Gear Up for Free Fishing Weekend in Pure Michigan

It’s the perfect weather for some ice fishing in Pure Michigan! Today, Elyse Walter from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us how to take advantage of winter fishing opportunities during Free Fishing Weekend February 15 – 16, 2014.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

There are many great things about Michigan, but one of the best is the fact that you can go fishing 12 months out of the year. With a vast amount of water and a multitude of species, there’s never a dull moment for this popular outdoor activity – even when the temperatures dip.

In fact, Michigan’s ice fishing is well known and often something many anglers look forward to each year. Many claim the state’s winter months produce even better fishing than spring and summer – just ask Dale Blakley from Niles who caught the new state record flathead catfish (52 pounds) on January 12 in Barron Lake in Cass County!

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

So while many flock to the lakes once conditions are right, there are other anglers that have never set foot on the ice. It’s quite simple to go ice fishing, with a few pieces of appropriate equipment (including safety items) and lots of warm clothing you can soon be on your way. You’ll have lots of species you can target, including bluegill, crappie, smelt, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike, and lots of ways in doing so, including tip-ups, hook-and-line and spearing.

Need further incentive to drop a line this winter? Try it for free as part of the 2014 Winter Free Fishing Weekend, coming Saturday, February 15 and Sunday, February 16. This annual weekend provides two days where no fishing license is required for residents or non-residents – although all regulations still apply.

The Department of Natural Resources coordinates the Winter Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1994) as an opportunity to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan and allowing people to try the experience for free.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

While many individuals and families will flock to their favorite fishing hole as part of this weekend, others will join official events coordinated throughout the state that will provide hands-on ice fishing experience. An official 2014 Winter Free Fishing Weekend event list is available online highlighting activities (such as youth fishing tournaments) in many parts of the state, including the counties of Alpena, Arenac, Cheboygan, Clinton, Gogebic, Keweenaw, Macomb, Montcalm, Otsego, Roscommon, Tuscola, Washtenaw and Wayne.

Don’t miss your chance to experience the vast array of Michigan’s winter fishing opportunities. Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing!

Have you been ice fishing in Michigan?  Where do you like to fish? 

Elyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. She specifically works with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources. 

 

Cast Away the Winter Blues with Pure Michigan Hunting and Fishing

Today, native Michigander Derrek Sigler tells what he loves about  winter hunting and fishing in Pure Michigan.

I have to admit, I’m pretty spoiled living in Michigan year-round. I have friends in other states who have to travel to do this or that, whereas I have just about everything right outside my door—world-class fishing, hunting, and other outdoor activities. When winter grips the state, and some think its time to head south, I head outdoors, with fishing rod in hand.

We are blessed with roughly 8 million acres of public land in Michigan. Many rivers and streams wind through these lands and offer great opportunities to those willing to venture out. Come winter, two of my favorite things overlap—steelhead fishing and hunting season.

I spent most of my teenage years living near the Manistee River, near Brethren, Michigan. The river gets a strong run of salmon as summer fades and the clock rolls into fall. Behind that salmon run comes an annual migration, leading to some of the finest steelhead fishing to be found anywhere. These fish, looking to fatten up on salmon eggs, will hold in the river all winter long, awaiting their own time to spawn in the spring.

December is one of my favorite times to chase steelies, as the lower temperatures keep the traffic down on the water. There are usually a couple of days left in the month to hunt ducks, my other passion. The same temperatures that keep the fishermen away freeze the ponds and lakes, pushing the ducks to the rivers. This makes for a fun day of hunting ducks and catching fish.

The Manistee River winds through parts of the Huron-Manistee National Forest, which comprises almost a million acres of public land in the Lower Peninsula. There are countless fingers and tributaries along the lower river stretches, the perfect hiding places for ducks and geese. Before it opens into Manistee Lake and Lake Michigan, the final stretches of the river are bordered by state game area lands. It makes the Manistee River a paradise for anglers and hunters alike.

Drifting plugs or spawn in the deep holes and riffles can result in rod-bending action and a fight unlike any other experienced in fishing. During the winter months, leaves and ice can force you to pay close attention to your rods. When adding a little hunting into the mix, it can get a little trickier.  A spread of duck decoys can get cluttered up with a few sheets of skim ice that float down on really cold mornings. Still, it is often the only open water around and that can make for hot hunting.

Another species that makes for awesome late season river hunting is Michigan’s muzzleloader deer season, which always falls after the November firearm seasons. It’s not uncommon to see all kinds of wildlife floating down the river. I have likely seen more bucks from a float than from a treestand, so it makes sense to try the adventure of float hunting with a smoke pole.

The rules for float hunting in Michigan are pretty simple and follow common sense, too. Never get in the boat with a loaded firearm. If you are going to hunt, don’t load the gun until you’re at a complete stop with the motor off and anchored. I’ll hunt from the boat for waterfowl, but for everything else, get out of the boat.

Finding a big whitetail during the late muzzleloader season on the river is like stepping back in time. It’s not just the deer you look for while floating along. Look for fresh tracks, especially if there is a fresh layer of snow. It takes practice, but getting on the track of a buck is an amazing feat.

After the deer and duck seasons close, there are plenty of other opportunities for hunting and fishing along Michigan’s rivers during the winter months. Many small game seasons are open and then there’s another season for predators. Make sure you have the necessary licenses. During those deep freezes of winter, animals will gather near open water, and that will bring in the predators. Floating along and stopping to set up occasionally will allow you to cover a lot of land, and not wear yourself out trudging through a lot of snow.

When the weather outside is frightful, Michigan’s 36,000 miles of rivers and streams make a delightful place to cast away winter blues and have a blast hunting and fishing for those willing to go. The state may be known as the Great Lake State, but the rivers and moving waterways can make for some Pure Michigan winter fun!

Derrek Sigler is a native Michigander who grew up hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors in the Northwest part of the Lower Peninsula. He writes for Hard Core Brands and OutdoorHub about hunting, fishing, and outdoor sports. 

 

Gear Up for Fall Fishing in Pure Michigan

Fall is a great time to go fishing on the beautiful Great Lakes. We’ve added some brand new items to the Pure Michigan Store that will be sure to make your next fishing trip a breeze.

The Pure Michigan Store offers a variety of items to help prepare you for the ultimate Pure Michigan fishing experience. Here are just a few of our favorites.

Fishing Lure Kit

Keep your fishing lures organized with a Pure Michigan Fishing Lure Kit. This compact kit won’t take up precious space with your fishing essentials.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three Tray Tackle Box 

From bait to bobbers, store all your fishing supplies in this durable Pure Michigan tackle box. This box is the perfect accessory to accompany you on your next fishing excursion.

 

 

 

 

 

Book of Flies

If you love fly fishing in Michigan, then this beautifully bound book is a brilliant way to display your plentiful collection of flies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are just some of the many Pure Michigan products available online. Visit the Pure Michigan Store at www.puremichiganstore.org to see the full line of clothing and accessories. And if you’re looking to learn more about fishing across the state, check out our infographic on Fishing in Pure Michigan or visit michigan.org/fishing for more.