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Tag Archive | "anglers"

The lure of ice fishing strikes many anglers 


A couple of anglers enjoy their day ice fishing. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

A couple of anglers enjoy their day ice fishing. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan is a place where anglers can take up their rod and fish year-round with the expectation of having fantastic experiences. Winter is no exception, with thousands of lakes open to ice fishing.

Although not everyone’s first pick for recreational activity, ice fishing attracts thousands of Michigan men and women—according to some estimates, roughly a fourth of all Michigan anglers say they fish through the ice—who brave winter weather to keep on fishing.

Many say they actually prefer fishing through the ice to the open-water sport.

“Ice fishing is a terrific way for the entire family to enjoy Michigan’s world-class fisheries during the winter season,” said Darren Kramer, northern Lake Michigan unit manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

An angler pulls a fish out of a hole. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

An angler pulls a fish out of a hole. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Ice fishing can be as simple—or as complex—as an angler chooses to make it.

But for beginners, there’s not a lot to getting started. Anglers need just three things: something to make a hole in the ice with, something to clear that hole and keep it open, and something to fish with.

There are two basic tools for opening holes in the ice, spuds or augers. Spuds are long-handled tools with chisel-like heads used to gouge holes through the ice. A spud is all that’s needed when the ice is relatively thin.

As the ice thickens, however, an auger—a corkscrew-like device with cutting blades on the end—allows anglers to drill a hole. As the ice gets extremely thick, power augers driven by batteries or small gasoline engines are extremely helpful.

Once a hole is opened, it must be cleared. A skimmer or slush scoop—which resembles a ladle with holes in the cup—can remove slush and ice from the water surface in the open hole. Plastic skimmer or scoop models are inexpensive and available wherever fishing tackle is sold.

The vast majority of anglers fish the same way they do during open-water season—with a rod or pole. It can be as simple as a thin dowel with a line attached to the end or it can be a high-dollar rod made of modern materials with an equally expensive reel. There are countless options in between.

Many anglers begin with simple fiberglass rods with small spring-tension spools to hold line, and they never see the need to upgrade.

“I think that one of the real attractions to ice fishing is that an angler doesn’t need to buy a lot of expensive gear to get started and try it,” Kramer said.

Anglers can fish through the ice for every species that swims in Michigan, though they may not be able to keep everything they catch. (Largemouth and smallmouth bass, for instance, must be immediately released from Jan. 1 to the Friday before Memorial Day.)

And although you can catch all species on the simplest gear, all sorts of tackle exists for anglers who specialize in particular species.

The most popular fish targeted by ice fishermen are the same as those sought by most open-water anglers: panfish. Bluegills, sunfish, yellow perch and crappie are all highly sought as they are relatively easy to catch and make fine table fare.

“Panfish are terrific for introducing kids, family and friends to ice fishing for the first time,” Kramer said.

Small weighted hooks, such as tear drops or jigs, tipped with insect larva are the most popular baits, though some prefer minnows, especially for perch or crappie. But some eschew bait completely, although they use weighted flies or artificial lures, such as tiny spoons or plastic-tipped jigs.

Walleye are among the more glamorous quarry of anglers. Plenty of others prefer to fish for the various species of trout. Still others prefer pike or muskellunge, which brings us to other forms of fishing beyond rods and reels.

Tip-ups are devices that are set on the ice above the hole and are used to suspend bait in the water column below. Tip-ups feature spring-loaded flags that “tip up” when the bait is taken, alerting the angler to the strike.

Tip-ups are most commonly associated with pike fishing, though they can be used for any number of species – walleye, trout, even perch.

“Fishing with tip-ups is a great way to move around while ice fishing, especially on cold blustery days,” said Cory Kovacs, DNR acting Lake Superior unit manager. “The excitement of running for the flag is what really ‘warms’ the anglers.”

Because anglers are allowed to fish three lines, many set tip-ups while actively fishing with rods. Others—particularly  those who target pike, muskie or sturgeon—prefer spearing.

