If you’re planning to fish for yellow perch this spring, keep in mind that there’s a new daily possession limit – 25 fish, reduced from 50 – starting April 1 on nearly all state waters. Exceptions include:
Lake Erie, which will retain a 50-fish daily limit.
Lake Gogebic in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties, which will have the 25-fish daily limit, but with no more than five of those fish being 12 inches or longer.The Michigan Natural Resources Commission approved the proposed fishing regulation change late last year, after extensive public and scientific reviews. The new regulation is effective with the start of the 2019 Michigan fishing season.
The DNR collected many comments from concerned anglers and others interested in reducing the daily possession limit for yellow perch. Lowering the statewide daily possession limit also supports consistent yellow perch regulations across waterbodies, particularly connecting waters, tributaries and drowned river mouths.
“The major goal for lowering the yellow perch daily possession limit was to better achieve an optimal balance between conservation and fishing opportunity, reflecting the importance and popularity of yellow perch in Michigan,” said Christian LeSage who works for the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “Yellow perch are among the most sought-after game species in Michigan, and we want to ensure generations of anglers can continue to enjoy fishing for them.”
Starting March 1, the 2019 Michigan Fishing Guide will be available online and in printed copy form at fishing license retailers. For more information, visitMichigan.gov/DNRDigests.
Questions? Contact Christian LeSage, 517-284-5830 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839
Anyone hoping to submit a catch to the DNR’s Master Angler program – which each year recognizes the largest fish of several dozen species – will want to pay close attention to the 2019 application.
A few new rules have been added to the program for 2019, including:
No more than one entry for fish of the exact same size will be accepted for each species. (For example, if you catch two 10-inch bluegills, submit just one.)
Each entry must include at least one photo showing the fish being measured. Color photos of the entire fish are required, too; entries received without color photos will not be accepted.“The DNR’s Master Angler program has more than tripled in popularity in the last five years,” said Lynne Thoma, the program’s administrator. “We want to recognize as many anglers as possible for their fishing accomplishments, while retaining the integrity of this program. We feel these new rules will help us do that.”
The Master Angler program runs on the calendar year (Jan. 1 through Dec. 31), rather than the fishing license year (April 1 through March 31). The program includes more than 50 species of fish in both catch-and-keep and catch-and-release categories. All fish entered must be taken by legal Michigan sportfishing methods, during the open season, and in Michigan waters open to the public.
Download the 2019 Master Angler application at Michigan.gov/MasterAngler. People are encouraged to review the application every year for program changes. Applications can be submitted via mail or email; the current year’s form is due Jan. 10, 2020. Questions? Contact Lynne Thoma, 517-284-5838 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839
What began with a handful of classes at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center in Cadillac, Michigan, has evolved into a statewide opportunity for in-depth learning about a variety of outdoor topics – from fly fishing to food plots to photography. About 300 students participated in the DNR’s Outdoor Skills Academy during its first year in 2014. By 2018 that number had nearly doubled to almost 600 participants.
“Our classes offer more than just a brief taste of outdoor activities – we spend a full day or more teaching the needed skills to get out and try those activities,” said Ed Shaw, interpreter at the Carl T. Johnson Center and originator of the Outdoor Skills Academy. “We provide gear, hands-on experience and expert instructors.”
These instructors – also known as “pro staff” – are knowledgeable and proficient in the outdoor pursuits they teach. Among the upcoming classes, for example, are a whitetail food plot and habitat management clinic with staff from Killer Food Plots, a class on attracting butterflies with native plants taught by naturalist Craig Elston of CDE Nature, a walleye fishing clinic with professional anglers and a wildflower photography workshop by world-renowned photographer Tom Haxby.
Upcoming classes include:
March 23: Steelhead Fishing Clinic
April 13: Turkey Hunting Clinic
April 14: Walleye Fishing Clinic
April 27: Bass Fishing for Beginners Clinic
May 4: Beginners Fly-Fishing Clinic
May 18: Whitetail Food Plot and Habitat Management Clinic
June 8: Attracting Butterflies with Native Plants.
Allegan State Game Area is vast! Spanning over 50,000 acres in Allegan County, the area is made up of mature forest, oak savanna, wetland, riparian (areas adjacent to bodies of water) and, of course, grassland habitat. The grasslands at Allegan house a wide variety of wildlife species, including upland sandpipers, grasshopper sparrows, bobolinks, white-tailed deer, ring-necked pheasants and wild turkey. Keeping these grasslands healthy and thriving is one of the major management goals at the game area.
