Love fishing but never thought to do it in the winter?Elyse Walter of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us why winter could be the perfect time to explore fishing in Michigan. Read her thoughts below and let us know in the comments section where you like to go ice fishing in Michigan.
Michigan’s world-class fisheries are known throughout the country, if not the world, with many anglers pursuing them throughout the year. These fisheries are even on proud display during the state’s legendary winter months – a time of year many anglers proclaim to be the best time to go fishing.
If you’re new to ice fishing, don’t be intimated by the idea of heading out in the cold! The DNR has lots of information online to educate you about the kind of equipment you’ll need and the various safety precautions you’ll need to take.
If you already go ice fishing each winter, consider taking on a new challenge by targeting a different fish. Popular winter species include bluegill, crappie, smelt, walleyes and yellow perch (among others).
Still not convinced winter is a great time to head outdoors to go fishing? What if you didn’t have to purchase a Michigan fishing license to test the waters?
That’s the case this February as the 2013 Winter Free Fishing Weekend arrives Saturday, 16 and Sunday, February 17. During those two days anyone – residents and non-residents alike – can fish all waters without purchasing a license, although all regulations do still apply.
The DNR coordinates the Winter Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1994) as an opportunity to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan, but alleviating some of the financial investment needed to get involved. It’s the perfect time to discover the state’s winter water wonderland.
Consider exploring the wealth of fishing opportunities Michigan offers this winter. Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing!
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.
Dog sledding, a historic form of transportation is also a fun way to get out and enjoy the winter months. With more than 2,000 miles of dog sledding trails, 11,000 frozen inland lakes and a number of snow-covered national forests, Michigan is a great destination for a dog sledding adventure.
Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself and how you got into dog sledding?
A: Ed and I have owned sled dogs for about 20 years and have been operating our touring and racing kennel on a full time basis for 10 years. Ed got into the sport with a family friend just after college (at MSU) and I met Ed while I was working in Ludington one summer. Neither of our families owned or worked with sled dogs. Needless to say, they have been very patient through all our crazy adventures as we quit our full time careers, raced sled dogs around the world, and built a successful touring business. We’ve grown in ways we’ve never imagined and now have a full time winter staff of four guides in addition to ourselves, 160 sled dogs, and a successful Iditarod racing team. It’s a lot of hard work and long days, but we would not have it any other way!
Q: Why do you love dog sledding?
A: We, of course, we like working with and training the dogs. Now that our business has really grown, we almost spend more time managing dogs and staff and entertaining guests than actually getting to run dogs. One reason Ed likes to run the Iditarod is that he’s alone with his dogs for 1,000 miles for 10 days and does not have to deal with any of the day to day concerns of the kennel while he is on the trail. We also like teaching new people about mushing. There’s something magical about watching a novice learn the sport and fell so good about what they have accomplished.
Q: Describe the experience for someone who has never tried dog sledding.
A: The experience can be for anyone of any age. Children need to be 10 years old and over to drive their own sled, and there is not an age cut off. We just had one client who was 77 complete one of our overnight trips where he drove his own team. There’s really no experience to compare this to. There’s a sudden rush when the dogs first take off, there’s the serenity of moving under dog power along the trail, there’s the crisp feel of cool weather, and there’s the affection of the dogs who are so excited to see new people every day.
Q: Are there any dogsled races or events in Michigan?
A: Yes, there are many MI races and events. One of the largest distance races outside of Alaska is the UP 200 in Marquette, MI, which takes place on the third weekend in February. This is a 260 mile race that runs round trip from Marquette to Grand Marais. There is also a race near us in Newberry, the Tahquamenon Country Sled Dog Race which is the first weekend in January. There is also the Copper Dog 150 mile Race in Calumet the first weekend of March. There’s also a new race, the Ironline taking place in Iron River, MI on February 8-9th. All of the races are very spectator friendly and great family events. I highly recommend watching a sled dog race in person. There is also a group in Michigan called MUSH that has events throughout the winter and fall for recreational mushers.
Q: Where are some great places in Michigan to dog sled?