Simply put, they cut a large hole in the ice, usually with an ice saw or chainsaw, and sit beside it, waiting for a fish to swim into range.

Most spearing takes place inside shelters, as it’s easier to see into the water when the light is blocked. This has given rise to the term “dark-house” spearing, and many spear fishermen build comfortable shacks (commonly called shanties) to fish from.

Most anglers use portable shacks they can drag out with them and remove from the ice when they leave for shore.

Anglers who spear typically use decoys—either live or artificial—to lure fish into range. There are many restrictions to spear fishing, so be sure to consult the Michigan Fishing Guide for information.

Although many rod-and-reel anglers are content to sit on a bucket (which doubles as a gear carrier) on the ice while they fish, it can be miserable—even unbearable – during the depths of winter.

Portable shanties not only block the wind and elements, they allow anglers to use small heaters, making the experience less physically taxing.

Either way, it’s important to dress for the weather, even if you’re fishing from a well-appointed, insulated shanty. It can be awfully cold getting there.

Moisture-wicking underwear helps keep anglers dry. You can work up a real sweat trudging across the ice, especially if you’re dragging a shanty or carrying heavy equipment, and wool clothing continues to provide warmth even when wet. Modern, insulated outerwear made for ice anglers is sure to keep you warm.

Waterproof boots are de rigueur, and moisture-wicking socks, under wool socks, are helpful too. A thermos of a hot beverage—alcohol is not recommended—will help keep anglers warm on the ice.

Those interested in ice fishing, but who are wary of the learning curve, might find it helpful to attend one of the Hard Water Schools offered this winter by the DNR at the Carl T. Johnson Hunt and Fish Center at Mitchell State Park in Cadillac.

Programs are scheduled for Jan. 28 and Feb. 25. These sessions, led by seasoned anglers and DNR staffers will teach you everything you need to know to get started ice fishing, and include an afternoon on the ice with hands-on instruction.

To register for the Hard Water Schools, visit www.michigan.gov/outdoorskills.

Another opportunity to try ice fishing is during the DNR’s Free Fishing Weekend Feb. 18-19. During this weekend, anglers may fish without having to purchase a fishing license. However, all fishing regulations on daily bag limits and other provisions still apply.

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Fishing Tip: Try your hand at spearfishing this winter


 

Starting December 1, the spear fishing season for Northern Pike and Muskellunge began on all waters through the ice except designated trout lakes, designated trout streams and other specific waters. No muskellunge spearing is allowed on Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, the Detroit River or the St. Clair River as well. Many anglers will try their hand at this historical method of fishing until the season concludes on March 15.

Spear fishing is much different from general ice fishing. Anglers will cut larger holes in the ice and fish from tents or small shanties. The shanty blocks the light, allowing anglers to see down into the water in order to spear the fish.

Anglers who spear fish generally dangle decoys or large live baits (such as suckers) in the water to attract their target fish. They utilize spears that typically have a substantial weight to them and have seven to nine tines on the end of a seven-foot handle.

Other species besides Northern Pike and Muskellunge are also allowed to be speared throughout the state. See the Michigan Fishing Guide for a list of opportunities. Go to www.michigan.gov/dnr and type “Michigan Fishing Guide” in the search bar.

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Michigan’s waters: not a good home for pet fish


 

OUT-Pet-fish-Red-belliedpacuJuly in Michigan is becoming synonymous with reports of anglers landing pacus—fish with human-like teeth used for eating nuts and seeds—in the southeastern part of the state. Last month, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources received three pacu reports—two from Lake St. Clair and one from the Port Huron area.

Reeling in a pacus would be a surprise, perhaps even a shock to anyone fishing in Michigan. Though it looks somewhat like a native shad, the pacu’s squarish, blunt teeth clearly set it apart. It isn’t similar to any native, toothed fish, including trout, muskellunge or northern pike.

The red-bellied pacu, Piaractus brachypomus, is a popular aquarium fish imported from South America. The U.S. leads the world in importing ornamental fish, supporting a worldwide aquarium industry that tops $1 billion annually.