“During the past eight years, staff and partners at Allegan have enhanced and restored nearly 1,300 acres of grassland habitat and 150 acres of wetland habitat,” said Don Poppe, wildlife biologist at Allegan. “In addition, over 2,000 acres of food plots have been planted to provide fall and winter food sources for waterfowl, pheasants, deer and turkeys.”
The bulk of the grassland habitat work completed at Allegan has been centered around the Fennville Farm Unit of the game area. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources purchased this 4,100-acre paradise for Canada goose hunting from the A.M. Todd Company of Kalamazoo in 1949. The property was originally used to grow peppermint but has since turned into a waterfowl hunter’s and wildlife viewer’s dream. The grasslands in this unit provide important nesting habitat for waterfowl, pheasants and other grassland birds.
Some of the state’s most imperiled species are grassland species. This habitat type has declined drastically over the last 150 years due to the conversion of grasslands to agricultural, residential and commercial development, along with the succession of grasslands into forest lands.
“The southwest region of Michigan was once home to large tracts of prairie and savanna,” Poppe said. “Today, the landscape looks much different.”
Poppe said that he’s glad to see grassland habitat being restored in the region, and he’s proud that Allegan State Game Area is part of the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative. The Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative is working to improve and enhance Michigan’s remaining grasslands on private and public lands in southern Michigan. This includes planting diverse mixes of grasses and wildflowers for birds, insects and other wildlife. Extensive grassland restoration work also is in progress at Lake Hudson State Recreation Area in Lenawee County, Verona State Game Area in Huron County, Sharonville State Game Area in Jackson and Washtenaw counties, and Maple River State Game Area in Gratiot County as well as other public and private lands in southern Michigan.
Made up of many partners, the Michigan Pheasant Restoration Initiative is a conservation initiative to restore and enhance Michigan pheasant habitat (grasslands), populations, and hunting opportunities on private and public lands. It works by acquiring state, federal and partner resources to assist landowners in cooperatives to improve wildlife habitat on their properties and by improving grassland habitat on selected state game areas, recreation areas or other public lands. To learn more, visitMichigan.gov/Pheasant.
Winter is winding down, but there’s still time to go ice fishing. But remember, there are a few important safety precautions to take if you plan to do so:
Lake St. Clair: Ice on the northern end remained relatively stable. The traditional nearshore areas did hold up in the wind. Areas offshore at Brandenburg, Selfridge, Harley Ensign and the Metro Park did open-up over the weekend and extreme caution should be used if venturing too far from shore. The lake is open water from the Clinton River Cutoff south to the Detroit River. This open water will allow the ice to shift and make for dangerous conditions if we get a strong north wind. Bluegill and sunfish were caught at the Raft Restaurant. Though the action was slow, anglers continue to bring in decent quantities and some good size fish. Try a smaller than average size jig with a spike; color was not important. At Selfridge, a few anglers found schools of fish just south of the ramp. Cotton Road has been tricky as anglers were either getting perch or not. Those that did were using jigs tipped with a spike.
Saginaw Bay: The recent strong winds blew the ice out of the Bay on west side.At Pinconning, the ice has blown out to the point that you can’t even see across the open water to the ice beyond. There is open water just beyond the point at the little bay off Pinconning Park, and as close as maybe 200 yards offshore from Neuman Road. Open water was reported just outside Nayanquing Point, and at Linwood the open water is maybe a mile offshore. On the east side, there are ice shoves 20 feet and higher off the Thomas Road area, so the ice also broke up there due to the strong wave action. Cold weather this week may harden things up a bit, but this could be the end of ice fishing on the Bay, except for a few secluded areas where shore ice may be fishable for a while.
Saginaw River: Is running fast and muddy after the rain. Ice on the river does not look good. There was no one fishing the river including at the mouth or around the U.S.S. Edson. The ice appears white and honeycombed and no one should be on it.
Overall: Ice fishing on the inland lakes remains good. Bluegill and crappie continue to provide decent catches, and it is becoming more of a late winter bite with most of the action at twilight. Yellow perch are becoming more active. Lakes connected to Lake Michigan may have severe pressure cracks due to the high winds and waves so use caution. Steelhead action was good on the warmer days. Slight temperature increases help the steelhead become more active. Anglers are picking up some nice brown trout.
Lake Ovid: Was producing a light number of small bluegills and the occasional crappie.
