Fishing The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that ice conditions in the southwest Lower Peninsula were marginal, as most lakes still had unsafe ice because of temperatures and recent snowfall. Anglers are still venturing out, but extreme caution needs to be used. Stay away from the deeper lakes that take longer to freeze. Bluegill and crappie have been caught when using small glow jigs tipped with spikes or wax worms. In New Buffalo, there was good coho action for boat and pier anglers. By St. Joseph, coho action continues to be good. Most anglers are using spawn bags on the bottom between the piers, or trolling small spoons and plugs around the piers and along the beach. St. Joseph River anglers have caught steelhead. Walleye were caught near Berrien Springs and downriver. Pier anglers at Holland have caught a few lake trout. Anglers on the Grand River near Grand Rapids could still find steelhead up near the dam when using spawn, wax worms and beads. Very cold air by the end of last week slowed the bite once again. For walleye, try fishing off the wall or Fulton Street. The Muskegon River continues to produce some nice steelhead, including some fresh fish. There was open water on Croton Pond. On the Little Muskegon River, some good-size pike were taken from Morley Pond. Ellinee Bait and Tackle on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reported some nice ice on local channels and some of the shallower lakes had pretty good ice. Anglers were out fishing; getting some nice crappie and bluegills. Anglers were also targeting pike. Caution should still be taken seriously on the ice and anglers should use a spud to find safe passage to their fishing spot. For anglers liking to step up their ice fishing game with pointers from the pros, the DNR Outdoor Skills Academy will offer the Advanced Hard Water School ice fishing clinic at Mitchell State Park in Cadillac, February 21-23. This three-day class will cover specific topics – each student will pick a topic of interest and will be assigned a pro fisherman. The classes will include time out on the ice and in the classroom. Cost is $75, which includes some meals, bait, door prizes and goody bags. March 7-8, the DNR Outdoor Skills Academy will hold a two-day Hard Water School (ice fishing class) at Mitchell State Park in Cadillac. The two-day class costs $25 and covers everything from how to set up equipment and how and where to fish to ice safety and rules and regulations, with a focus on techniques for panfish, walleye and pike. The Outdoor Skills Academy offers in-depth, expert instruction, gear and hands-on learning for a range of outdoor activities at locations around the state. See a full calendar of classes at Michigan.gov/OutdoorSkills. With more anglers getting out on the water, the DNR reminds anglers about the legal ways to handle bait that protect our world-class fisheries. Last March, new boating fishing laws regarding the release of baitfish, the collection and use of baitfish and cut bait, and the release of captured fish took effect. Simply put, the law says that unused baitfish, whether purchased or collected, must be disposed of on land or in the trash – NEVER in the water. If anglers collect baitfish from the waters where they’re fishing, it can be used only in those same waters. Similarly, anyone catching and releasing fish is required to release those fish back into the same waters where they were caught. For more information, visit the Laws section of the Michigan.gov/Invasives website or contact Seth Herbst at 517-284-5841. The DNR is seeking applicants for volunteer harbor hosts. As part of a pilot project they are seeking volunteer harbor hosts for Straits and Presque Isle State harbors this summer. In exchange for service, harbor slip fees are waived. Applications are being accepted now. For more information, go to the DNR on line and check into Harbor Hosts.
Hunting Beginning March 1, residents will pay $12 for the Recreation Passport. This represents the first increase in seven years. The nonresident Recreation Passport fee will also increase, to $34. All other Passport fees stay the same, including those for motorcycles, mopeds and commercial vehicles. The Recreation Passport sales offer 26% of the state park funding. The DNR Outdoor Skills Academy will offer a Spring Turkey Hunting Clinic, March 7 at Waterloo Recreation Area in Chelsea. This class looks at the basics of hunter safety, shotgun patterning, turkey hunting tactics, calling, decoys and blinds. The participants will get insider intel on turkey habitat in the park and help with mapping out a successful hunt. The cost is $25 and includes lunch. A Snowshoe Tying Workshop will be held March 21 at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park in Ontonagon. This all-day workshop is dedicated to helping participants weave their own traditional wood-framed snowshoes. The cost is $200 per person, which includes one pair of wood frames, tubular nylon lacing, boot bindings and step-by-step instructions. A youth small game hunt will be held on March 28 at Crane Pond State Game Area. Preregistration is required by March 1. There are limited spaces available. Participants should meet at the Crane Pond State Game area at 9 a.m. Lunch will be provided later in the day. Youth hunters will be put into small hunting groups and assigned a mentor. Hunt participants must be under 18 years old, have a valid hunting license, wear hunter orange and bring their own firearms and equipment. Please call the Crane Pond Field Office at 269-244-5928 to save a spot, or with questions. The 2019 base hunting licenses are valid through March 31, 2020. Licensed hunters should take time to enjoy some winter small game hunting. Cottontail rabbit, snowshoe hare and squirrel (fox and gray) hunting are open statewide through March 31. See the 2019 Hunting Digest for small game season dates and bag limits.
Watervliet Rod & Gun Club The Watervliet Rod and Gun Club will hold their monthly CCW classes on March 12 and 15. Registration is March 10 at 6 p.m. The cost of the Concealed Pistol License Classes (CCW) is $100. They are taught by NRA Training Counselors and NRA instructors. The Club will loan firearms. Classes include three hours outdoor range time with 1-on-1 student to instructor ratio. Those interested must call 269-468-3837 to register.
A Sarett naturalist witnessed a sundog with a halo this week while driving home from work. This optical phenomenon appears as a pair of mock suns on either side of the actual sun and can also form a halo around it. This can be observed during any time of year, but hexagonal ice crystals are needed to create the sundog and halo. The sundog and halo are the result of sunlight hitting the flat ice crystals high up in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. The refraction, or bending of the light as it goes from a faster medium to a slower one, causes the halo and sundog to appear. The ice crystals are essentially acting like prisms, creating a rainbow and the illusion as the light bends. The sundogs are located about 22 degrees to the left, right, or both directions from the sun, depending on where the ice crystals are present. Sundogs are most typically seen when the sun is near the horizon, so keep your eyes open close to sunset and let us know if you ever see a sundog! Get your tickets now for the Exotic Wildlife Safari with Nelson the Animal Guy on Saturday, Feb. 22, with tickets still available for the 1:00 p.m. & 3:00 p.m. shows at the nature center. For tickets please call 269-927-4832 and see Sarett’s website for prices.