Though the pacu is a non-native fish, it is not considered invasive in Michigan. Invasive species are defined as those that are not native and also can cause harm to the environment, the economy or human health. A 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service assessment concluded the risk posed by pacus in the continental United States is uncertain due to a lack of research on the fish’s negative impacts. While the risk is uncertain for the U.S., pacus are not considered invasive in Michigan because they are tropical warm water fish that are not likely to survive the severe cold of Michigan winters.

Pacus have been caught in lakes, ponds or creeks in at least 27 U.S. states. However, there is no evidence that breeding populations have been established in any of these locations. Current climate data indicate this tropical, freshwater fish is unlikely to survive Great Lakes winters, but climate change may increase the possibility.

Finding pacus in the Great Lakes is evidence of a common dilemma; what to do when you can no longer keep an aquarium pet? Pacus are known to grow significantly, often beyond the capacity of their tanks.

“Pet release is almost never humane. Pets released from confined, artificial environments are poorly equipped to fend off predators and may be unable to successfully forage for food or find shelter,” said Nick Popoff, manager of the DNR’s Aquatic Species and Regulatory Affairs Unit. “Those that do succeed in the wild can spread exotic diseases to native animals. In the worst-case scenario, released animals can thrive and reproduce, upsetting natural ecosystems to the degree that these former pets become invasive species.”

In the case of the pacu and other ornamental fish, there is another issue.

“Invasive or not—planting fish of any kind in the waters of the state without a permit is illegal,” said Popoff. “This includes the release of aquarium fish like pacus and goldfish, as well as farm-raised fish from private ponds.”

Paige Filice of Michigan State University works with a new statewide campaign to Reduce Invasive Pet and PLant Escapes, or RIPPLE, offering solutions for aquarium and pond owners.

“If your pacu has outgrown its tank or begun to feed on your other fish, rather than releasing it into a pond or stream, consider donating or trading it with another hobbyist, an environmental learning center, an aquarium or a zoo,” said Filice. “You can also check with the pet store where you purchased the fish to see if they will take it back.”

Another option is to talk with a veterinarian or pet retailer about humane methods to dispose of the pet.

More information about the RIPPLE campaign and managing aquarium pets and plants is available from the Michigan Invasive Species website.

If you catch an unusual fish, keep it and preserve it on ice. If that is not possible, take photos of the fish. Do not return it to the water. Contact Seth Herbst, DNR aquatic invasive species biologist, at 517-284-5841 or herbsts@michigan.gov for assistance in identification.

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Lake sturgeon season opened July 16 on certain waters


Many anglers consider catching a lake sturgeon to be the catch of a lifetime. The opportunity can be yours on select waters starting July 16.

Many anglers consider catching a lake sturgeon to be the catch of a lifetime. The opportunity can be yours on select waters starting July 16.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that the unique hook-and-line fishing seasons for lake sturgeon opened Saturday, July 16. Lake sturgeon are one of Michigan’s most historically significant fish species, but there are limited opportunities to target them within the state’s waters.

Seasons opening last weekend included:

  • Great Lakes and Connecting Waters (except Lake St. Clair and St. Clair River), all inland waters. The fishing season is open July 16 through Nov. 30, but there is no possession season. All lake sturgeon caught must be released immediately.
  • Lake St. Clair and St. Clair River. The fishing season is open July 16 through Nov. 30, and the possession season is open July 16 through Sept. 30. Lake sturgeon between 42 and 50 inches may be harvested; those less than 42 inches or greater than 50 inches must be released immediately.
  • Otsego Lake (Otsego County). The fishing and possession season is July 16 through March 15, 2017. The minimum size limit for lake sturgeon is 50 inches; those less than 50 inches must be released immediately.

“Very few opportunities exist in this state to target this exceptionally unique species,” said Todd Wills, DNR fisheries research manager on Lake St. Clair. “But for anglers looking to have the catch of a lifetime, they may want to consider heading out to an area with an open lake sturgeon hook-and-line season.”

