web analytics

Tag Archive | "DNR"

Cold weather a hot time for minnow harvesters


 

Cut netting: A seine pulled tight to shore that contains minnows for sorting and harvesting. The net had been positioned in a cut off Saginaw Bay.

Cut netting: A seine pulled tight to shore that contains minnows for sorting and harvesting. The net had been positioned in a cut off Saginaw Bay.

From the Michigan DNR

Falling water temperatures can mean a lot of things to those who enjoy the outdoors.

Cold water increases interest in steelhead fishing, for instance, and decreases the focus on bass fishing. However, to Jeff Slancik of Bay County, cold water means just one thing: It’s time to catch minnows.

Slancik, 49, of Pinconning is a bait dealer whose business heats up when the weather cools down.

In cold weather, the baitfish head inshore from the Great Lakes and that’s when Slancik can catch them in large volume and keep them alive in ponds for the winter.“You have to wait until the water temperature comes down,” Slancik said. “I’d say in a typical year we start around Nov. 1 and you’re lucky to see past Dec. 1. We lost the first week of November this year because it was too warm. Once that water gets down to 40 degrees, you can catch minnows. The colder it is, the longer we can keep the minnows.”

Slancik has operated Jeff’s Bait Co. in Pinconning for 25 years. He’s one of a number of Michigan commercial bait wholesalers who catch minnows and sell them to distributors, who then get them to the bait shops anglers depend upon.

Picking: A worker inspects the contents of a dip net, picking out nontarget minnow species as the crew works a cut off Lake Huron in Michigan’s thumb area.

Picking: A worker inspects the contents of a dip net, picking out nontarget minnow species as the crew works a cut off Lake Huron in Michigan’s thumb area.

Minnow harvesters are licensed by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Tom Goniea, the DNR fisheries biologist who oversees the program from Lansing, said there are about 80 licensed minnow catchers in Michigan, but only a handful of large operators like Slancik.

“Most of the catchers’ licenses belong to guys who own retail shops and may catch minnows every now and then to sell to their customers,” Goniea said. “Ninety percent of the state’s bait harvest is coming out of Saginaw Bay, the St. Clair River, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. It’s mostly emerald and spottail shiners. Your fatheads, golden shiners and suckers are largely imported.”

Minnows: A perch is removed from a dip net full of minnows taken from a cut off Saginaw Bay.

Minnows: A perch is removed from a dip net full of minnows taken from a cut off Saginaw Bay.

Minnow harvesters are restricted to the types and size of gear they can use.

“On the Great Lakes, they can use a 125-foot seine,” Goniea said. “Inland waters have different regulations that vary by water type. In Michigan, most waters are open to minnow harvest unless they are specifically closed.”

For Slancik, a recent day began on a cut (a nonflowing man-made channel connected to a larger body of water which aids in getting boats access to open water) along Saginaw Bay not far from home.

Two of Slancik’s employees manned the ends of a seine stretched across the cut, one on the bank, the other in a float tube along the edge of the deeper side of the cut.

Slowly, they pulled the seine toward the inside end of the cut, where Slancik directed them.

When they reached a point a couple yards off the back end of the cut, Slancik sprang into action, bringing dip nets and a larger floating pen net with him.

The trio began scooping up minnows, weeding through them to toss out the non-minnow captives, mostly perch, and transferring the minnows into the net pen.

The fish were then filtered through a grader— a floating device with a slotted bottom that allowed the smaller fish to slip through to the pen, but contained the larger fish.

From there, they again dipped the minnows up with hand nets and sorted, tossing out perch or other non-target species, transferring the minnows into 5-gallon buckets.

Slancik took a bucket to his truck, which is equipped with numerous, oxygenated tanks. There, he sorted one more time, removing any non-minnow fish before he transferred the minnows to the truck tank.

Slancik said sorting takes a lot of time. Had they found many more perch or other unwanted specimens in the seine, he said he would have dumped the whole load back into the cut and gone elsewhere.

Slancik has been catching minnows his whole life. He started working for his great-uncle Frank, of Frank’s Great Outdoors in Linwood fame, who Slancik called “the Fred Bear of minnow-catching.”

Slancik works a territory from Pinconning north and east along the thumb of the state to Port Austin in Huron County. More than half the minnows he takes are used in the local Saginaw Bay area. In a cold winter, with good ice, 75 percent of his minnows are sold locally.

“From November first to December, it’s go, go, go, sometimes 24 hours a day for five days straight,” Slancik said. “On a good day, we’ll get 300 gallons of minnows, about 700 per gallon.” Minnows are sold by the gallon commercially in Michigan. In some others states, they’re sold by the pound.

