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Archive | Outdoors

One-stop shop for trail maps and information

Hikers, bicyclists, off-road vehicle users, horseback riders, and other trail enthusiasts can now more easily locate and enjoy the vast network of trails and other points of interest in northern Lower Michigan by using the interactive website upnorthtrails.org, recently launched by the Up North Trails Collaborative.

The collaborative, a partnership of more than 50 organizations and agencies led by the Northwest and Northeast Michigan Councils of Governments and Department of Natural Resources, designed the new website to connect the public with more than 5,300 miles of motorized and non-motorized trails in the northern Lower Peninsula.

The Up North Trails website allows users to search for trails based on type of use and/or location, and also serves as a source of information on trail systems throughout the state.

“There are more miles of trails in the northern Lower Peninsula than the distance from Anchorage to Miami,” said Kerry Wieber, DNR liaison to the Up North Trails Collaborative. “The website will help customers find information on all of these trails in one place, regardless of whether it is a state trail or managed by another organization or local unit of government.”

The user-friendly features of upnorthtrails.org include:

An interactive trails map that can be filtered for type of use and location

Detailed information about each individual trail, including any changes in type of use for specific segments of trail

Trailhead locations and points of interest near each trail

A mobile-friendly design, which is fully functional on tablets, mobile phones and other devices

“We wanted to give users a one-stop-shop for information about our trail systems,” said Denise Cline, GIS specialist for the Northeast Michigan Council of Governments. “Up North Trails is a valuable new tool for everyone looking to get outside in northern Michigan.”
The goal of the Up North Trails Collaborative in creating the new website was to promote northern Michigan’s abundance of trails to all user groups, driving recreational and economic activity in the region.
“Up North Trails is the first website of its kind in Michigan, providing information about all trail systems in the region, whether you are a bicyclist, snowmobiler, hiker or horseback rider,” said Matt McCauley, Director of Regional Planning and Community Development for the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. “We hope it will provide a fun, engaging, and useful way for residents and visitors to locate new outdoor adventures.”
Up North Trails Collaborative member groups include the DNR, NEMCOG, NWMCOG, Top of Michigan Trails Council, Land Information Access Association (LIAA), Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails (TART Trails), Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy and Cheboygan County.

The collaborative is supported financially by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Rotary Charities, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more information about the Up North Trails Collaborative, visit www.upnorthtrails.org and click on “About”.

 

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Celebrate 40 years of Michigan’s Endangered Species Act

 

OUT-Celebrate-40-years-Piping-Plover-webAt state parks Aug. 4-10

This year marks the 40th anniversary of Michigan’s Endangered Species Act, the important legislation that has been critical to the recovery of many different species. The Department of Natural Resources is celebrating this milestone with a week of programming in several of Michigan’s state parks.

Threatened and Endangered Species Week, running Aug. 4-10, will feature opportunities to learn more about some of Michigan’s threatened and endangered species through hikes, guided activities and much more. These fun, educational programs are great for the whole family.

On July 11, 1974, Gov. William Milliken signed the Endangered Species Act into law, and it took effect Sept. 1, 1974. The law has been immensely beneficial to the DNR and its conservation partners by enabling protection and management of rare species across the state.

Since the act was signed into law, the DNR has partnered with many other conservation organizations and federal agencies to help recover listed species. Important species that have been recovered and removed from the state’s threatened and endangered species list include the gray wolf, bald eagle, peregrine falcon and osprey.

Threatened and Endangered Species Week programs will be offered at many state parks and recreation areas around the state. To find a program near you, visit www.michigan.gov/natureprograms and click on “Threatened & Endangered Species Week August 4-10.”

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Weekly Fishing Tip: Time for Skamania!

OUT-Weekly-fishing-tip-original-web

Skamania are a strain of steelhead that run rivers in mid to late summer. When Lake Michigan turns over, typically after an east wind, cold water and Skamania can be found close to shore. Piers are a great place to target these summer steelhead. Try fishing alewife or shrimp under a bobber or cast orange Cleos and Kastmasters. St. Joseph, Grand Haven, Muskegon and Manistee piers are good choices.
Once Skamania enter the rivers, target the mouths of coldwater creeks with spinners or Hot-N-Tots. The St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, Grand, Muskegon and Manistee rivers all get decent runs of summer steelhead. For more information on steelhead, check out their Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them page at www.michigan.gov/dnr. Click on fishing, then “fishing in Michigan,” then “Michigan fish and how to catch them.”