A: Of course we are biased to dog sledding in the UP. The trails are fantastic up here, the snow is great, and the scenery spectacular. We simply have more reliable snowfall than Lower Michigan which means our season is much longer. The UP is also much less populated which means we have access to long distance touring and training trails and we don’t have any neighbors who live close by would be bothered by 160 dogs singing their good night song. We are also trying something new in the UP this year, and that is giving people rides to view the lower falls of the Tahquamenon River. There are some places up here that just are not accessible in the winter time, and the lower falls are one of them. We have a new agreement with the DNR that we will take people in by dog team to view these spectacular water falls! Now, after all the hype about the UP, we also love our relationship with Boyne Highlands near Harbor Springs. Boyne is also in a great location for reliable snow and we transport our dogs there every weekend for sled dog rides. It’s nice to have this option for guests as it’s a bit closer to home for many people and the resort is a great place for many winter activities. We give rides only at Boyne, we don’t offer the drive-your-own team option.
Q: Is there anything that people don’t realize about dog sledding?
A: People who come to our place are commonly surprised at how small and friendly the dogs are. We have Alaskan Huskies and they all look very different from each other but all are very social and loving. Many of our dogs we use for tours are our retired racing dogs or dogs who will be the next generation of superstars. Dog sledding is something that people of all ages and abilities can participate in. We’ve given rides to children as young as six months and adults as old as 90. We can also lift people into our sleds if they have difficulty walking or have other limitations.
Q: What are sled dogs like? How are they the same and how are they different than a family pet?
A: They are not different from family pets. The love attention, they want to be scratched behind the ears, they love to eat, and if you let them, they will sleep on the couch. BUT, they also LOVE to pull. It’s something they are born and bred to do. It’s very instinctual, like a beagle that chases rabbits. We retire our dogs into family homes at about 7-8 years old and they make great family pets.
Q: What advice do you have for someone who might want to try dog sledding?
A: Find an outfitter that you trust and give it a try. I’d highly suggest driving your own team as that is the “true” experience. However, also be honest with yourself and if that just seems a bit too intimidating, then take a ride with the dogs. Like I said, be sure to ask a lot of questions like: “If I drive my own team, is there a guide in front and how many dogs would I have?” “If I ride in the sled, will the guide be driving the sled?” “What is the maximum number of guests you have with each guide?” “Do you provide any gear if I’m unsure if my clothing is adequate?”
Q: What do you love about a Michigan winter?
A: Snow, of course! Our lives would be miserable without it!
Q: What is your favorite thing to do after dog sledding?
Tasha Stielstra is co-owner of Nature’s Kennel Iditarod Sled Dog Racing and Adventures in McMillan, MI. Her husband, Ed is a 7-time Iditarod finisher. They own nearly 160 Alaskan Huskies and two small children, Fern and Nate. Tasha does the marketing and managing for their touring business, chases puppies down the trail, and spends a great deal of time playing with monster trucks (with 2-year old Nate). Nature’s Kennel can be found online at www.natureskennel.com or on Facebook at Nature’s Kennel.
Lisa Taylor loves the active life — and in Traverse City that’s a year-round love affair. Here are her recommendations for three fun events this winter: a snowshoe scamper, a ski race and a 5K run that you’ll enjoy no matter what your age or skill level is.
As an outdoor enthusiast up here in Traverse City, I’m always excited to be a part of the area’s many events — whether as a volunteer, an organizer or just participating with the rest of the crowd. Since snow has been falling in the area since mid-December, three great winter events are already on my to-do list .
First, on Feb. 2, there’s the Runaway Hen Snowshoe Scamper, a fun race through the 45-acre Brengman Brothers Crain Hill Vineyard, located just north of town. It’s a lot like the chardonnay-riesling blend for which it was named — “crisp with a good finish.”
As any wine enthusiast knows, vineyards tend to be situated in hilly areas, and this one has views of the vast rolling hills of the southeastern Leelanau Peninsula. What I particularly enjoy is the luxurious pre- and post-event gatherings in the winery’s sprawling tasting room.
Last year’s inaugural event included all kinds of people, from a pair of diehard snowshoe racers battling for the lead to a family on shoes who towed their little ones behind on a sled. (By the way, if you don’t own snowshoes, you can rent them at many places in Traverse City, including McLain Cycle, Brick Wheels, and the Timber Ridge Resort. Even if you’ve never tried them, they’re easy!)
Just a week later, on Feb. 9-10, it’s off with the snowshoes and on with the cross-country skis for the 37th North American Vasa in the heart of the Pere Marquette State Forest, just east of Traverse City. The Vasa is a true community event, with a 1:2 ratio of volunteers to skiers. In fact, it’s a tossup as to who has more fun — the skiers, or the volunteers along the trail serving up treats like grilled bananas and hot soup!
