01-19-2017 Outdoors

Fishing

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that anglers are ice fishing across the state.  However, those in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula will need to use extreme caution after the rain and warm temperatures.  Water levels on the rivers are on the rise after the snowmelt and rain.  Ice jams on the rivers could result in substantial fluctuations in water levels.  Anglers will need to use extreme caution.

Captain Kenney Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reports the Black River and Kalamazoo River are running too high for good fishing.  Most anglers are on the inland lakes as they are all in good shape and producing nice batches of pan fish and Pike.  Duck Lake, Lake Eleven and Van Auken have been very good.

Captain Kenney said it would depend on how long it rains this week and how warm it gets, but the ice should hold if it does not last long.  He said the ice is good hard ice, not the weaker snow ice.  Regardless, anglers need to use extreme caution when going out on the lakes.

Ellinee Bait & Tackle reported that the ice anglers have been busy.  The local lakes are producing Bluegills and Crappie and the Pike anglers have been doing very well.  Pike anglers are using shiners and suckers with success.  Pan fish anglers are using wax worms, minnows and jigs.  Also red spikes, white spikes, and blue spikes.  The tungsten jigs seem to work best for the anglers.

Grand River at Grand Rapids was under a flood watch in Robinson Township because there is an ice jam downstream.  Combined rain and snow melt may elevate the river behind the ice jam.  Anglers would need to use extreme caution in this area as well as downstream in case the ice jams give way.

Besides ice fishing, you might want to try your hand at spear fishing this winter.  The season opened December 1 for Northern Pike and Muskellunge on all waters except designated Trout lakes, designated Trout streams and other specific waters.  Many anglers will try their hand at this historical method of fishing until the season concludes on March 15.

Anglers who spear fish generally dangle decoys or large live baits (such as suckers) in the water to attract their target fish.  They utilize spears that typically have a substantial weight to them and have seven to nine tines on the end of a seven-foot handle.

Spear fishing is much different from general ice fishing as anglers cut larger holes in the ice and fish from tents or small shanties.  The shanty blocks the light, allowing anglers to see down into the water in order to spear the fish.  Other species are also allowed to be speared throughout the state – visit the Michigan Fishing Guide for a complete list of opportunities.

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center in Mattawan will offer a variety of opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors this winter.  Fly-Tying 101 will be offered on January 28 and February 11 at 11:00 a.m.  Learn the basics of tying flies with avid fly fisherman Mr. Mike in these two-hour sessions.  All practice materials will be provided, and class size is limited, so pre-registration is required.  This program is recommended for those 8-years of age and older.  For more information, contact the Wolf Lake State Hatchery Visitor Center at 269-668-2876.

Hunting

The featured managed waterfowl hunt area; Allegan State Game Area’s Fennville Farm unit will continue managed draws for goose hunting until the season ends on February 12.  Drawings occur at 5:30 a.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday.  Tuesday and Thursday drawings occur at 11:00 a.m.  If hunters miss a draw, they may take a leftover spot, if available.

The Fennville Farm Unit is a 4,100-acre paradise for Canada goose hunting.  Opportunities for snow, Ross’s, and cackling geese sometimes occur.  During the regular waterfowl season, hunters commonly take mallards, black ducks and other dabblers.  There are 119 hunting zones in the agricultural fields available through the drawing, as well as some fields available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To learn more about the Fennville Farm Unit, visit www.michigan.gov/wetlandwonders or contact the Allegan State Game Area office at 269-561-2258.

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center in Mattawan will offer some Snowshoe Walks on January 28 at 10:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m.; February 11 at 3:00 p.m.; and a Lantern-lit walk on February 11 at 6:00 p.m.  In these programs, lasting approximately 90 minutes, participants will learn how to use snowshoes and then take a walk to test their new skills, all while discovering the fascinating world of winter ecology.  Visitors may borrow snowshoes from the center or bring their own.

Programs are dependent upon snow conditions and are subject to cancellation.  Cancellation will be announced via Facebook at www.facebook.com/wolflakefriends and on the visitor center’s outgoing message at 269-668-2876.

Where do all the snakes go in the winter?  It’s a question we hear this time of year, when visitors see our resident snakes curled nicely under their heat lamps.

Ectothermic, or cold-blooded, snakes living in Michigan’s temperate climate have no choice but to find a place to cozy up and rough out the long winter season. All of Michigan’s species of snakes must hibernate, or in the reptile world – brumate.

Brumation is a more correct way of describing the winter dormancy of reptiles and most amphibians in Michigan, and differs slightly from hibernation in mammals.  From about October – April, snakes in Michigan will stay dormant either underground, in a previously dug burrow, or tucked in a rock crevice or cave.

Since snakes are cold-blooded, their metabolism depends on external heat, like the sun, a hot rock or the constant temperature found underground.  When it’s warm, their metabolism increases and conversely, when it is cold, it decreases. When a snake brumates its metabolism decreases greatly and it uses very little energy through the course of months.

In the springtime when the days are longer and the temperature is consistently warm, Michigan’s snakes will poke out of their winter resting spots and embrace the days ahead.

Learn about our area’s owls with pictures, live owls and hands-on activities including dissecting an owl pellet on Sunday, January 29 at 3:00 p.m. Please register at 269-927-4832; $4/adult, $2/child.

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