This tip was written by Jay Wesley, Southern Lake Michigan Management Unit manager in Plainwell.

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Fishing for big fish

 

Eric Payne with a 28 inch Sheephead caught on an ultra violet crawler harness rig.

Eric Payne with a 28 inch Sheephead caught on an ultra violet crawler harness rig.

by Jack Payne

 

Four rods were set in the rod holders and the speed was set for 1.2 mph on the trolling motor. We had the graph turned on and we were doing our best in hugging the breakline. On Lake Mac in Holland this normally meant staying around 8-14 feet of water.

Our goal, running two baits over the flat and two baits over the deeper water. Lake Michigan had just flipped over. Whenever the big lake drops rapidly in the water temperature schools of baitfish move into the connecting waters. Following the baitfish are walleye, Sheephead, catfish and on occasion, a musky.

Before you turn your nose up at a Sheephead, you really need to catch one. Our best night this year we landed 180 pounds of Sheephead in 2.5 hours. This is a ton of action with a bunch of big fish. They hit hard, tear up your tackle and are just plain fun to fight.

Now we are not targeting just Sheephead. Walleye are the primary target but action is a must. Its like an angler’s buffet table. A bit of everything please.

Trolling is our preferred method. While we use planner boards for a couple of the rods, they are not required. Running boards provide a way to get more rods into the water with the minimal of potential tangles.

With boards, any size boat can easily run six rods, even more if you like. We find that 4 or 5 rods is plenty for two anglers. When you run into a school of catfish or Sheephead more than one rod will go off.

When the big lake flips over, the best connecting waters will have suspended fish. If the big lake temperatures are steady or fairly warm then the best action on the connecting waters is evenly split between bottom hugging fish and suspended fish.

With the bottom hugging fish you should use a bottom bouncer or a three-way wolf river rig. You need a sinker in the three quarter to one-ounce range, maybe slightly heavier on some days. We run the lines with the sinker straight back or on the back outside rod holders.

What we are finding as our most productive fish catching bait is the Ultra Violet crawler harness rigs from Stopper Lures. These rigs throw off much more flash in the dingy waters that we are fishing and also work better in the deeper depths.

Add a fat night crawler and be ready to catch fish. There are two ways to deal with a messy crawler. One is dumping out the crawlers from the store package into a worm bedding mixture. This is easier on the hands and in keeping the boat clean. Second, and this is my favorite way, placing the crawlers into a container of ice cubes and water. I use the Crawler Can for this method. On the first method we use the Rippin Lips container with ice on the outside. Ice fattens up the crawler!

You can also run the Ultra Violet Rigs with a board and an inline sinker. We use a rubber core sinker 2-3 feet above the harness rigs. A quarter ounce or three eighth ounce sinker works great.

We also throw out a few crank baits. Most often it is either a Shad Rap or a Lindy River Rocker. We run these baits without any weight and as a high line. The wide wobble of these baits works great in the stained water.

Trolling any of the connecting waters to Lake Michigan is a blast!

For more info, visit Jackpaynejr.com or facebook outdoors in michigan

 

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Rogue River Expedition: A success!

From Nichol De Mol, Trout Unlimited

Over 50 people participated in the Rogue River Expedition, a 3-day public paddling and land tour to discover and experience conditions and opportunities of Michigan’s Rogue River and its watershed, held in June. The Rogue River Expedition grew out of the 2010 Grand River Expedition, an event where hundreds of paddlers explored more than 250 river miles over 12 days. That expedition is held once a decade. Its organizers decided some of the large tributaries to the Grand River should be paddled on alternate years between Grand River Expeditions. The first expedition was held on the Thornapple River in 2012, with the Rogue River following in 2014.

To kick-off the event, an opening ceremony was held at Howard Christensen Nature Center, followed by a land tour in the headwaters of the Rogue River watershed in Newaygo County. Participants learned about the historic Rice Lake area in Grant Township and how it currently is a hub for growing and packaging muck crops (onions, carrots, and beets). The land tour also included the Fruit Ridge Area just west of Sparta—one of the prime fruit-growing regions in the world. Participants finished the first day with a nature tour and campout at the nature center.

