from the White-tail Deer Portal from the DNR and MSU.

The Battle Creek Enquirer says that while “up north” was the place to be in years past, that trend has slowly changed to the point where southern Michigan is seen to offer the best hunting and has produced the highest number of deer killed. They also say that:

This year, however, there is a wild card: Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease.

EHD is an often-fatal disease transmitted to deer by midges. Late this summer, an EHD outbreak was confirmed in Ionia County. It eventually spread throughout most of southern Michigan. In late October, the disease had been confirmed in 30 counties and accounted for a minimum of 12,000 dead deer – a number that accounts for only those deer reported to the DNR. The actual number of deer lost is anyone’s guess.

The DNR is asking for your help in reporting dead deer from EHD. One bright spot is that EHD does not affect humans, so edibility of the venison is not impacted by this disease.

An excellent, in-depth report from Bridge Magazine last year titled Deer have Michigan on the run is still relevant. It explains that:

The number of hunters in Michigan has been shrinking since the 1960s, according to state data. Hunting license sales have decreased 15 percent over the past 15 years, from 934,430 in 1995 to 786,880 last year.

The ranks of hunters are shrinking nationwide. But the effects of that trend are especially prevalent in Michigan, where deer dominate vast areas of the landscape, hunters are the primary method for keeping the herd in check and revenue from the sale of hunting licenses funds many of the state’s wildlife management programs.

Fewer hunters mean: Less money for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to manage wildlife; less money to maintain forests, marshes and other areas where birds and mammals reside; less money for conservation officers who keep poachers in check; and less money for small businesses that count hunters among their best customers.

It also means more deer – read on to learn about the impacts of our 1.7 million deer.

In another great article from last year, AnnArbor.com noted that Opening Day is Michigan’s other Black Friday, as deer hunters spend an average of $800 each, making deer hunting a half a billion dollar industry in Michigan. The Freep adds a feature on hunting gear that’s made in Michigan. If you are gearing up, be sure to look in on our Sporting Goods section.

Happy hunting!

Releasing a River: Boardman River Dam Removal Begins

Brown Bridge Dam by Happyhiker4
Brown Bridge Dam by Happyhiker4

The Boardman River watershed encompasses 291 square miles and flows 179 miles from its origin in Kalkaska County to West Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City.

Last Wednesday, the process of removing three no longer used hydro-electric dams from the Boardman began at Brown Bridge Dam. The removal of the three Boardman River dams (Brown Bridge, Sabin & Boarman) will be the largest dam removal project in Michigan’s history, and the largest wetlands restoration in the Great Lakes Basin. It will allow the Boardman to return to a more natural state as a free-flowing, cold-water river. The Boardman River website explains that:

The Boardman River played a vital role in the economic growth of the region as it was cleared of debris in order to drive logs downriver to the mills. This process fueled a growing city but was devastating to the river’s aquatic habitat, contributing to the extirpation of Michigan Grayling in the river. After the logging era, several dams were constructed to provide power for the growing needs of Traverse City. These hydroelectric dams originally supplied a large percentage of the city’s electrical needs, but this declined over time. Before being decommissioned in 2005, these dams only provided 3.4% of the power used by Traverse City Light & Power customers each year.

You can read all about the dam removal and also read the a Boardman River Prosperity Plan that will seek to turn a solid environmental decision into a sound economic one was well.

Also listen to a feature on IPR News Radio. We’ll take you out with a cool video about the dam removals produced for The Grand Vision Natural Resource Network by Miles Chisholm of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians. The video includes some great old photos of activity on the river.

Free Fishing Weekend – June 9 &10, 2012

Dreaming........... by smiles7
Dreaming……….. by smiles7

This weekend (June 9 & 10) is one of Michigan’s 2 annual Free Fishing Weekends (the other is in February). All fishing license fees are waived for the weekend so residents and out-of-state visitors can enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish (all fishing regulations will still apply). The DNR explains that:

People who fish tend to understand the natural aquatic network of plants and animals that help to sustain fish as well as the regulations that govern fishing in Michigan.

Research shows that young people today do not have access to fishing opportunities that were enjoyed by generations before them. Some of the reasons: living in urban or suburban areas where fishing access is not readily available, competition for time by an ever-increasing schedule of special activities, and too little time for unstructured leisure.

