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Archive | Outdoors

Catch of the Week: Aaron Funk

OUT-Catch-of-week-FunkAaron Funk, age 13, got this 23-inch brown trout, while camping at Duke Creek campground (his favorite campground) over Labor Day weekend.

“This is one of three nice trout he got out of Duke Creek that weekend,” said his mom, Amanda Funk. “He’s a proud fisherman!”

Congratulations, Aaron, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Help DNR find tagged small mouth bass

The DNR is looking for information on tagged smallmouth bass anglers catch on Lake Michigan (similar to the one pictured here).

The DNR is looking for information on tagged smallmouth bass anglers catch on Lake Michigan (similar to the one pictured here).

The Department of Natural Resources is requesting help from anglers in an ongoing study of smallmouth bass in northern Lake Michigan.

Central Michigan University (CMU) and the DNR have been tagging smallmouth bass in the Beaver Island Archipelago since 2005, at Waugoshance Point (Wilderness State Park) since 2009, and in parts of Grand Traverse Bays since 2014. Anglers are asked to report the whereabouts of these tagged smallmouth bass by providing information on capture, capture location and tag number to the DNR via michigandnr.com/taggedfish/tags. If anglers release tagged fish, please do not remove the tag and just report the requested information on the website as indicated.

“Northern Lake Michigan is recognized as one of the top bass fishing destinations in the country, and tagging studies help to provide the scientific basis for management of this world-class fishery,” said Dave Clapp, Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station manager. “Thanks to the efforts of many contributing anglers who’ve reported information on captured smallmouth bass, we have greatly expanded our knowledge of the northern Lake Michigan fishery.”

Since 2005, more than 7,000 smallmouth bass have been caught, tagged and released back into Lake Michigan. Each smallmouth bass has a unique number on its tag, allowing for the tracking of its individual movement and growth. Returns of tagged smallmouth bass have provided insights into movement and nesting habitat within the Great Lakes.

These studies also have demonstrated that smallmouth bass have increased in size and number, compared to 20 or 30 years ago. Smallmouth bass in northern Lake Michigan are among the fastest-growing of this species in North America. Ongoing support from anglers allows the DNR and CMU to continue to expand their knowledge of Great Lakes smallmouth bass populations and fisheries.

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No changes for chumming and steelhead bag limit regulations

Anglers won’t see any changes to chumming or steelhead possession limits as the DNR has decided changes are not needed at this time.

Anglers won’t see any changes to chumming or steelhead possession limits as the DNR has decided changes are not needed at this time.

Department of Natural Resources fisheries staff recently discussed with the public restrictions on the amount of organic material that could be used as chum and a reduced steelhead possession limit on four West Michigan rivers.

Seven meetings were held across the state in July with approximately 275 participants in attendance. Comments also were received through phone and email.

The discussions were initiated after the DNR received requests from anglers and constituent groups to lower the steelhead possession limit on the Muskegon, Pere Marquette, Little Manistee and Big Manistee rivers. A three-fish daily possession limit for steelhead has been in place since 1989. Michigan boasts some of the best river steelhead fishing in the country.

Angler interviews conducted on these four rivers in the past indicated only 5 percent of anglers fishing for steelhead harvest the three-fish daily possession limit.

The DNR also recently received complaints related to excessive use of chum on select Lake Michigan rivers, especially the Muskegon River. The concern stems from lower catch rates for those who do not use chum.

The DNR does not consider chumming as a biological threat to fish populations in general.

“Based on our current understanding of these two specific issues, we do not recommend any regulatory changes at this time,” said Nick Popoff, manager of the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “We appreciate the public’s feedback regarding chumming and steelhead possession limits, as it helped us better understand angler concern related to these two issues and this conversation will undoubtedly continue.”

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Big Year Birder Speaks

By Ranger Steve Mueller


The Big Year movie showed in area theaters in 2011, and featured Greg Miller, played by Joe Black, in the movie. The movie was about three men trying to see as many bird species in one year as possible. Each hoped to see more than anyone else had seen in one year. People found the movie fun and comical despite it portraying a real life serious experience and quest. The Grand Rapids Audubon is hosting Greg as speaker on September 28, 2015 at 7:30 p.m. in the Wege Auditorium on the Aquinas College Campus.