Despite rainy conditions, paddlers gathered at Rogers Park in Sparta the second day to learn about local organizations doing environmental work in the area, with a Watershed Showcase organized by the Rogue River Watershed Partners. Later in the morning, paddlers launched in to Nash Creek and then traveled down the Rogue River finishing up at Camp Rockford, along the Rogue River off of Rector Road. That evening, expedition members were shuttled to downtown Rockford to enjoy food and drinks from local businesses. On the final day of the expedition, educational activities on birds, fish, and stream insects were presented to participants and the public at Camp Rockford.  Paddlers continued their journey on the Rogue River and stopped for a lunch presentation in Rockford from the Rockford Area Historical Society.   Participants then paddled all the way down to the Rogue River’s confluence to the Grand River, and finished the journey.  Expedition participants received a certificate and signed the Rogue River Expedition banner.

The Rogue River Expedition planning committee feels that we accomplished our goal of providing community outreach and drawing attention to the wonderful resources the Rogue River watershed provides.  An equally important goal that was reached was to bring attention to the river and the local communities that it flows through.  Thank you to our sponsors: the City of Rockford, Rogue River Expedition Planning Committee, Schrems West Michigan Trout Unlimited, and Trout Unlimited.  We’d also like to thank Friends of the Rogue River Expedition, volunteers, partners, and participants for making the Rogue River Expedition a success.

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Researcher gives rare turtles head start 

*OUT-Woodturtle1 harding

To Jim Harding, spending nearly a lifetime studying wood turtles just makes sense.
“These are very long-lived animals,” Harding said. “And if you want to understand them, you have to study them over a long period of time.”
An instructor and outreach specialist with Michigan State University’s Zoology Department, Harding has been studying the wood turtle population along an Upper Peninsula river since 1969, when he was working on his master’s degree. But, he’s quick to tell you, he’s been interacting with them even longer; he has a photograph of himself and a turtle from his study site – on property owned by his grandfather – when he was five years old.
*OUT-woodturtle2 walks across sand“I was always fascinated by turtles,” he said. “It wasn’t until many years later that I realized these weren’t just any turtle. They were special.”

The wood turtle is one of 10 species of turtles that live in Michigan. Of the 10, one species is considered threatened (spotted turtle) while the wood turtle joins the box turtle and Blanding’s turtle as a species of concern, explained DNR fisheries biologist Tom Goniea, who oversees reptiles and amphibians as coordinator of the state’s Scientific Collector’s Permit program.
Wood turtles join Blanding’s and box turtles in a group of turtles that are unusually long-lived, Harding said. Wood turtles have unfortunately been attractive to the pet trade, due to their ornate, ridged shells that look like carved wood; their striking, brightly colored yellow bodies; and their similarities to tortoises, which seems to lead people to believe wood turtles are more intelligent or wiser than other species of turtles.

Wood turtles are associated with moving water, from small creeks to large rivers. Although Harding finds them upland at times, “you never find them too far from the river,” he said. The population on his study site is “just a shadow of its former self,” Harding said, something he attributes to two causes: collection by the pet trade back in past decades and a burgeoning raccoon population.
“For years we’ve had no evidence of natural reproduction at all,” said Harding, who recently spent time with several associates looking for wood turtles – and their nests – on his study site. “We don’t see any juveniles. The raccoons are getting all of their nests.”
As a result, Harding, who has the appropriate permits from the DNR, has taken to “head-starting” wood turtles. If he finds a turtle nest, he collects the eggs, incubates them, and raises the hatchlings for a year, then releases them at the study site.

By head-starting the young turtles, they are able to reach the size of a three- or four-year-old by the time Harding releases them, which he hopes will lead to better survival rates, even with some loss of adult turtles to raccoons. Raising the hatchlings for a year is more of a chore than it sounds; the eggs are delicate and must be handled with care. The juveniles must be kept in separate holding areas as they’ll bite each other’s tails and limbs if left together.
To accommodate the hatchlings, Harding raises a few himself, has help from some fellow turtle aficionados with a couple more, and enlists the aid of John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids for help with the rest. So far, his work appears to be bearing fruit as he’s found some of his released turtles surviving in the wild.

Omnivorous creatures that have developed a unique hunting technique—they thump the ground with their shells, creating vibrations that send earthworms to the surface—wood turtles are in short supply across their home range, which extends west to Minnesota, north into Canada and southeast to perhaps Virginia. In Michigan, wood turtles are found across most of the U.P and northern half of the Lower Peninsula.

“Michigan may be one of the states that is very important to their future because we have habitat,” Harding said. They use a mosaic of forest and more open terrain. Timber harvests don’t bother them. Wood turtles do not require wilderness. All they require is that they be left alone.