Like most fishing pursuits, Slancik’s minnow catching luck runs hot and cold.

“I’ve had catches of 1,000 gallons, no problem. One time we caught 10,000 gallons and I only needed 1,000 gallons. I let the other 9,000 gallons go,” Slancik said. “But I’ve had times when I’ve worked all day and only caught 20 gallons.”

Slancik said he puts between 7 million and 10 million minnows in ponds, which he keeps aerated, for the winter season.

“I can keep up to 2,000 gallons in a pond, but I want to back off a little this year because we might have a warmer winter,” he said. “Bigger minnows survive better in the ponds. The smaller minnows don’t have the strength to be caught in warmer temperatures and held until spring.”

State law prohibits minnows caught in Michigan to be exported out of state.

“Any minnow that is harvested in Michigan is meant to meet the local demand of Michigan anglers, without disturbing the food chain for our predator fishes such as trout, walleye and smallmouth bass,” Goniea said.

Goniea said minnow harvesters are not doing any damage to the fisheries resource.

“In almost all cases, human harvest has little to no effect on available resources,” he said. “On a place like Saginaw Bay, a million emerald shiners is a minute part of the population. Walleyes, bass and the other predator fish control the bait population. Human harvest is a drop in the bucket, and minnows are capable of explosive growth and reproduction.”

This fall, Slancik has mostly caught emerald shiners, the minnows anglers call “blues.” Spottail shiners, known as “grays,” were down a little.

“Spottails tend to run larger than emeralds. Lake trout fishermen like spottails, just because of their size. But big emeralds will work just as well,” Slancik said. “We noticed that last year because nobody caught spottails. But people get it stuck in their heads that they want spottails. These days, there are more emeralds than spottails. It used to be the other way around.”

Slancik said there are more baitfish in Lake Huron now than ever.

“Lake Huron is like a big fish tank — you can only put so many fish in an aquarium,” Slancik said. “When one is up, the other is down, but spottails are slowly coming back.”

Slancik said he’s seeing more gizzard shad and alewives lately, too.

The DNR monitors the minnow harvest to make sure invasive species and those that can carry diseases — such as viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) — aren’t spread.

In the summer months, when minnows can’t be kept in ponds, a lot of minnows are imported.

But in winter, if you’re seeking a Pure Michigan experience—say walleye fishing through the ice–you’re likely using minnows caught right here in Michigan, by commercial bait harvesters like Slancik.

For more information on Michigan minnows, visit the DNR’s webpage at www.michigan.gov/fishing.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Cold weather a hot time for minnow harvesters

DNR offers reward in Houghton County wolf poaching case


 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is offering a Report All Poaching (RAP) reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the individual who shot a gray wolf in Houghton County Saturday, November 19.

The shooting took place along M-26, one half-mile south of Twin Lakes.

DNR conservation officers said the shooter’s vehicle would have been parked along the west shoulder of M-26, heading southwest. The shooting took place sometime between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. EST.

“The subject shot from the vehicle and struck the wolf as it was standing on the snowmobile trail (Trail No. 3) to the west of the highway,” said Sgt. Grant Emery of the DNR’s Baraga Field Office.

OUT-Wolf-poaching

Gray wolves are a federally endangered species and are protected in Michigan. Wolves cannot legally be killed except in the defense of human life.

The maximum penalty for poaching a wolf is 90 days in jail or a fine of up to $1,000, or both, plus reimbursement of $1,500 to the state for the animal. Poaching convictions also usually include a suspension of hunting privileges for a period of four years.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the Marquette DNR District Office at 906-228-6561 or the Report All Poaching line at 1-800-292-7800. All information provided is confidential.

For more information about gray wolves in Michigan, visit the DNR’s webpage at: www.michigan.gov/wolves.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on DNR offers reward in Houghton County wolf poaching case

DNR seeks denned bears in northern Lower Peninsula


Michigan DNR wildlife biologist Mark Boersen is shown here working with a radio-collared bear. The DNR is asking hunters, trappers and others in the woods this season to keep an eye out for denned bears; that information will help the department with important bear research.

Michigan DNR wildlife biologist Mark Boersen is shown here working with a radio-collared bear. The DNR is asking hunters, trappers and others in the woods this season to keep an eye out for denned bears; that information will help the department with important bear research.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is looking for denned bear locations in the northern Lower Peninsula, and is asking those who come across a denned black bear during their hunting, trapping or other outdoor adventures to let the DNR know. Additional black bears, to be fitted with radio collars, are needed for an ongoing bear research project.

“Information gathered from bears assists in managing the black bear population,” said Mark Boersen, DNR wildlife biologist at the Roscommon Customer Service Center. “Currently, we have four female bears being monitored from both air and ground using radio-tracking equipment.”