All sturgeon anglers shall obtain non-transferable lake sturgeon fishing permits and harvest tags prior to fishing for lake sturgeon. These items are available at all license vendors. Upon harvesting a lake sturgeon, an angler must validate their harvest tag, attach it to the fish and register their harvest within 24 hours at a designated registration site.

Lake sturgeon harvest is limited to only one lake sturgeon per angler per angling year (April 1 through March 31). For more information on this fish species and its regulations, visit Michigan.gov/sturgeon.

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Boat and equipment check list 


Eric Payne with a large early season bass caught and released

Eric Payne with a large early season bass caught and released

by Jack Payne

Spring fishing has started for a few anglers and this is the perfect time for a good check- up of your boat, electronics and your fishing gear. Some of these tips are second nature and a number of them anglers overlook causing significant pain. I spoke with Vohn at Matteson Marine and he pointed out some really good tips.

The first thing is checking the tire pressure. After sitting all winter it is a good bet that the air pressure has lowered. Keep the pressure near the maximum manufactured suggested levels.

Bearings need grease. As a minimum you should pull the hub and actually check the bearings every two years, more often if you drive a lot. Even with a grease zert or a Bearing buddy system, it pays to check the bearings for wear and to investigate the quality of the grease.

If the bearings are still smooth and roll easily then you can add grease and be done with it. There is no reason to pack the cavity completely full between the two sets of bearings.

The lower unit lube should be replaced each year. There are two plugs on most motors. Remove the top plug then the lower plug. Have an empty coffee can or milk jug handy to catch the lube.

One item that is overlooked by most boaters is the seals for the impeller. Most manuals suggest replacing the seals every 3-5 years. Many boaters wait until their engine horn or alarm sounds or until they have a problem.

Sucking up mud, sand or silt is one major cause of failed seals. Another is fish line. If the seals get cut, damage can occur quickly. A nice steady stream of water should be shooting out the side of the motor.

Fresh gas is a must and most two cycle motors run their best with a mid-grade octane. Low octane gas can cause problems especially on the older motors. Your manual will state the suggested octane.

Mercury Motors suggests running a stabilizer with your gas if there is any chance of the gas sitting longer than 30 days in the tank. Gas purchased at the local stations often has ethanol added. Ethanol will break down in time therefore a stabilizer will help.

Check your batteries, most are good for 3-5 years. If they are wet cell batteries then top them off with fluid. Charge up your batteries and make sure that each battery shows more than 12 volts on a meter. A good battery should read 12.5 or higher on a volt meter.

Check all of your fluid levels on your engine. Power steering and oil levels are often forgotten.

Last, with the boat in the water check out you carpeted bunks or rollers. If you have carpeted bunks make sure that the carpet is still in good condition. If worn or tore up replace it. If you have rollers make sure that each roller turns smooth. If not it is an easy job to replace.

Check the rod tips and guides with a Q-tip. If it snags up then most likely the guide or eye will need replacing. A burr or cut on the guides can translate into a frayed fishing line. It might be time for a new St. Croix rod.

Reels need a good cleaning. Get rid of the sand and debris. Loosen and tighten down the drag, lubricate the gears. Add fresh line to each reel. Mono line should be replaced at least once a season, braid might be good for a few seasons depending on how often you fish and retie.

Check the hooks on each lure. Make sure that they are razor sharp. If a pond is available then cast each lure and tune it so they run straight. Organize your tackle box so that each item is easily found. Take an inventory and stock up on the lures that you are in low supply of.

I find more hidden tackle each spring, thus saving me money when I clean out and inventory my equipment. Take a little time now and check out these items or have the pros do it while saving time and money during the fishing season.

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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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DNR reminds anglers of ice shanty removal rules


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that the dates for mandatory ice shanty removal are approaching. Anglers are required to remove shanties as soon as the ice is unsafe to hold them, regardless of the date.
Ice shanties must be removed from Lake St. Clair before sunset Feb. 22.