Michigan offers some of the finest freshwater fishing in the world, with more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, over 11,037 inland lakes and 36,350 miles of rivers and streams. Included are 12,000 miles of trout waters. If you’re wondering what to fish for, check out Michigan fish on Michigan in Pictures and many more fishing features & businesses on Absolute Michigan.

Weird Wednesday: Lota lota, Ling-cod, Lawyer fish

The last Wednesday of every month is a Weird Wednesday on Absolute Michigan. Today’s feature comes courtesy UPicefishing.com, their look at the frightening burbot. The great burbot photo is by diver & underwater photographer Christopher Morey and appears on today’s Michigan in Pictures!

Line stretches with the weight of a substantial fish. Visions of big lake trout accompany the rapid retrieval of monofilament.The fish nears the surface, where fading light reveals the vague silhouette of something big and dark. The scene unfolds like a low-budget horror film:the lone angler plunges his hand into icy water to grasp the trout by the gill plate, but, instead, pulls a long, eel-like thing from the dark hole one quickly surmised to be a conduit to the underworld. He tries to throw the serpentine creature to the ice, but the long-finned tail wraps swiftly around his arm. Face contorted with fear, he stumbles back, trying to shake loose the menacing monster.

Such a nightmare could continue with the wide-mouthed creature clamping down on the jugular and sucking life from our hapless angler, but, as anyone intimate with burbot virtues will attest, this is no nightmare. Hidden under the burbots rough exterior is delicious, firm, white flesh! . Beauty, however,is in the eye of the beholder. I wouldn’t want to find one in my bed, but its handsome, barbel-adorned mouth, deeply mottled brownhide, and eel-like tail, with full fin running down back and belly, make it a unique, exquisite fish. All it takes is a big mouthful of ling meat to turn what might be perceived as ugly and undesirable into a delicacy.

Tonkin Cane: Rod-Builder Robert W. Summers

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 1996. R.W. Summers is still making and selling rods from the shore of the Boardman River outside of Traverse City. The chance to talk with a master of his craft in his home and workshop made this interview a highlight of my writing career. Thanks to the Grand Traverse Conservation District for the photo of one of the amazing rods Bob has donated every year for 15 years. 

He will be the special at the 1st annual Kingsley Adams Fly Festival this Saturday (June 2) at the Kingsley Area District Library. It runs from noon – 5 Pm and also includes fly tying demos, food, music and even one of the original Adams flies on display!

George Griffiths (left) and Bob Summers floating Michigan's Au Sable River (courtesy rwsummers.com)

Bob Summers waved me in to his home right on the Boardman River, just south of Traverse City. He was on the phone with a customer who was apparently wondering if a certain old rod would be a good investment. “Well,” said Bob, “It might be a steal, I mean there’s chairs and tables that have sold for a quarter of a million dollars.”

His implication was clear. While no one can predict the vagaries of any market, no one ever caught a fish with a Louis XIV chair!

Robert W. Summers has been making split-cane bamboo rods since he was 16 years old. He started with the Paul H. Young Company in 1956 as an afterschool job. Under Paul Young, one of the all-time great makers of cane rods, he learned the intricacies of an ages old craft. After 18 years and moving from the Detroit area to Traverse City with the company, Bob decided to strike off on his own. While he admits that his own path has been none too easy, he has no regrets and has reached the point where a cane rod from the R.W. Summers Company is among the finest in the world.

We went out to his shop, a building adjacent to the house which, like the house, Bob built. The shop is rather large, but nearly every available inch filled with machines and cane rods in various stages of completion, making it seem smaller than it really is. Once in the door, Bob began to show his treasures: a lathe which he completely rebuilt, a bandsaw which, he admitted, “Is probably more tool than I can really justify for what I do with it,” and a whole lot of rod.

Great Lakes ice coverage down 71% in past 40 years

March 2012 Ice on the Great Lakes (NOAA)
March 2012 Ice on the Great Lakes (NOAA)

In Continued ice loss on the Great Lakes may cause widespread change in ecosystems at the Great Lakes Echo, Jennifer Kalish writes that a lack of winter ice is increasing evaporation which can harm our economy by affecting shipping and can also pose big problems for species like whitefish that rely on ice cover for spawning. A new study by Research Ice Climatologist Jia Wang has found that Great Lakes ice coverage has decreased by 71% in the past 40 years. Lake Ontario is tops with a reduction of 88% since 1973 with Superior not far behind at 79%.

