02-02-2017 Outdoors

Fishing

Ice conditions in the southern portions of the Lower Peninsula were not good, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported.  Even with much colder air moving into the state this past weekend, it will still take a good week or so to shore the ice back up.  Anglers continue to ice fish in the Upper Peninsula.

The DNR fishing tip of the week is how to find panfish through the ice.  If you have been attempting to target panfish during your ice fishing trips this winter, but are not having much luck, here are a few things to consider.

Are the panfish sticking to shallow or deep depths?  Are they hanging out in the weeds or on the rocks?  Are they suspended or are they hugging the bottom?  Panfish are likely to be in deeper water to find more oxygen.  Keep that in mind when you look for them.

Also keep your presentation efforts in mind.  A popular tactic includes putting a jig on the bottom and using a twitch-pause-twitch routine with it to attract the fish.  For more information on winter fishing in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

Captain Kenny Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reports there is no good ice to fish from in the area.  He reported most anglers have returned to river fishing for now and have been doing very well on Steelheads in the Black River, Kalamazoo River and St. Joseph River.

Ellinee Bait & Tackle by Paw Paw Lake in Coloma reports, no safe ice in the area.  They are hoping for the colder temperatures this week to make some early ice in the channels.  They reported an angler and his daughter were going out to fish in his boat.  That may be the only way now.

The DNR reported that Southwest Lower Peninsula overall has limited ice in the area, but it is not safe.  Many have moved back to river fishing until the lakes freeze back up.  Those fishing near the dams in the St. Joseph River have caught a fair to good number of Walleye and the occasional Steelhead.

Dowagiac River was also producing a good number of Walleye.  Steelhead fishing was much slower.  The Kalamazoo River had elevated water levels which made fishing more difficult.

Grab a fishing rod and enjoy some of the finest fishing Michigan has to offer during the 2017 Winter Free Fishing Weekend, set for Saturday and Sunday, February 18-19.  On those two days, everyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

During the free fishing weekend the DNR will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee that grants vehicle access to Michigan’s 103 state parks and recreation areas.  Several of these locations will host official 2017 Winter Free Fishing Weekend events for the whole family.

A full list of these events can be found online at www.michigan.gov/freefishing.

Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center in Mattawan will offer a Wild About Winter Activity Day on February 18 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  They will offer ice fishing programs at 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Included in the activity day, The Audubon Society of Kalamazoo will lead a winter bird walk where participants will discover the many birds that stay in Michigan throughout the winter season.  Part of the Great Backyard Bird Count, this program will last approximately 90 minutes and begins at 10 a.m.

Wolf Lake will also offer hatchery tours at 10 a.m., noon and 2 p.m.  For more information contact the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery Visitor Center at 269-668-2876.

Hunting

 The DNR and Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) recently announced the finding of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in a Mecosta County deer farm facility.

There are two upcoming opportunities for interested landowners, hunters and deer farmers to get the latest information and ask questions about this finding.  The first meeting is: For deer farmers – Wednesday, February 1.  MDARD will hold a meeting at 7:00 p.m. at the Big Rapids Holiday Inn, 1005 Perry Ave., Big Rapids. The second meeting is: For Hunters and Area Landowners – Wednesday, February 22. The DNR will host a town hall meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Morley Stanwood High School Cafeteria, 4700 Northland Drive, Morley.

At the February 22 meeting a presentation will be given by DNR biologist Pete Kailing, DNR deer management specialist Chad Steward and DNR veterinarian Kelly Straka;  presenting information on CWD, its effects on deer an