Although the Vasa is one of Midwest’s most competitive ski events it has always been a race for all people, with distances ranging from 6 and 12K to 27K and 50k in both classic and skate style competition. Over the course of race weekend, over 700 skiers will cross the line and grab a bowl of hot soup in the nearby lodge at Timber Ridge.
One thing that makes this race so rewarding is the beautiful Vasa Trail itself, lovingly groomed by volunteers from Traverse City’s Tart Trails organization. On race weekend, the groomers stay up around the clock to guarantee the best conditions possible for both skate and classic enthusiasts.
Every winter, those of us involved in the race — skiers, volunteers, and townsfolk – find ourselves wondering about the weather. Will we have enough snow — or will there be too much? Will the trail be icy? Will there be a thaw, or will it be too cold? The list goes on. In the end, I think the best plan is just to be “at one with the elements.” Even when conditions are challenging, they can provide material for the skier’s version of a good “fish story”.
Skiers aren’t the only people who enjoy the Vasa. Spectators love to cluster at the final straightaway finish to enjoy the excitement of watching the competitors arrive, their colorful form-fitting technical outfits making a bright contrast with the snowy pinewoods, and there’s usually a raucous spectator competition for the loudest cowbell!
In March, Traverse City’s ski trails are usually in good shape — but local runners are itching to get back together for a little springtime race of their own. Luckily, on March 16 they can join the Leapin’ Leprechaun 5K produced by the National Cherry Festival. This little race makes the return to running season much easier, especially when a foamy pint of Guinness awaits each runner at the finish line beer tent.
The Leapin’ Leprechaun route covers Traverse City’s historic downtown and many of its picturesque residential streets (including a block-long stretch of original red cobblestones on Sixth Street, fronted by the stately mansions of former lumber barons.) The race ends at a giant Irish style beer tent, complete with a live band, lots of great conversation, and beer – even if it is before noon!
Nearly 1,000 runners enjoy the relaxed reunion-like atmosphere, and many dress up in classic St. Patrick’s Day garb — heavy on the green! I often think of this run as a kickoff to another active summer in Traverse City, with lots of creative new opportunities for aerobic fun, from paddling, to swimming, and more.
But that’s another blog entirely!
An avid runner and participant in other active events, Lisa Taylor directs the North American Vasa ski races and the National Cherry Festival’s Meijer Festival of Races 15K and 5K, and coaches cross country and track and field at Traverse City Central High School. Her newest venture was last December’s Farmland 5K European Style XC Challenge.
The start of a new year means new goals and for many of us, getting in shape is on the list.
A Michigan winter provides the perfect terrain and scenery to get in shape outdoors while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. One activity that is great for families, beginners and experienced athletes alike is cross country skiing. You can burn up to 500 calories per hour while enjoying the peaceful Michigan winter landscape far away from the crowds at the gym.
Michigan cross country skiing trails stretch over 3,000 miles and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources grooms various state forest pathways to provide trails across the northern Lower and Upper Peninsulas. It is also a great way to observe wildlife – from tracks in the snow to seeing birds and animals up close, it’s an experience that you can only get outdoors.
Cadillac Pathway has 11.3 miles of groomed trail with varying terrain that allow users to determine the length of trail and degree of difficulty they desire. Trailhead parking lots are located five miles northeast of Cadillac on 13th Street and on Seeley Road, north of Boon Road.
Bring your skis, snowshoes or just your hiking boots to Van Riper State Park for enchanted evenings of fun in the snow from 6-9 p.m. on Saturdays, Jan. 19 and Feb. 16. Experience the beautiful lit trail at Van Riper with your family and friends or make it a romantic date night. The trail will be lit from 6-9 p.m. For details, call the park, 906-339-4461. The park is located at 851 County Road AKE in Champion, Mich. 49814 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Enjoy an evening ski or snowshoe along a lantern-lit trail through the snow covered forests of the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon State Park during one of their Lantern-Lit Cross-country ski and strolls. Events take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Feb. 2, 9, 16 and 23. Warm up by the bonfire with refreshments along the 1-mile loop. A limited number of snowshoes are available to borrow at no charge. Participants must provide their own cross country ski equipment. A headlamp is recommended during overcast evenings. Meet at the Upper Falls Fact Shack. The park is located at 41382 W. M 123 in Paradise, Mich., 49768 in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. For details, call 906-492-3415.