The Audubon club invites us to enjoy this entertaining speaker describe his quest to surpass seeing 700 species of birds in one calendar year, by traversing the continent in his quest. The motion picture entertained many in our community, and, if you missed it, I suggest you rent and view it prior to Greg’s talk at the end of September. The actors Steve Martin and Owen Wilson portrayed the other birders in the quest. Come to Greg’s presentation, where he will relate some of the hilarious stories about his journey and tell of his role as movie consultant.

A free-will donation at the door is encouraged to defray the speaker fee and to support Audubon club bird conservation and education efforts. For more information, you can contact John Chronowski at vice.president@graud.org.

The GR Audubon presentation will be at the Wege Student Center on the Aquinas College Campus at 1607 Robinson SE to accommodate a larger audience. The Wege Student Center is accessible from Fulton St on the north and from Robinson Rd on the south. Parking is available in Lots A and B on Fulton St and in Lots L and M on Robinson Rd. I approach Aquinas College from the East Beltline by taking Lake Michigan Ave to Robinson.

For those of us that watch and pursue birds, the birding quest is familiar, but to others it is a not. My sister-in-law saw the movie and asked if people really do this. Like any hobby, some people take great effort to be among the best in their pursuit. Personally, I am more casual about my pursuit but I do try to notice as many bird species as possible. This year, my list is over 350 species of bird species sighted and that is not an easy number to see in one year.

In my personal quest, I try to learn the habitat for each species and observe its strategies for survival. Where does it spend most of its time and what food is it eating? Does it associate with particular plants in its nature niche? Where does it nest and what foods are preferred during each month? What are spring arrival and fall departure dates? Natural history questions continue to challenge our observation skills.

I seek similar quests for butterflies, plants, amphibians, mammals, and even fish. One of my college professors commented that what he remembered most about me is that I am a generalist. As a generalist, it is impossible to excel in any one area, but I am most satisfied with connecting the lives of all organisms in an ecosystem, and thus claim to be an ecologist. We each have our personal quest but I am greatly looking forward to hearing Greg discuss his quest that he refers to as “My Big Story.”

My big year will never approach that of serious birders like Greg, but mine helps me learn about the birds encountered and aids my understanding for how ecosystems function. I will greatly enjoy learning how Greg enjoys nature and his great knowledge of birds. Come for an entertaining evening.

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

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Don’t let fires spread out of control this Labor Day weekend

Campfires are a big part of the outdoor fun over Labor Day weekend and throughout the summer in Michigan. This holiday season, the DNR urges everyone to take extra precautions while lighting, enjoying and extinguishing their campfires.

Campfires are a big part of the outdoor fun over Labor Day weekend and throughout the summer in Michigan. This holiday season, the DNR urges everyone to take extra precautions while lighting, enjoying and extinguishing their campfires.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources urges residents and visitors to be cautious when lighting, enjoying and extinguishing their outdoor fires this Labor Day weekend.

Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist, said that despite recent rain, Michigan is seeing late summer conditions where fuels, such as grass and leaves, are approaching the end of their growing season.

“Even with wet weather, once fuels are dead they can dry out quickly,” he said. “Wind can aid that process and will increase the rate at which a fire spreads out of control. A few simple precautions can help keep small fires small and ensure they won’t escape to cause injury or major damage.”

The DNR recommends following these precautions to ensure fire safety:

  • Clear away all flammables before lighting a fire.
  • Never leave any fire unattended, even for a moment.
  • Keep all campfires and debris fires small.
  • Have water available in case a fire begins to flare up. If a fire does escape, call 911 immediately before attempting to put it out.
  • When done with a fire, drown it with plenty of water. Wet everything thoroughly, especially the undersides of unburned pieces. Stir the ashes to find any hot embers and wet everything again.
  • Do not simply bury a fire; soil will act as an insulating blanket and mask the heat beneath the surface.
  • Always make sure fires are completely out. Carelessness and improperly extinguished coals are a leading cause of escaped fires.

“We want folks to enjoy their time camping, hiking and spending the long weekend with friends and family, but we also ask everyone keep fire safety in mind while they’re doing so,” Laux said. “This fire season has been more active than the last two years in Michigan. Because most wildfires are caused by carelessness, increasing public awareness about fire prevention is imperative all year.”

So far in 2015, the DNR has responded to 325 wildfires that have burned more than 2,800 acres.