“They live long lives because, even under the best of conditions, most of their eggs and young are destroyed,” he continued. “So few of them grow up, they have to lay eggs over 30 or 40 years in hopes that they can replace themselves. Every individual is valuable.”
Harding can’t tell you how long they live, but he has one specimen that he marked when the turtle was at least 20 years old and subsequently observed 45 years later, making the creature at least 65.
“I suspect they can live a lot longer than that,” he said.

Wood turtles lay five to 18 eggs, with an average clutch size of around 10. The turtles nest on sand banks that are large enough that they can get above typical high-water stages so the nests are not drowned out by floods. Harding said he “used to find dozens of clutches of eggs,” but these days, if he finds five or six nests “it’s a really good year.”
“I’m happy finding any,” he said. “Some years I’ve gotten skunked.”
If a hiker or paddler encounters a wood turtle, they are advised to enjoy the sighting but then to move on.
“It is illegal to collect, possess, kill or otherwise harass or harm wood turtles or any other species of special concern,” Goniea said.

Except for possibly helping one across a road, observers should keep their hands to themselves. And that will serve wood turtles splendidly, Harding said.
“All they ask is to be left alone” he concluded.
For more information about wood turtles or the other nine species of turtles found in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/wildlife. To learn how to get involved with citizen monitoring of reptiles and amphibians in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/herpatlas.

 

 

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Rogue River Butterfly Count

The Rogue River Butterfly Count was held on July 5, 2014 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. There was a light breeze with good sunlight to stimulate butterfly activity, and the temperature warmed from 62 to 80 F. Thirty-two species with 239 individuals were seen. Review the species listing and number of each species seen. Consider joining us next year for a fun day and to develop your skills for identifying species in your neighborhood and yard. Consider contacting me to join the West Michigan Butterfly Association to explore butterfly nature niches. Our membership fee is $5.

 

Rogue River Butterfly Count Sightings

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail – 2

Spicebush Swallowtail – 3

Cabbage White – 10

Clouded Sulphur – 60

Orange Sulphur – 2

Acadian Hairstreak – 1

Banded Hairstreak – 6

Edward’s Hairstreak – 2

Coral Hairstreak – 7

Eastern Tailed blue – 4

Summer Azure – 3

Great Spangled Fritillary – 1

Greater Fritillary species – 4

Aphrodite Fritillary – 1

Baltimore Checkerspot – 2

Question Mark – 2

Eastern Comma – 2

Mourning Cloak – 7

American Lady – 3

Red-spotted Purple – 1

Northern Pearly Eye – 6

Eyed Brown – 1

Appalachian Brown – 4

Brown satyr species – 1

Little Wood Satyr – 15

Common Wood Nymph – 5

Monarch – 1

European Skipper – 51

Tawny-edged Skipper – 3

Little Glassywing – 3

Northern Broken Dash – 15

Delaware Skipper – 6

Hobomok Skipper – 1

Black Dash – 1

 

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

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Going deep for bass and walleye 

 

Eric payne and a bass caught on a sidewinder.

Eric payne and a bass caught on a sidewinder.

 

Jack Payne with a walleye caught while slow trolling a Bass Stopper.

Jack Payne with a walleye caught while slow trolling a Bass Stopper.

by Jack Payne

I like summertime fishing. Patterns get set and the same technique can work on multiple species on different lakes. An example is a recent outing on a northern lake that holds both walleye and bass. Some days I come armed with a nice fat crawler but on this occasion we did not have any meat.

Instead we went with the Bass Stopper Worm from Stopper Lures. We used both the original worm and the Sidewinder. The Sidewinder comes with a single propeller blade. Both worms come with either two hooks or three hooks molded into the worm. The Bass Stopper worm is a scented worm with anise oil. Anise oil is a lifelong favorite scent of mine.

We started out at daybreak working the edge of the deepest cabbage weeds that we could find. Normally I would use one or two split shots but on this day we also experimented with the new Cast a Weight sinker that was designed for the Stopper pre-rigged worms. These weights slide through the weeds without fouling up and get to the bottom much faster.

Running the trolling motor on slow mode we looked for anything different on the weedline. A clump sticking out further, a small opening or a section of short grass bordering the cabbage weeds. Any change would potentially harbor a fish.

Cast out the rig, let it settle to the bottom and then slowly bounce it back in. We would raise up our rod tip and let the worm flutter down. Reel in the slack and repeat. Because the water temperatures are up there we moved along at decent pace. Early in the spring we move at a snail’s pace.

Once the sun came up we moved out to the points and deeper water. Many of our fish came in depths of 18-24 feet. We would work the shady side of the points first. Speaking of this, fish the points that will get the sunlight the earliest in the day. Get there before the sun gets to high and keep moving.

