2015 Resolution #1: Go Ice Fishing

As many others did, I spent some time over the holidays thinking about this past year and what I want to do differently in the next. I like to apply my resolutions to more than just losing weight and cleaning my house. In that spirit, I will put some down in the next few weeks here in the blog related to fishing.
Recently my son expressed an interest in ice fishing. In over 20 years of being in Michigan, I have never engaged in this type of fishing. How can anybody call himself a Michigan angler and never have ice fished?
So on January 1 and 2, we respooled my father-in-law’s old rods, rigged a tip up, put everything in a sled, and walked down to Moon Lake. We chose it because it is close, easy to walk around on, and having fished it frequently, we know where the many drop offs are.
January 1 was cloudy and 25 F, with winds of 20 MPH gusting to around 30, causing a windchill of -10 to -20 F. The ice was around 6-8” thick. January 2 was partly sunny with some lake effect snow, minimal winds, and a temperature around 25 F.
Josh Jigging on the ice
Josh Jigging on the ice

If you know me, the cold doesn’t bother me anyway. I have done my share of steelheading, including in the heavy snow (see Aaron Rubel’s 23” brown story). But I will be honest, I am an active fisherman, so ice fishing with tip ups, even jigging, reminded me of why I got into fly fishing. It felt like bobber fishing with a night crawler, and to me, is about as much fun as watching paint dry. I would rather stand in a river in a blizzard swinging streamers.

My daughter and a friend sledding on the ice
My daughter and a friend sledding on the ice

We tried several different holes around the lake, and only had one tipup go, but the minnow at the end didn’t seem to have been touched. Other than that, no action. My daughter and her friend had a sled with them on the ice that they slid around with and had a great time. I even took a few slides.

Lessons:
1. Do more research to know where and how to fish through the ice.
2. Better yet, find somebody who really knows how to do it. Our neighbor caught a couple of rainbows on another lake the same day we were out, but even those surprised him.
3. Don’t forget the dipper. We made due with the auger blade protector the first day, and made sure to remember it the second.
We did enjoy our time together outside, so it was definitely not wasted. I need some help to understand the allure of the sport.
Any ice fishing tips for me?
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Jack Pine Planting in Grayling

Help conserve jack pine forest – the Kirtland warbler’s paradise – by planting trees May 3

 Looking for an opportunity to get outside and give back to Michigan’s natural resources? OnSaturday, May 3, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.volunteers will gather in Grayling to plant an acre of jack pine seedlings.

Kirtland's warblerThe jack pine forest provides the primary nesting habitat for the rarest member of the wood warbler family, the Kirtland’s warbler. Very restrictive habitat requirements result in nests in just a few counties in Michigan’s northern Lower and Upper peninsulas, in Wisconsin and the province of Ontario and, currently, nowhere else on Earth. Kirtland’s warblers are ground-nesters that prefer jack pine stands more than 80 acres in size, where the nest can be concealed in mixed vegetation of grasses and shrubs below the living branches of 5- to 20-year-old trees.

“Birding is a rapidly growing hobby and a growing market – in 2011 birders spent $41 billion on trip-related expenses in the United States,” said Abigail Ertel, Kirtland’s warbler coordinator for Huron Pinesciting a recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report. “The Kirtland’s warbler is one of the rarest songbirds in North America, and northern Michigan is the place to see this amazing species, which creates an opportunity for local communities and the state to benefit economically.”

Biologists, researchers and volunteers observed 2,004 singing males during the official 2013Kirtland’s warbler survey period; 2,063 males were observed in 2012. In 1974 and 1987, when the lowest survey numbers were recorded, only 167 singing males were found.

“Huron Pines is excited to be partnering with the DNR to organize the jack pine planting day,” said Ertel. “We have a strong history of working with the DNR to accomplish conservation projects, and this volunteer event is a great way to celebrate this work while providing an exciting, hands-on learning experience for everyone involved.”

To join in on the fun, please register to attend at www.huronpines.orgVolunteers will meet for this free event at 9 a.m. at Staley Lake Road in Grayling, just steps from the Au Sable River.

Volunteers should bring gloves and appropriate footwear and expect moderate physical activity. A reminder with location and event details will be emailed to participants before the event.

Water, coffee and snacks will be provided. There will be sack lunches and a free gift from Gates Au Sable Lodge. Tshirts and e-subscriptions to Michigan Out-of-Doors magazine also will be available, provided by Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC).

Additional support is provided by MUCC, Gates Au Sable Lodge, Fairmount Sand Mining Company and Saving Birds Thru Habitat.

For more information on the Kirtland’s warbler, visit www.michigan.gov/wildlife.

Contact: Dan Kennedy, 517-284-6194 or Huron Pines, 989-448-2293, ext. 21 orrsvp@huronpines.org

Michigan 2014 Fishing License

The trout opener is this weekend!

Have you bought your 2014 Michigan Fishing License? Your 2013 license was only good until March 31, 2014.

Many changes have occurred for the 2014 license year that began March 2014. You can read about them on the Michigan DNR website.

The biggest change for residents is the removal of the restricted fishing license. All licensing is now all-species, meaning you can fish for trout or salmon.

Another change I discovered is the removal of the voluntary youth fishing license. The cost was minimal – $2 plus a Michigan Sportsman license if they did not already have one. The great thing was that the state would receive around $8 back from the federal government for each of those licenses, so it was a great way to raise funds for the resource.