For more information on campfire tips, wildfire prevention, burn permits and fire preparedness, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

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Guided discovery hike


By Ranger Steve Mueller

Brad Slaughter, from Michigan Natural Features Inventory, will be at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Drive, to lead a walk on September 19, 2015, from 1:30 to 4 p.m. Dennis Dunlap will be leading a part on mushrooms and Ranger Steve will contribute regarding ecological relationships. Come have an enjoyable time learning with family members and friends.

Mark calendars to explore the sanctuary with the Michigan Botanical Club that is hosting the discovery hike. Park at V&V Nursery and we will depart on the walk at 1:30. We appreciate them hosting parking.

The ecology walk will examine mushrooms and plant identifications, and their associations with birds, insects, mammals, amphibians and more. The 61-acre sanctuary includes “the big woods,” field/shrubland, wetland forest, stream and ponds. Trails traverse wetland over two bridges that cross Little Cedar Creek and upland habitats. We will examine plants with a 10 Co-efficient of Conservatism. That almost always indicates plants restricted to an undisturbed/pre-settlement remnant.

Come see what might be the largest American Chestnut of your life time. One of the sanctuary’s chestnuts has a diameter of 3 feet. We found a young two-foot tall chestnut so the large tree is reproducing. There is at least one other large chestnut.

Recently a mink crossed the driveway and a weasel was seen twice during mid July. Mink and weasels usually stay hidden. A Great Blue Heron and Green Heron are often seen. Pileated Woodpeckers are working the trees. There are always new discoveries every time one ventures into nature niches and most are related to plant communities. This guided walk is free. Donations to support the sanctuary management are welcome. This will be wonderful opportunity to become familiar with the Michigan Botanical Club. They welcome new faces to enjoy the outdoors with them.

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

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American Chestnut


By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller


Benefits of the American chestnut tree were important for building United States society but a disease, unknowingly imported across the ocean, has mostly eliminated benefits. This happened to elm trees when Dutch elm disease was imported. Recently this occurred when the Emerald Ash Borer beetle was imported in 2002. Our livelihoods, economy, and landscape ecosystem functions are dependent on preventing exotic species from becoming established in native nature niches.

The rapidly growing chestnut was highly valued as a durable wood. Important uses included tool handles, furniture, doors, plywood, poles, fencing, railroad tires, and tannin. It had little shrinkage, minimal warping and good gluing qualities. The tree provided fruit that was roasted and sold in markets.

American chestnut trees (Castanea dentata) were a co-dominant species in the oak-hickory-chestnut forest that extended from Maine to Alabama and from the Atlantic Ocean to Michigan. Now the forest is referred to as oak-hickory. Southeast Michigan was the western range limit for the chestnut. Individuals at the edge of their range are considered ecologically important because they seem to offer more hope for adaptive genetic change. Fringe individuals might be better able to survive in new and changing environments. Their DNA might provide what is necessary to help the species survive in a changing world provided the living conditions do not change too rapidly.

Introducing new diseases that a species has never experienced is often devastating. It is a major reason Native American populations died when diseases like small pox were introduced by Europeans to America. Disease introduction to the American chestnut caused it to disappear from most of the landscape and ceased its function as an important ecological contributor in the eastern deciduous forest.

Fortunately, there were individuals that survived for some reason in outlying areas of the species range. The reason for survival has not been clearly determined. One factor could be fringe range individuals might have genetically variability that helps survival. Natural abundance ended in southeast Michigan but individuals lived farther west and north in Michigan. I have seen American chestnuts in Saginaw, Grand Traverse, and Kent Counties as well as many other counties. It is especially considered a rare sighting to find a large chestnut because few survive the disease to reach large size.

A fungus blight (Endothia parasitica) introduced from eastern Asia in the early 1900’s arrived in imported exotic chestnut tree species and devastated the ecosystem. The blight affected countless species beside humans that used the American chestnut trees for survival. We worry about diseases like Ebola and a variety of diseases that might challenge human survival. Diseases that challenge the survival of chestnuts, elms, and ashes also have great ecological significance on biodiversity. Other species like Purple Loosestrife, Garlic Mustard, and Phragmites crowd native species and eliminate them from healthy nature niche communities.

Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary is home to a large reproducing American chestnut that has a diameter of three feet. Hope continues that a disease resistant variety might be able to help the species reclaim its place the Eastern Deciduous Forest.