Pine Baron Pathway, southwest of Gaylord, provides beginners and intermediate skiers with nearly 9 miles of well-groomed trail that meanders through beautiful woods. The trailhead parking lot is located on Lone Pine Road. Three of the four loops are fairly level, and the remaining loop has several good downhill runs that will interest the intermediate skier.
Join other cross-country skiers for a magical winter evening from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 9 when the snow-covered forest at Hartwick Pines State Park is warmed by the glow of lantern light. Skiers can traverse the 1.25-mile, groomed cross-country trail, guided by more than 75 lanterns along the way. Meet at the Hartwick Pines Logging Museum. It is recommended that skiers be of intermediate skill to participate in this event.
Wildwood Hills Pathway, a three-looped trail covering approximately 9 miles of beautiful rolling hills in Indian River near Petoskey, offers a more challenging course for the intermediate skier.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, located on the south shore of Lake Superior near Silver City in Ontonagon County, is offering cross-country skiing and snowshoeing by lantern light in late December, and on Saturday evenings in January and February. Nearly 80 old-fashioned kerosene lanterns will illuminate a 1-mile trail for a unique and memorable experience. Stop halfway around the loop at the warming shelter and join the park naturalist for a campfire and refreshments.
Blueberry Ridge, just south of Marquette, has the bumps for advanced skiers, the flats for beginners and is very well maintained. There are 12 miles of groomed trails. The three north loops have side-by-side diagonal-groomed tracks so people can ski next to each other. The 1.7-mile lighted central loop is groomed for both diagonal-stride and ski-skating, as are the south two loops.
Algonquin Pathway, located south of Sault Ste Marie on 16th Avenue West. This pathway has 15 km (9 miles) of groomed trail that is laid out in three loops. The 1.6 mile lighted trail is the first loop off the trailhead parking lot. This pathway straddles old beach ridges and passes through mixed-age aspen intermixed with pine and hardwood.
Snowy weather is sure to be on its way this winter in Pure Michigan! If you’re looking for ways to get out and enjoy the outdoors, snowshoeing is a great option. Today, Christine Schwerin of the Department of Natural Resources fills us in on how you can learn to make your own snowshoes this season.
Adapting to winter can be a matter of switching from flip-flops to water-proof boots, or in some cases – snowshoes. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer and love the invigorating feeling of spending time outdoors in the wintertime, a snowshoe-making class may be just the ticket. Michigan state parks can get you started.
Rob Burg, a historian and educator at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling teaches traditional wooden snowshoe-building classes every winter in the visitor center nestled under snow-covered towering pines at the park. At Hartwick, Rob, along with colleague Craig Kasmer, the park interpreter, will be teaching two more classes this winter: one in January, and one in February.
“In January we’ll be making the Green Mountain Bearpaw—an oval shaped shoe, good for holding 200 pounds or less” explained Rob, “and in February, we’ll make a larger Ojibwa-style shoe that’ll hold a little more weight.”
For about $180, Rob and Craig Kasmer supply each do-it-yourselfer the wooden frames, nylon laces pre-cut to the right length, and everything else needed to make a complete pair.
Rob and Craig go over how to weave the lacing and tie knots, “we have a lot of one-on-one contact with each person in the class,” said Rob, “it takes a little time to get good at it.” Once the class gets into a nice groove, they chat with the class about the history of snowshoeing, about how different styles developed based on the snow conditions.
Rob, who also runs the Hartwick Pines Logging Museumat the park, explains, “Native Americans and fur traders sometimes made snowshoes while traveling. They might start out in good weather, then the snow would come, and they’d use the resources immediately available to them to build a pair of snowshoes.”
Lacing the snowshoes takes a certain amount of focus and concentration. “It’s intensive,” said Rob, who has made an estimated two dozen pairs. It also takes time—classes are spread over two days. As anyone who has ever made their own pair will tell you, there’s pride in learning such a unique and timeless skill.
Once you’re done, you’ve got a pair of snowshoes that’ll last, winter after snowy winter.
Snowshoeing is something just about anyone can do, as the saying goes, if you can walk, you can snowshoe. It’s the perfect combination of exercise and adventure for those of us who are more comfortable on level ground than on the heart-thumping downhill ski slopes.
Christine Schwerin has been writing about Michigan-related topics since launching a career with Michigan History magazine in 2004. She currently works for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, where she’s fortunate enough to combine her love of writing with her love for the outdoors.