Grand River Grand Rapids: Water levels are still up after the rain and snowmelt. Those fishing below the 6th Street Dam continue to catch some nice steelhead on spawn.
Muskegon Lake: The ice was holding for the most part however there are some bad spots, so anglers need to use caution. A couple machines have gone through in a few of those spots. Be smart and use a spud ahead of you to check the ice thickness. The perch seem to be scattered throughout the lake. Walleye and pike fishing was better along the southern side of the lake as opposed to the north end. Fish were caught by those jigging off Hartshorn Marina and Fisherman’s Landing. Small walleye were caught near the Black Buoy.Muskegon River: Water temperatures are cold. Those targeting the deeper holes are being rewarded with a couple nice steelhead.
Burt Lake: Ice fishing continues although anglers may encounter deep snow drifts after the strong winds. Those targeting walleye have caught some keepers. Try the south end and Maple Bay. A few perch were also caught.
Mullett Lake: May also have difficult travel due to drifting snow. Walleye were caught, try jigging on the north end. Perch anglers target fish in 15 to 20 feet off the State Park.
Otsego Lake: Ice conditions are good, but slush was making it hard for anglers to get snowmobiles and ORVs out. Some areas had six inches of slush especially along the shore. Anglers are seeing pike, perch and bluegills on their cameras. Those heading out were jigging wax worms or using tip-ups with minnows.
Houghton Lake: Fresh snow is covering the area near the pressure cracks, so anglers need to use caution. There is still a large crack that runs from the West DNR launch to Johnsons Point and another one that formed off that and runs north to south northeast of Heights Marina. The bluegill bite was still slow. The fish are not schooled up, so anglers need to move around to find them. Those targeting walleye were getting a few keepers as the bite improved.
Overall: Ice fishing is still going strong on the inland lakes however fewer anglers have been out. We are getting reports of steelhead being caught in the rivers however ice and snow continue to hamper fishing efforts.
Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell: Ice fishing continues. The bite was slow, so anglers were moving around to find fish. On Cadillac, try the east end for bluegills and perch. On Mitchell, try the west side including Big Cove for bluegills or the south end for walleye.
Manistee River: Some are getting steelhead up near Tippy Dam. With cold water temperatures, they are fishing the deeper holes with spawn and beads.
Pere Marquette River: The bite was slow but those putting in the time were getting a couple steelhead. Most were found in the slow deep water.
Lake Gogebic: The slush problems are very bad. If you do not have a long track snowmobile or are willing to walk, don’t attempt to go out on the ice. If you do go out, bring a shovel and stay closer to shore so you are retrievable. The perch bite has been good. Fair catches were reported along the west shore flats with wigglers.
Keweenaw Bay: After the storm on Sunday, there is another 10 inches or more of snow on the bay which will not help the slush problem. Lake trout fishing was fair in 100 to 275 feet when jigging 1-2 oz. jigs with cut bait on the bottom. Splake fishing was fair in 15 to 40 feet with tip-ups and minnows, spoons or jigging raps. Brown trout were caught in 20 to 40 feet with jigs and minnows. Anglers have seen schools of lake herring, but none were caught. Try a spoon with a wet fly about six inches above the spoon. Smelt are abundant however the bite has been slow. Try using a spring bobber. No reports on coho or whitefish.
Little Bay De Noc: Anglers have been struggling with the snow and slush and as a result very few are participating. Travel is limited to snowmobiles although some side by sides with tracks had been out. All others did a lot of shoveling.
Walleye anglers had very little to report however perch anglers were catching them. Most were undersize. Perch fishing was fair in Kipling with wigglers or minnows in and around 30 feet. Several anglers tried to rescue their shanties, but many were buried with all the blowing snow. If you have a shanty out there and have not checked it in a while, you probably should.
Munising: Another round of heavy snow added another eight to 15 inches or more in some areas. Ice thickness in bay was good however there may be some pressure cracks after the high winds. Travel on the ice was difficult. Anglers caught coho and burbot in Trout Bay however the ice may be unstable after the high winds. Good catch rates for lake trout were reported near the White Rocks and Wood Island Reef with cut bait in 120 to 160 feet. A few splake were caught off Sand Point. Night anglers did well for burbot but not smelt.
Cedarville and Hessel: Ice was holding however there is deep snow and slush on top. Perch anglers were jigging perch minnows, minnow heads, wax worms, spikes and wigglers however many were caught on spikes. Most were seven to nine inches. Pike up to 26 inches were caught on minnows.