Help species survive by planting native species to help them and associated animals thrive where you live. Remove invasive exotic species. Encourage landscape nurseries to avoid selling species that crowd out native species when they escape the garden or yard. There are non-native species suitable for the garden and yard that are not invasive. Invasive species are harmful to society’s economy, livelihood, and functional ecosystems. Nurseries sell products to make a profit and choose stock that customers purchase. You determine the biodiversity we pass on the future generations by what you purchase and plant and whether your yard is maintained to encourage native species.

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


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Bowfishing: combining two pastimes into one sport

DNR Fisheries Division boat captain Roy Beasley shows off a longnose gar he arrowed on Lake Erie. Michigan DNR photo.

DNR Fisheries Division boat captain Roy Beasley shows off a longnose gar he arrowed on Lake Erie. Michigan DNR photo.

Roy Beasley grew up fishing, but when he discovered bowhunting, he changed his technique. He became a bowfisherman. “I still bass fish at my parents’ cottage or with the guys at work,” he said. “But I like doing this more.”

A research vessel captain with the Department of Natural Resources, Beasley is one of a growing number of sportsmen and women who like to combine hunting and fishing, using bows and arrows to take a wide variety of fish, including many that are generally not targeted by hook-and-line anglers.

Bowfishing is legal for bowfin, bullheads, burbot, carp (including goldfish), catfish, cisco, drum, gizzard shad, longnose gar, smelt, all species of suckers—including buffalo and quillback—and whitefish.

Beasley has taken most of them, including a number of Master Angler fish of six different species. But he particularly likes chasing gar and gizzard shad, because their narrow bodies make them more of a challenge.

Roy Beasley, DNR Fisheries Division, surveys the shallows from an elevated platform on his boat at Lake Erie. Michigan DNR Photo.

Roy Beasley, DNR Fisheries Division, surveys the shallows from an elevated platform on his boat at Lake Erie. Michigan DNR Photo.

Except in the spring, when a number of species are in shallow water spawning, most bowfishermen go out at night, using lights to see down into the water. Beasley said going at night “is easier and your shots are closer,” but he likes going in the daytime “because it’s more challenging.”

“A lot of people associate carp-shooting with night, except in the spring when the fish are spawning and wallowing around on the surface,” he said. “You can still shoot carp during the day in the summer, but they’re spookier.”

Bowfishermen prefer clear water and calm days with sunny skies. “You can shoot them on cloudy days, but they usually see you before you see them,” he said. Bowfishing is a shallow-water sport.

Beasley said the transition from bowhunting to bowfishing is fairly seamless. Seth Rhodea, president of the Bowfishing Association of Michigan, agrees. “If you’ve got an old hunting bow lying around, you can buy a kit with a reel and a line and an arrow for around $40,” said Rhodea, who also is a DNR conservation officer in Sanilac County. “You don’t need a boat; if you’ve got a place to wade in the spring when the carp and gar are up shallow, you can have fun all day chasing them around.”

Rhodea, who started bowfishing half a dozen years ago, isn’t a bowhunter. He said a buddy took him, and he enjoyed it and got into it. Lots of people have the same experience. “In the last three years, it seems like it’s growing,” said Rhodea, who added there are about 175 members in BAM, but more than 2,000 “like” its Facebook page. “In the spring, it’s not uncommon to see half a dozen boats from one of the launches out bowfishing. A lot of guys have gotten into it in the last few years. Seems like every time you take a new person out, he gets hooked, gets his own boat, and gets going.”

As a conservation officer, Rhodea says he gets a lot of complaints about bowfishermen—lights bothering riparians or the sound of generators disturbing their peace, for instance. And there are complaints about improper disposal of fish.  That isn’t a problem for most bowfishermen, who put the fish to use, often for fertilizer in their gardens.

Beasley says he has no problem disposing of the fish. He’s given some to bear hunters for bait, some to raptor rehabilitators to feed the birds, and even some to the Department of Environmental Quality for contaminant testing.

“And I’ve eaten some,” Beasley said. “The gar aren’t too bad. The drum is a little bit different texture—sort of reminds me of alligator.”

Beasley gets started in April and bowfishes into December some years, adding that spring is usually the best time. “You can do big numbers,” he said. “My best day was about 40 fish—I shot until my cooler was full.”