After a denned bear is located, DNR biologists will determine if the animal is a good candidate for radio-collaring. Bears that are selected will be sedated by a wildlife biologist and fitted with a radio-tracking collar and ear tags. Hair samples will be taken for DNA analysis, and a small, nonfunctional tooth will be collected to determine the bear’s age. Upon completion of the short procedure, biologists will carefully return the bear to its den, where it will spend the remainder of the winter months.

People who encounter bear dens are asked to record the location, with a GPS unit if possible, and contact Mark Boersen at 989-275-5151 or boersenm@michigan.gov to provide specific location information. The DNR reminds everyone that it is illegal to disturb a bear den or disturb, harm or molest a bear in its den.

Learn more about radio telemetry and other wildlife research projects by visitingmi.gov/wildlife and clicking on “Wild Science.”

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on DNR seeks denned bears in northern Lower Peninsula

Keep fire safety in mind when heading into the woods 


 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is reminding hunters, and everyone else outside enjoying the fall weather, to be cautious while lighting campfires and using woodstoves this season.
A warm beginning to autumn has increased the chances of a wildfire. In fact, the DNR recently responded to several fires, both in the Upper and Lower peninsulas; the largest of those was a 17-acre fire in Sanilac County.
Dan Laux, DNR fire prevention specialist, said remembering the basics of fire safety will help ensure that this hunting season isn’t ruined by a wildfire.
“Our main concerns have to do with falling leaves and dry grass, combined with embers from woodstoves and campfires,” Laux said. “The beginning of the hunting season has been a bit warmer and dryer this year, so that causes a little concern. If folks take a few extra minutes to keep fire safety in mind, it’ll help ensure that the only blaze in this woods this hunting season will be the blaze orange on our hunters.”
The DNR recommends following a few general precautions to ensure fire safety:

  • Never leave a campfire or woodstove unattended.
  • Clear the area of leaves and dry fuel before lighting a campfire.
  • Don’t park a vehicle in dry grass.
  • If a campfire gets out of control, call 911 immediately.
  • Avoid outdoor burning when it is windy to prevent escape and spread of a fire.

So far this year, the DNR has responded to a total of 341 wildfires, which have burned 2,920 acres.

To learn more about the DNR’s firefighting efforts, and how to prevent wildfires, visit www.michigan.gov/preventwildfires.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on Keep fire safety in mind when heading into the woods 

DNR showcases cougars in two new displays 


Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Display: The new mountain lion display at Tahquamenon Falls State Park provides visitors with information on cougars in the Upper Peninsula.

Confirmed reports reach 31 in Michigan

Two cougar mounts recently provided to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources have attracted a lot of attention in Luce County this summer.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, cougars—also called mountain lions—were once the most widely distributed land animal in the Western Hemisphere, but have been eliminated from about two-thirds of their historic range.

At one time, cougars lived in every eastern state in a variety of habitats, including coastal marshes, mountains, and forests. They were native to Michigan but were extirpated from the state around the turn of the 20th century.

These big, long-tailed cats typically hunt at night, generally weigh between 90 and 180 pounds, and measure five to six feet from the tip of the nose to the base of the tail.

One of the DNR’s two cougar mounts is on display at the “Fact Shack” at the Upper Falls at Tahquamenon Falls State Park, which is situated off M-123, about 25 miles north of Newberry.

 Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.


Poached: A mountain lion poached in Schoolcraft County in 2013 is now on display at the Department of Natural Resources customer service center in Newberry.

“The cougar was donated by the GarLyn Zoo in Naubinway and was a captive animal that died of natural causes,” said Theresa Neal, park interpreter at Tahquamenon Falls. “The display features information about cougars in Michigan, an actual cougar track cast and information on how the DNR handles reports and sightings of cougars.”

The second cougar mount can be seen at the DNR’s Newberry customer service center, located off M-123, just south of Newberry. This glass-encased cat was received by the DNR at the close of a cougar poaching case in Schoolcraft County.

During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula, conservation officers received a tip that a cougar had been killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

“The investigation revealed the animal was shot and wounded with a rifle when it entered a field near the camp,” said DNR Sgt. Mike Hammill. “The following day, the cougar was tracked down and killed by one of the suspects.”

Hammill said the suspects returned home to Bay City with the cougar, intending to mount the animal.

“Before this took place, three suspects were identified, interviewed and ultimately arrested and the cougar was recovered,” Hammill said. “The suspects involved were all convicted, served jail time, paid several thousand dollars in fines, costs, and restitution, and lost hunting privileges for several years.”