If we caught a fish we stayed on the point. Go 5-10 minutes without a bump we would pull up and hit the next deep water point. We ran this technique until the sun was shining on all of the points. The higher the sun went the deeper the fish dropped down.

Midday action was best over the mud flats and the small mid lake humps. By this time we had a small chop on the water. Fishing the deeper water we switched to the Sidewinder. The front blade created a bit of noise and improved our action.

Fishing deep water requires more weight and more patience. When we had enough wind we cast out two rods each and sat the rods into a rod holder. On my boat I have Driftmaster rod holders that I use for trolling and drifting.

The key was getting your worm to glide just over the bottom. We wanted the wave action to lift up our worm and then let it flutter down. When a fish hit it was normally hooked. These razor sharp small hooks really do the job.

A benefit using the plastic worms over a real crawler is that small perch and bluegill do not drive you crazy. We catch a few perch and gills with the plastic worms and the size is generally very pleasant to work with.

The plastic worms can be fished in many ways. Very few anglers give them a shot when fishing deeper than ten feet of water. Add a Cast a Weight and fish deeper. Play the sun and use the sun. The results will surprise you.

Visit Jackpaynejr.com for more fishing articles.

 

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Live On Friendly Terms

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

One of my early poems expresses thoughts I maintain today.

 

I cannot say I am educated

because I know plants

in the wild.  When I know

them on friendly terms, I

will not need to say I’m

educated for the wise will know

and others, well they won’t care. – October 13, 1974

 

When you encounter plants in your yard it is not necessary to know its name to appreciate its beauty or presence. It can help if you want help maintain healthy nature niches. Knowing the plants to remove so native species can thrive will better maintain soil health and species diversity.

Many non-native species crowd out native species that maintain soil health or help native animals survive. The exotic Emerald Ash Borer has cost Michigan’s economy ten of millions of dollars in economic loss in ten years and it continues to devastate ash tree populations. It is reducing moth, butterfly, bee, and many other insect populations that are important to birds for feeding young.

Knowing plants on friendly term suggests we take responsibility for our actions and cause no harm. A principal for doctors is to cause no harm. That is easier said than done. Medicines often cause harm but hopefully do more good than harm as they help us recover from variously ailments.

When we remove plants from the landscape to construct homes we do harm. How we manage the remaining yard can allow native plants to thrive. Those plants are better at supplying needs for native mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, insect and other species than non-natives.

We can learn to live to with nature and in nature niches. Many of our activities work to separate us from nature and eliminate nature niches. Manicured lawns are non-native plants that preclude most native species from surviving.

We maintain some lawn around the house and have mowed trails through our Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary but most of the property and been allowed to revert to native nature niches to maintain healthy biodiversity. The mowed lawn looks nice and keeps mosquitoes away from the house so we can sit comfortably on the porch.

Beyond the lawn, the yard is bustling with birds feeding on insects in knee high wildflowers, shrubland, and forest. The yard is alive with sound, visual beauty, wild activity and enriches our lives and the lives of other species.

I have documented about 250 species of plants here with many more to be discovered. I have overlooked a Wafer-ash growing here that my friend Chip Francke noticed this week. It added a species to my list but it is also a food plant for the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly and probably other species.

Over 100 bird, 24 mammal, 11 herps, 51 butterfly species have been documented along many other species. Many creatures that share our yards and I think it wise for more of us transform part of our yards to wild nature niches.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.  616-696-1753.

 

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Clean boats help prevent introduction, spread of aquatic invasive species

The Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers and boaters that as the holiday weekend approaches they should clean their boats, trailers and equipment before and after use to prevent the introduction and spread of aquatic invasive species in Michigan. Boats can unintentionally spread invasive species from one body of water to another, but most of these situations are avoidable by following a few, simple steps:

•Clean boats, trailers and equipment before you launch and again after.

•Drain water from bilges and livewells at the ramp before leaving.

•Dry trailers, boats, equipment and storage areas thoroughly before using them in a different body of water.

•Dispose of unused bait in the trash.

•Don’t transfer live fish to water bodies, other than where they were originally caught.

•Disinfect livewells and bilges with a bleach solution comprised of one-half cup of bleach to 5 gallons of water

Michigan laws prohibit placing a boat, trailer or other boating equipment into state waters with plant material attached.
For more information on the importance of cleaning boats and equipment to prevent aquatic invasive species, check out the video above created by the Michigan Sea Grant program, with support from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

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