In the northern Lower Peninsula, ice shanties need to be removed by midnight March 15. Counties included in the northern Lower Peninsula are: Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Arenac, Bay, Benzie, Charlevoix, Cheboygan, Clare, Crawford, Emmet, Gladwin, Grand Traverse, Iosco, Isabella, Kalkaska, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Midland, Missaukee, Montmorency, Newaygo, Oceana, Ogemaw, Osceola, Oscoda, Otsego, Presque Isle, Roscommon and Wexford.
In remaining counties of the southern Lower Peninsula, shanties must be removed by midnight March 1.
In the Upper Peninsula, shanties must be removed by midnight March 31.

Persons placing a shanty on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters shall remove the shanty by midnight March 15.
After mandatory removal dates, shanties may be placed on the ice on a daily basis, but must be removed daily.
Shanty owners who allow the structures to fall through the ice are subject to penalties of up to 30 days in jail, fines of not less than $100 or more than $500 or both. If a shanty is removed by a government agency, the court can require the owner to reimburse the government for an amount of up to three times the cost of removals.
For more information on ice fishing shanty regulations and fishing in Michigan, refer to the Michigan Fishing Guide online at www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Weekly Fishing Tip: 


 

OUT-fishing-tipHow to catch muskellunge when others can’t

For many anglers muskellunge can be quite elusive, but having a few tips in your back pocket can make your trips more successful.

The first thing to consider is the type of lure you might use. Many experts recommend using a jerkbait-style lure to trigger vertical follows.

The next item to consider is where you might look for muskellunge. Always be looking for cover, including weed patches or downed trees – these are prime spots for this species to linger.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to focus your fishing time to late afternoon/early evening. These dusty hours can produce some quality opportunities.

For even more information on fishing for muskellunge, 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.”

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Weekly Fishing Tip


 

Stream trout fishing: a forgotten pastime?

 

It isn’t a secret that Michigan hosts some of the best trout streams in the nation. The surprising thing is how under fished they are.

Anglers can have some fantastic fishing all to themselves on some incredibly beautiful streams if they do their homework. Michigan’s trout streams range in size from jump-across tributaries to the mighty Muskegon, Manistee and Au Sable rivers. While our streams can be busy at times (opening weekend, salmon/steelhead runs, the hex hatch, etc.) they can be utterly devoid of anglers at other times.

Michigan trout streams hold brown, brook and rainbow trout, and they can be caught by all kinds of tackle and techniques, ranging from nightcrawler dunking to spinner tossing or fly fishing. Anglers should check with the Fisheries Division management biologist for the area they wish to fish and the species they wish to target. Give it a try—you’ll be surprised at how good the state’s trout fishing is and how few people are doing it!

For more info visit www.michigan.org/dnr and click on fishing.

This tip was written by Mark Tonello, Fisheries Management Biologist in Cadillac.

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Muskellunge harvest tag issue


The Department of Natural Resources has found a key error on this year’s muskellunge harvest tag.

The tag is legally required for anglers to be in possession of a muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) harvested in Michigan waters. The months of April, May and June were omitted from the tags. Anglers are requested to write the date of harvest and harvest location on the line provided on the tag, if they harvest a muskellunge during this time frame. Anglers who harvest muskellunge after June can use the tag as indicated.
The muskellunge harvest tag is free (except for those under 17 years of age and nonresident anglers, who would need to purchase a DNR Sportcard to obtain the tag) and available at all license agents. Those fishing on Michigan-Wisconsin boundary waters using a Wisconsin fishing license are also required to use the tag if they harvest a muskellunge in Michigan waters.

All muskellunge shall be immediately released unless the fish is to be tagged for harvest. If harvested, it should be tagged with a valid muskellunge harvest tag. The possession limit for muskellunge (including tiger muskellunge) is one per angler per fishing season (April 1 through March 31). While registration of muskellunge harvest is not required, registering all harvested fish greatly assists the DNR with management of this important species and is encouraged. For more information or to register a fish, visit www.michigan.gov/muskie.

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