02-16-2017 Outdoors

Fishing

 The Department of Natural Resources fishing report for this week, reported at the end of last week ice fishing was going strong to the north but those fishing the southern areas of the state would need to use extreme caution, especially with the ever-changing temperatures and rain.

In the Southwest Lower Peninsula small shallow lakes and shallows or protected bays were providing some ice fishing opportunities, however large lakes or lakes with any flow were not safe.  Most lakes in the area opened up after the last warm up and were not considered safe.  Closer to Lansing, anglers were fishing a few lakes however ice conditions are variable.  Anglers should use extreme caution.  Flow in the rivers is above average and will continue to climb for the next few days.

Captain Kenny Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reported that no ice is safe that may be left inland.  He said there had been a short freeze-up after the last thaw, but fishing on local lakes such as Swan and Duck Lakes was slow.  Fish could be located, but would not bite.

River fishing has been doing real well for those targeting Steelhead.  The Saint Joseph River, Kalamazoo River and Black River are running high and make it a little difficult to fish, but the bite is excellent.

Ellinee Bait & Tackle by Paw Paw Lake reported a three day stretch of ice over last weekend that had many anglers out, but the safe ice was gone by the first of this week. The Paw Paw River is running high, but Steelhead is being taken.  Anglers on the Saint Joseph River and by the dam have been doing well with catches of Walleye.  Some anglers are even trying for Catfish now.

The 2017 Black Lake Sturgeon season in Cheboygan County was a quick one, lasting just over an hour.  The DNR announced the results of this year’s season, with the recreational harvest limit of seven fish being attained, along with the additional harvest of one fish.  332 registered anglers were on the ice; this is up from last year of 261.

The fishing season, which includes spearing and hook-and-line fishing, was scheduled for Saturday, February 4 through Wednesday, February 8, or until the harvest quota had been reached.  Six of the eight fish had some sort of identifiable tag from previous years, providing the DNR with valuable information regarding spawning regularity and fish growth.

According to the DNR, six female and two male Lake Sturgeon were harvested.  The females ranged in length from 55 inches to 67 inches and 33 pounds to 79 pounds.  The two males were 46 inches and 59 inches and weighed 14 to 42 pounds, respectively.  For more information on Lake Sturgeon in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/sturgeon.

Space is still available for the DNR’s Hard Water School ice fishing class in Cadillac on February 25.  Registration is also open for upcoming Steelhead, Walleye and Bass fishing clinics.  For more information, contact Ed Shaw at 231-779-1312 or shawe@michigan.gov.

Hunting

 The 2016 elk hunting season was a success.  The late or December hunt, was completed and the preliminary hunting results are in.  A total of 100 state licenses were available, 30 any-elk and 70 antlerless-only licenses.  The December hunt had a 92-percent success rate for state hunters.  During the nine-day hunt, running December 10-18, 54 cows, 29 bulls and nine calves were harvested.

The earlier elk hunt period, which ran from late August to early October for 12 days, also had great hunter success, with 85-percent of state hunters able to harvest an elk.  Elk population estimates are derived from aerial elk surveys, which in recent survey years showed population estimates exceeding the stated elk management plan goals of 500 to 900 elk.  As a result, the 2016 elk license quotas were increased from the prior hunting season.

To learn more about elk, and for locations with the best chances for viewing elk in northern Michigan in the summer or fall, visit www.michigan.gov/elk.

The youth hunt carries the tradition forward, preserving the hunting legacy; most of all kids have fun.  One fine example of seeing this process in action was a recent youth hunt at the Flat River State Game Area, which encompasses over 11,000 acres in Ionia and Montcalm counties.

The annual January youth hunting event started out five years ago as a rabbit hunt, but it has morphed into a small game hunt that proved to be significant this year.  The weather factors had rabbit hunters battling long odds, with no snow to see the rabbits in the undergrowth.  While squirrel hunters had it easier, with the bare trees, and conducted business as usual.

The hunt, which drew nearly 50 youngsters, is sponsored in part by several area sportsmen’s clubs and the DNR.  For more information on hunting, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/hunting.

The DNR announced the February schedule of volunteer stewardship workdays at state parks and recreation areas in Southwest Michigan: Saturday, February 18, Grand Mere State Park in Berrien County; and Saturday, February 25.  Both are from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

Workday details, maps and directions can be found on the DNR website www.michigan.gov/dnrvolunteers by clicking on the Calendar of Volunteer Stewardship Workdays.

When painted turtles emerge from hibernation, they have one thing on their mind… and it is not food.

Males swim after the larger females. He then positions himself in front of a potential mate. He strokes her face and neck with his long claws to signal his intentions. A non-receptive female will swim away.

A receptive female will respond by stroking the male’s front legs. Encouraged, the male will swim a short distance away (probably with a “come hither” look) and the female will follow. This courtship “dance” will be repeated a few times before the female sinks to the bottom where the pair will consummate their relationship.

The early spring weather is not very conducive to egg incubation so the female holds onto the sperm until early summer… a much better time to deposit fertilized eggs in a soil nest hole.

Learn about bluebirds then build a house for them on February 18 at 1:00 p.m. Fee for presentation only is $6 for adults, $1 for children 12 and under. House construction workshop is additional $20 per house. Pre-registration is required for building workshop (limited to 8 participants).

Nelson the Animal Guy (from Wildlife Safari) will be at Sarett on February 19 at 2:00 and 3:30 p.m. Fee is $6 for adults, $2 for children 12 and under.

Please call 269-927-4832 to register for all programs.

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