So head out to your favorite retailer or do it online. I like the online offer – I print 3 copies – 1 for my trout pack, 1 for my kayak pack, and 1 in case I lose one of the other two. Sign, laminate, and go.

Without a license, you can only fish June 7, 8 this summer for free!

See you on the water!

Michigan Fishing Season Dates 2014
Chart from Michigan DNR

Coosa Maiden Voyage

IMG_2347
Jackson Coosa hits the water

I finally got a chance to get the Jackson Coosa in the water! At least in the lower part of the state, the ice is gone (Lake Superior is still 63% iced). It was in the 70’s today and I couldn’t pass it up.

I grabbed a fly rod and headed over to Lake Sixteen, a local lake in Lake Orion. It is usually only used by kayaks, canoes, and rowboats – no gas motors.

My report: my kayak stroke is weak, my fly casting was abysmal, I didn’t find any fish, but I was glad for the opportunity to be on the water again.

Any good reports from anybody else?

Backyard Beauty

I just got to eat lunch on my back patio.

For those of you in Michigan, this isn’t a surprise. I kicked the last bit

2014-04-02 12.28.11
Backyard in the spring

of snow off yesterday, so it is clear (there is still snow in parts of the yard). But it’s blue skies and sunny.

The yellow finches mating plumage is coming out – and they are bright. Robins are bouncing around the ground. There was a blue jay on the corn I put out for the squirrels. Several other birds on the feeders singing about the warmth that has finally arrived.

Time to clean up the winter mess – leaves and branches. I need to put away the tables and chairs from the winter hibernation.

But for now, spring has sprung. Now if only the ice would leave the lakes…

Fishing, not Catching

Sometimes the fishing is hard. You use all your skills, favorite lures, hit the best holes, everything that has worked before, and you catch nothing.

Last summer was that way. I had a great spring trout fishing and early season bass was productive, but by mid-June, not much was being caught by anybody I knew. The weather had cooled down and the patterns were crazy.

The last week of June, we rented a pontoon boat with extended family, 9 people tooling about East Twin Lake in Lewiston. It was a beautiful day, albeit cool. We had spin rods and my fly rod, night-crawlers, jigs, poppers and Clouser minnow patterns. Beyond a couple of perch, nothing much was happening anywhere – not deep, shallow, docks, or shore cover.

Towards dinner time, we just let the boat drift and it headed into the shallows. I had seen some fish tailing up in the shallows, but not regularly. There was not much cover, algae, or a major drop off.

I saw one tail about 50′ off the bow. I started my false casts and let it drop – 10′ short. But from experience I have learned that you strip anyway – you never know what may hit. Two strips in and something hit.

21" Bass on East Twin LakeAs he flew out of the water on a jump, everybody in the boat sat up to watch. Fishing my 6 wt, I could not horse him in, which made for a fun fight. Lipped him to the deck so we could get this photo.

21″ of beauty on a slow day. I can’t complain about that.

And my wife’s comment? “Wow, you really do catch big fish!”

But even without that fish, I spent time with family relaxing on the water. Sometimes it really is more about the fishing than the actual catching.

* Green Sunfish Deceiver from Lost Angler http://www.lostangler.com/blog/?page_id=451

Volunteering Outside

If you are reading this, you have some interest in the outdoors. My question to you is “How are you improving your favorite area?”

Paint Creek Trail Access Point just down from Tienken. Jason C Davis Clinton Valley Trout Unlimited
Paint Creek Stair Project in February 2014

Here in Michigan, it has not been above freezing many days since Christmas. There is an 18″ snow base in my back yard. Paint Creek is completely frozen over. What good can I do outside beyond sledding, skiing, or snowmobiling?

While many scheduled winter projects have been rescheduled or cancelled this year, that has not stopped the planning.

Paint Creek Stairs
Stairs and streambank improvement on the Paint Creek

Last night my wife and I attended a Clinton River Watershed Council volunteer dinner for an ongoing project called the Clinton River Coldwater Conservation Project. Over the past 10 years volunteers have mapped out sections of the Paint Creek and Clinton River, assisting the DNR in their studies and promoting fishing and kayaking on the resources. It has also done stream restoration and access points for fishermen, kayaking, and trail enthusiasts. The presentations last night showed the work done in Rochester Park last year and highlighted the upcoming projects being planned.

This weekend is the Midwest Fly Fishing Expo here in southeastern Michigan. Along with all of the vendors, many conservation groups will be there promoting awareness of the various watersheds throughout Michigan.

I would encourage you to find a conservation group in your area and volunteer your time with them. Many of them have different types of fundraisers. Money is always welcome, but there is a joy in seeing something that your sweat helped clean up.

Here are some southeastern Michigan groups. Many of them are fishing related, but there are many trails and watershed councils throughout the state. If you cannot find something in your area, leave a comment below and I will help you out.

Clinton Valley Trout Unlimited
Vanguard Chapter Trout Unlimited
Challenge Chapter Trout Unlimited
Paul Young Chapter Trout Unlimited
Clinton River Watershed Council
Friends of the Paint Creek Trail
Michigan Steelheaders
International Federation of Fly Fishers

Anglers of the Au Sable
Michigan Trout Unlimited
Trout Unlimited