But bowfishing is as much about quality as quantity. Of the five state records that have been set so far this year, three of them—a blackmouth buffalo and two quillback carpsuckers—were taken bowfishing. In the last two years, six state standards have been set by bowfishermen.

The DNR doesn’t have any data on how many anglers participate, but there’s reason to believe the number is growing because of increasing submissions of fish taken by bowfishermen in the Master Angler program. Either that or those doing it are just getting better at the game. “I’m usually pretty successful,” said Beasley, who says he’s had 100-shot days. “But it’s like anything else…you don’t always get them.”

To learn more about fishing in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Sky Fire

Nature-Niche-Ranger-Steve-Head-ShotBy Ranger Steve Mueller


We each have the privilege of being born during a special time. The events surrounding our personal birth vary and add spice to ones personal life history. I was born during the most spectacular meteor shower of the year.

The Perseids Meteor Shower provides a fiery light show to mark my birthday or so it’s fun to believe. Of course scientific evidence does not demonstrate such a relationship but we can each believe what we desire despite evidence to the contrary. We tend to place our own lives at the center of the universe and we like to think all that happens revolves around us.

When we take time to examine our place in the great scheme of things, we discover we are not the most important in the universe even though we tend to think we are. When we live well, we find we can be important to others and that we can improve the lives for all around us. We can be a shooting star that brightens the lives of others or we can stay focused on our own perceived self-importance and self-interest.

Imagine the light from shooting stars during the Perseids Meteor Shower as shimmering light reflecting a person’s good deed done for another or someone’s soul traversing into the great beyond. We can create stories that enthrall our imaginations, pleasure, and desired beliefs. Such stories move our hearts and spirits in ways that science does not and make for the best and most appealing “Hallmark” stories.

Science, however, provides a more accurate account of how nature and its processes work. Such explanations have their own charm and lead to great discoveries. If it were not for scientific discoveries, we would not have recently received pictures of the surface of Pluto. Scientific discoveries from the space program have also improved our daily lives here on Earth’s surface.

The reason the Perseids Meteor Shower occurs in mid August has to do with our planet traveling around the sun once a year. When it arrives at the same location in mid August each year, the Earth collides with debris left by the comet when it passed. Comets, like planets, have an orbit around the sun. Their orbits are greater than planetary orbits and often require hundreds or thousands of years to make a trip around the sun.

Where the comet’s path crosses Earth’s orbit, debris is left in space. When the Earth passes where the comet traveled, it collides with debris left by the comet. Earth’s gravitation pulls debris toward the Earth causing it to heat, glow and vaporize on its descent through the atmosphere. The average size of a “shooting star” is five ten thousandths of an ounce (.0005). That is about the size of a sand grain. We see the flash of light as it vaporizes 50 to 75 miles above the Earth’s surface.

Meteors or “shooting stars” can be seen any night of the year but more occur when Earth passes where more debris is present. The peak of the Perseids shower occurs between August 11 and 13 in celebration of my birthday. Everything in the universe revolves around my life or maybe it’s around your life.

Well science is not personal but that does not stop us from making things personal, fun, and meaningful in ways that enrich our existence. Take time to enjoy all aspects of nature niches from soil particles in your yard to specks of dust in outer space. Our limited presence in time is as fleeting as a shooting star’s when compared with the five billion year Earth history. Take advantage of the wonder and joy in each fleeting moment of life.

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

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Weekly fishing tip


OUT-Weekly-fishing-tip-crappie_originalUnderstanding the thermocline 

From Michigan DNR

Most lakes, sometime during the summer, will develop a thermocline. Understanding how the thermocline works and what it means for your fishing tactics, is important to having a successful day on the water.

Here are a few simple things to keep in mind in relation to the thermocline and its parallel layers.

Epilimnion Layer

This layer is at the top and thus receives the most sunlight. You’ll typically find bluegill and bass (and other warmwater and bait species) here as it’s the warmest.

Thermocline Layer

This is the middle layer. You’ll often find crappie and walleye congregate here.

Hypolimnion Layer 

This is the bottom layer and also the coldest and densest. Species you’ll find here include lake trout, whitefish and northern pike.

Keep in mind the thermocline can change day to day and in the fall it will mix with the other layers to create an entirely different dynamic of the lake.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

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