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration research ecologist Henry Vanderploeg explains that while it’s clear there are impacts, a lack of research on the topic leaves a lot of unknowns. Our very mild winter raises the level of concern:

“We’ve never seen water this warm this soon, ever,” said Vanderploeg. “We’re into a new temperature area that we’ve never seen before. We don’t know whether the fish will benefit from it or not.”

Less ice allows the water to warm earlier, speeding growth of invasive species like zebra mussels and quagga mussels. Mussels are sensitive to temperature changes. Just a few degrees change in temperature can cause them to eat phytoplankton twice as fast, Vanderploeg said.

And phytoplankton are the foundation of the food web, producing energy for many Great Lakes species.

The earlier mussels feed on phytoplankton, the quicker the rest of the food web will be robbed of their fair share, he said.

Read on for more, and also watch this great video from NOAA about how our changing climate can impact the Great Lakes.

Building reefs for sturgeon in the St. Clair River

Sturgeon, and mustaches, used to be more common in the Great Lakes region. Photo: Brian Bienkowski (of a Michigan Sea Grant archive photo)

In New St. Clair River reefs to spur sturgeon spawning on the Great Lakes Echo, Brian Bienkowski writes:

Michigan organizations and agencies are building nine rock reefs in the Middle Channel of the St. Clair River to bolster native fish spawning and restore habitat. The Middle Channel of the river connecting Lake Huron to Lake St. Clair supports one of the largest remaining populations of sturgeon in the Great Lakes.

Led by Michigan Sea Grant, the team will finish the nine reefs this week. Each will be about 40 feet wide, 120 feet long and 2 feet high. Made of angled limestone and rounded fieldstone, the reefs are an effort to return the river to a spawning hotspot – just like in the good ol’ days.

“This gives us a chance to bring back the sturgeon numbers … without stocking,” said Mike Thomas, lake sturgeon coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which is a project partner.

About a century ago, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River – which is between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie – were straightened, widened and deepened for shipping. This harmed the places where fish spawn, as limestone and other rocks were displaced and damaged.

Read on for much more about this project, check out the history of Lake Sturgeon in Michigan on Absolute Michigan and watch a brief video with the DNR’s Mike Thomas below.

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    Making A Splash — 2nd Annual Benzie County Water Festival Promises Family Fun

Making A Splash — 2nd Annual Benzie County Water Festival Promises Family Fun

by Aubrey Ann Parker

Springtime at the Betsie River by forestlady
Springtime at the Betsie River by forestlady

Did you know that the average American uses 150 gallons of water per day, with 60 percent being used outside to water our lawns and wash our cars? The entire United States withdraws about 350 billion gallons of fresh water every day — which is about how much water runs over Niagara Falls for 23 days straight — and about 80 percent of that is used for agriculture to grow our food and by industry to cool the electricity-generating power plants that keep our lights on. So, whether you are watering your lawn or buying groceries or leaving your lights on, most of the decisions you make every day ultimately relate back to water.

Last year’s Benzie County Water Festival — a family-oriented celebration and education event — attracted more than 300 attendees, and this year’s festival seeks to follow last year’s example. On Saturday, April 14, 2012 the Water Festival will again feature world-class Michigan musicians, panel discussions, speeches from water luminaries, interactive multimedia projects and presentations, artisan foods and beverages, visual art, children’s activities, as well as connections to local campaigns and projects, all at the Frankfort-Elberta High School. (click for schedule)

History of the Lake Sturgeon in Michigan

Black Lake Sturgeon by UpNorth Memories
Black Lake Sturgeon by UpNorth Memories

Laura Bein’s In the Archives column for The Ann Arbor Chronicle appears around the end of every month. Her latest installment is From Cordwood to Caviar. It tracks the lake sturgeon in Michigan from the beginning on known history when they were abundant to their present endangered status and begins:

Twenty thousand dinosaurs live in the river system bordering Detroit. They’re rugged descendants of the few who survived one of Michigan’s worst ecological disasters, against which one University of Michigan professor battled – in vain. His efforts were crushed by Michigan’s short-lived yet feverish caviar industry.