Fishing The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported last week that the crazy weather including strong winds hampered fishing conditions. Catch rates slowed but were picking up by last weekend and into this week. The northern sections of the Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula are digging out from heavy snowfall and it is going to be a while before all that snow melts. Captain Kenny Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reported good fishing on Lake Michigan with boat anglers catching plenty of Coho, Lake Trout and some King Salmon. Pier fishing has slowed way down, but those fishing the end of the pier caught a few. Holland pier anglers caught a few Walleye. Steelhead is being caught at the dams on all local rivers. Inland fishing in the South Haven area has been picking up with a few Crappie out in deeper water, they are not moving into shore yet. Duck Lake and Eagle Lake have been having some panfish action. Ellinee Bait & Tackle on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reported anglers have been having fun with the catch-and-immediate release of Smallmouth Bass. The bass are plentiful on both Little and Big Paw Paw lakes. Anglers have done well with crank baits and little minnows. The bait shop will be getting in their big minnows this weekend to coincide with the opening of the Walleye and Northern Pike season on Saturday, April 28. Last week a lucky young man caught a 32-inch Steelhead that weighed 14 pounds and 2 ounces, on spawn on the Paw Paw River in Watervliet. On the local inland lakes, the panfish can be found deep, (around 40 feet) but will start moving in as the water warms. Poor weather last week slowed fishing down out of St. Joseph, but when boats could get out, they were catching good numbers of Coho south of the piers when trolling small crank baits in 25 to 30 feet. Pier anglers were catching Coho and Whitefish on spawn and worms. The St. Joseph River had a lot of Steelhead moving through the Berrien Springs ladder after the rain. The river was high and turbid. Out of Holland boat and pier anglers were targeting Steelhead, Brown Trout and Whitefish. The Grand River at Grand Rapids had a good push of fresh Steelhead resulting in a good number of fish in the river over the last week. Avid anglers are constantly looking for tips and tricks to help them have more successful fishing trips. Many turn to sonar technology to achieve this goal. Although a bit of an investment (units start at $100 and go up), sonar products offer a variety of benefits on the water. Most units can provide anglers with readings on temperature, vegetation and structure in the water, type of bottom below you, fish in the area, depth, current speed of the vessel, GPS navigation, and waypoints for future trips. Some even allow you the opportunity to purchase nautical charts. Recent legislation passed in Michigan has simplified fishing regulations for anglers, particularly those pursuing Steelhead on the state’s rivers and streams in the spring. The legislation removed a net size restriction that has been in place for many years to protect spawning salmon. “During April, May and June, hand nets larger than 5-1/2 feet in circumference or having a handle exceeding 14 inches may NOT be used or possessed on designated trout streams…” With the removal of this restriction, which took effect immediately, anglers now legally may use hand nets with handle lengths longer than 14 inches. The newly passed regulation change was too late to be put in the 2018 Michigan Fishing Guide that is printed, but the change is listed in the online version of the guide. It was another great year for Michigan fishing, as 2,176 anglers representing 24 states and Canada submitted catches recognized in the state’s Master Angler Program. This was a significant increase over 1,807 Master Angler fish in 2016. The program that has been in place since 1973 recognizes large fish caught by recreational anglers and has more than doubled since 2014. A total of 266 anglers received certificates for fish placing in the top five for both catch-and-keep and catch-and-release categories. For more information on the program and how you can participate, visit www.michigan.gov/masterangler.
Hunting The first turkey hunting season of 2018 is under way. There are plentiful birds, 10 million-plus acres of public land available for hunting, and spring turkey season opened on Monday, April 23. The season lasts until May 31. With the states strategic season structure – with multiple “openers” – it gives hunters options that provide the opportunity to have a great hunting experience this spring. That’s a giant leap from just decades ago when wild turkey was difficult to come by. Unregulated hunting and dramatic habitat changes had made some wildlife including turkeys, scarce. Katie Keene, communications coordinator for the DNR Wildlife Division said that in 1977, hunters had a 1-in-4 chance of getting a spring turkey license and only 400 turkeys were taken. Hunters now just need to determine where they’d like to hunt, get a license and go. Last year hunters bagged about 33,000 wild turkeys during the fall and spring seasons combined. To learn more and buy a license visit www.michigan.gov/turkey or contact Katie Keen at 980-385-0336.
Coloma Rod & Gun Club The Coloma Rod & Gun Club will hold their monthly CCW Class on Saturday, May 12, 2018. Class registration is held on Sunday, May 6 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The class is taught by a certified NRA and RSO instructor and the cost of the class is $100. For more information or to be put on the list, please call (269) 621-3370. Watervliet Rod & Gun Club The Watervliet Rod and Gun Club will hold their monthly CCW classes on May 10 and May 12, 2018. Registration is on Tuesday, May 8, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. and cost of the class is $100. They will have a lawyer explaining the law pertaining to concealed carry during class. Please call (269) 468-3837 or (269) 470-9191 for more information.
Students raise and release salmon Eighth graders from Upton Middle School released their classroom’s hand raised Chinook salmon this week. Fish were released and water quality testing and experiments were conducted on Tuesday, April 24 and Thursday, April 26 at Flaherty Park in Watervliet. Parents and community members were invited to join in the fun. They were able to watch the students as they released their smolts into Mill Creek which feeds into the Paw Paw River. The students also rotated in small groups through six learning stations where they evaluated stream flow; identified algae from the stream; identified bugs and other “stuff” in the stream; assessed overall water quality, and evaluated land use around the stream and its impact on stream health. There was also a “casting” station where students could prepare for fishing season! Salmon in the Classroom is a year-long natural resources education program in which teachers receive fertilized salmon eggs from a DNR fish hatchery in the fall; hatch them out; feed and raise the fry through spring, and then release the young salmon (smolts) into a local river.