01-23-2020 Outdoors

Fishing The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that the ice is becoming more stable, especially in the northern half of the Lower Peninsula. The southern regions still have open water and steelhead rivers are quite high. Very few anglers were out fishing. In the southwest Lower Peninsula, pretty much all the rivers were running high and muddy in this region. There may be some skim ice, but no safe ice, so anglers will have to wait a few more weeks. Open-water anglers were out, but catch rates were slow. The Ellinee Bait & Tackle shop on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reports that our area is only open water fishing right now. Many anglers that had put up their boats in anticipation of ice fishing have put them back in the water. No ice in the area, perhaps some skim ice, but nothing you would want to bet your life on. Anglers fishing the open water have found the bite very slow. Grand Haven anglers fishing off Smith Bridge near Spring Lake were getting a few perch on minnows. On the Grand River at Grand Rapids they continue to have higher water levels that hamper fishing efforts. The Rogue River has the occasional steelhead found in the lower river. Muskegon Lake had no ice. A few boat anglers were out; however, water clarity was still low and catch rates were slow. The DNR fishing tip of the week is an alternative to lead jigs that may be used in the winter. Tungsten jigs can be an excellent alternative, and they are heavier and denser than lead options. Although they often are smaller than their lead counterparts, they can produce similar sensations while fishing with them. The next time anglers head to their favorite tackle shop they should consider picking up some tungsten jigs to add to their inventory. When is ice safe? The DNR says no ice is considered safe. There is no reliable “inch-thickness” to determine if ice is safe. Safety is an individual’s responsibility! Ice thickness and quality can be tested using a spud, needle bar or auger. The strongest ice is clear with a bluish tint. The weakest ice is ice that has formed by melted and refrozen snow and appears milky. For those new to ice fishing here are some tools they can use to help keep safe. A spud is a long shank with a chisel-like end that’s used to chip a hole in the ice. Use this when the ice isn’t too thick. An auger is a corkscrew-like device with a cutting blade that operates like a hand drill to make a hole in the ice. Be sure to add a life jacket, ice picks/claws, and a two-way communication device that receives signal to safety equipment. Ice covered by snow should always be considered unsafe. Snow acts like an insulation blanket and slows the freezing process. Ice under snow is thin and weak and a recent snowfall can melt existing ice. Other cautions everyone should consider: Stay off ice with slush on top. Slush ice is only half as strong as clear ice and indicates the ice is not freezing from the bottom. A sudden cold front with low temperatures can create cracks within a half-day. Ice weakens with age. If there is ice on the lake but water around the shoreline, be extra cautious. The stronger the current on the lake, the more likely the ice will give to open water. And avoid area of ice with protruding debris like logs or brush. Everyone should be aware if they do break through the ice, REMAIN CALM. Do not remove winter clothing as the clothes won’t drag you down, but instead provide warmth. Turn in the water toward the direction you came from, this is most likely the strongest ice. If you have ice picks, dig the points of the picks into the ice while vigorously kicking your feet to pull yourself onto the surface by sliding forward on the ice. Roll away from the area of weak ice. By rolling you distribute your weight on the ice to help avoid breaking through again. Get to shelter and remove your wet clothing, redressing in warm, dry clothing and consume warm, non-alcoholic, non-caffeinated beverages as soon as you can. Be sure to call 911 and seek medical attention if you feel disoriented, have uncontrollable shivering or have any other ill effects that may be symptoms of hypothermia, which is a life-threatening condition. Hunting Hunters are reminded that they have from now through February 1 to get their 2020 Michigan Spring Turkey Application. Big changes to spring turkey licenses mean’s that hunters have more time to harvest their birds this year! Spring turkey hunting in southern Michigan is exceptional. With a good number of turkeys living on DNR-managed public lands, the opportunity for hunters to bag a bird has never been better. Hunters may apply for one limited-quota license for a specific hunt unit and date. Applicants selected in the drawing may then purchase a license. After the drawing, any leftover licenses will be sold until quotas are met. Applications for spring turkey are on sale now through February 1. Drawing results will be available March 16 and hunting season starts April 18. New this year – turkey hunters in Unit ZZ have a full six weeks to hunt and hunters in many other hunt units have two weeks to hunt rather than one. Please see pages 10-12 of the 2020 Spring Turkey Hunting Digest for hunt unit information and dates. For more information, go to the DNR Spring Turkey hunting page. The Safari Club International Michigan Involvement Committee is concerned by numerous recent reports of elk being poached in Michigan’s northern Lower Peninsula. As a result, the committee is offering a $1,000 reward to anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of an individual or individuals illegally killing elk in Michigan. In the past, the organization has offered a similar $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone illegally killing moose in Michigan, and this offer stands to date. To report information on the illegal killing of elk or moose in Michigan, please call or text the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800.