Hammill said that as a part of the sentence, the shooter was required to pay the cost of having the animal mounted.

In August, the cougar mount was displayed at the DNR’s Pocket Park during the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba. Following the fair, the cougar was exhibited at the Schoolcraft County Courthouse in Manistique, before returning to the Newberry DNR customer service center earlier this month.

Meanwhile, the DNR has confirmed 31 cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula since 2008, but so far there remains no evidence confirmed of a breeding population.

“Within the last decade, numerous cougar sighting reports have been received from various locations in Michigan and are investigated by DNR Wildlife Division’s cougar team,” said Kevin Swanson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Marquette.

The most recent confirmed mountain lion report occurred in September with DNR verification of a trail camera image in Dickinson County.

“This situation is not unique to Michigan but has been occurring in many other Midwestern and eastern states as young males disperse from core range areas in the western United States,” Swanson said.

All of Michigan’s DNR-verified cougar reports have come from the Upper Peninsula, where 12 of the region’s 15 counties have had reports.

Marquette County has led the confirmed cougar reports with six; Menominee County has had four; Houghton, Delta and Mackinac counties have had three each, while Baraga, Chippewa, Luce, Schoolcraft and Ontonagon counties have each had two and Keweenaw and Dickinson have had one each.

Of those confirmed reports, 21 involved photos, eight were tracks, one was video and scat and the remaining confirmed report was that of the cougar poached near Seney in Schoolcraft County in 2013.

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

Information about Tahquamenon Falls State Park, including maps and the nature program schedule, can be found at www.michigan.gov/tfallseducation.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on DNR showcases cougars in two new displays 

Tips for safe bowhunting


OUT-Deer

Michigan’s bowhunting season opened October 1, and Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are sharing tips for a safe bowhunting experience.

“Bowhunting is enjoyed by thousands of hunters every year in Michigan, and we want to ensure everyone has a safe and enjoyable hunting season,” said Sgt. Steve Orange, supervisor of the DNR’s hunter education program. “With the season upon us, every hunter should follow some common sense safety tips before heading to or being in the woods.”

The top safety tips for bowhunting include:

  • Before you go out, inspect equipment, including your tree stand or other raised platform. If anything is worn, frayed, cracked or peeling, replace it or get it fixed.  *If using a compound bow or crossbow, make sure the cables and pulleys are in good working order.
  • When sharpening broadheads, be careful and take your time.
  • Practice tree-stand safety.  The DNR recommends using a full-body safety harness to get into and out of your tree stand.
  • If using a raised platform, always use a haul line to raise and lower your gear.
  • Keep arrows in the quiver until you are ready to use them. A common injury is to stab or injure yourself or a hunting companion while carrying arrows in your hand or nocked on your bow.
  • When heading out to the woods, hunt with a friend or family member or make sure you tell someone reliable where you are going and what time to expect you back. This information is valuable in helping conservation officers or sheriff’s deputies to find you if you are lost.
  • Also, think about carrying a cell phone, compass, flashlight and other small safety items in when in the woods.

Other important reminders include:

  • Obtain permission from landowners before hunting on their land or using their land to access public land.
  • Never take a shot at a deer that is beyond the maximum effective range of your equipment and your shooting ability.
  • If you are successful, field dress your deer and cool its meat immediately.  Michigan’s unpredictable weather means October days are sometimes warm, and warm temperatures and can cause the meat to spoil quickly.

For more information about Michigan’s conservation officers, go to www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers. For more information about hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/hunting.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Tips for safe bowhunting

Cubs survive illegal black bear killing in Oceana County


 

Arraignment date set for Ottawa County man

Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists say the recent illegal killing of a female black bear, which had three cubs with her, has aroused great public interest.

With the help of the public, DNR conservation officers were able to present a case to Oceana County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Bizon. On Thursday, October 1, Bizon issued a warrant, charging a 27-year-old Ottawa County man with the unlawful taking of the bear.

Biologists said the cubs have a good chance of surviving on their own, but they would have been better off had the sow accompanied them through the rest of the fall, and selection of a winter denning site.

“Fortunately, in this situation, these cubs were born in early 2015,” said DNR bear specialist Kevin Swanson, in Marquette. “Cubs at this age can already be the size of some yearlings and they understand how to collect food for themselves.”

The bear, killed Sept. 23, in the Ruby Creek area of Oceana County’s Colfax Township, was an animal DNR biologists had been studying. It had blue tags in each of its ears.

“This sow was also radio-collared,” Swanson said. “We had been tracking her, and her young were of good size.”

Shooting a collared study bear is not illegal but killing a female bear accompanied by bear cubs is.

Bizon said the name of the man charged in the warrant is being withheld pending his arraignment at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 in Oceana County District Court in Hart. On Saturday, the man turned himself in at the Oceana County Sheriff’s Department and was released after paying 10 percent of a $2,500 bond.

The charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, $1,000 in fines, $1,500 restitution and revoking of hunting privileges for the remainder of the year of conviction and three years subsequent.

“This incident, involving the taking of an illegal bear during our bear season, was the direct result of citizen involvement assisting our conservation officers, with critical information that allowed for a rapid investigation, and collection of evidence,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division “Our officers benefit greatly when citizens take action, coming forward with accurate and timely information related to fish and wildlife violations.”

Lt. John Jurcich of the DNR’s Cadillac office said expanding bear populations are of great interest in this area to hunters and non-hunters alike. In this case, the illegal taking of a sow with cubs, that was frequently observed in the area by residents, and had been the subject of research by the department, prompted residents to step forward with valuable information.

“The investigation revealed that the hunter who was licensed to hunt bear in the Baldwin Unit had prior knowledge of the sow, with cubs, coming into his bait location, based on trail camera photos of this very distinctive collared bear,” Jurcich said. “On the evening the bear was taken, information further indicates the hunter witnessed the cubs prior to his decision to take the bear with archery gear.”

Jurcich said investigating officers were told the bear was taken at a distance of 15 yards with a compound bow. The hunter registered the bear as required by law and DNR wildlife division staff recovered the radio collar at that time.

DNR officers recovered the cape of the bear during their investigation near Port Sheldon in Ottawa County. The carcass of the animal will be donated for food.

To report violations to the DNR, call the Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 1-800-292-7800, or use the RAP online form. Incidents may be reported confidentially. The RAP line is staffed 24 hours each day.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on Cubs survive illegal black bear killing in Oceana County

Man suffers injuries in black bear attack


OUT-black-bear

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that a 46-year-old man was injured Thursday evening, September 17, in a suspected attack by a black bear in Greenwood Township, Clare County. The man was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and released.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., the man was alone in a ground blind, hunting for porcupine. The man said a black bear came from behind, knocked him over and attacked him. Using his hunting knife, the man stabbed the bear, which scared it off. The bear is thought to be injured.

The DNR was informed about 45 minutes later. Sgt. Jon Wood spoke with the individual and advised him to seek medical attention. The DNR’s Law Enforcement Division is continuing to investigate the incident.

OUT-Bear-attack-Clare-County-webThe DNR is placing a bear trap in the area. The DNR is asking the public to be mindful of the department’s efforts to capture the bear. If a bear is sighted in the area of Greenwood Township where the incident occurred, please contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 800-292-7800.

Michigan has an estimated black bear population of 8,000 to 10,000 bears, with 90 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. Bear frequent locations in this area of Clare County, where this attack occurred.

The DNR reminds the public that black bears are generally fearful of humans and will usually leave if they become aware that people are present. Here are some important facts to remember when you are in an area where bears may be present:

  • To avoid surprising bears, travel in small groups and make noise.
  • If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and then slowly back away. Do not turn away. Do not show fear and don’t run. Do not play dead.
  • Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a stern voice.
  • If actually attacked, fight back with a backpack, stick, or bare hands.
  • Carry pepper spray, which has been shown to be effective in fending off bear attacks.

For additional information on living with bears, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/bear.

Posted in OutdoorsComments Off on Man suffers injuries in black bear attack

Ladies’ guided pheasant hunt set for Oct. 11 in Belding


The Department of Natural Resources invites ladies interested in trying out pheasant hunting to its annual guided pheasant hunt in Belding Oct. 11. Pictured here is the hunt group from the 2014 event.

The Department of Natural Resources invites ladies interested in trying out pheasant hunting to its annual guided pheasant hunt in Belding Oct. 11. Pictured here is the hunt group from the 2014 event.

The Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with Pine Hill Kennels and Sportsman’s Club and the Grand Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever, will host a ladies’ pheasant hunt Sunday, Oct. 11, at 3329 Johnson Road in Belding, Michigan.

Registration and coffee will begin at 9 a.m. The day’s events will include warming up with shooting clay pigeons on the skeet range, hunting with a guide for three pheasants, learning to clean the birds and enjoying a gourmet lunch.

Beginners are welcome. Registration is limited to 12 ladies, 18 years of age or older. The cost for the day is $45 per person. Firearms are available for beginners, if needed. All participants will go home with memories and a special gift.

Pre-registration is required. Please call Scott Brosier at 616-874-8459 to sign up.

“The hunt was such a success last year, and all the ladies had a great time. Some had never shot a gun before and were shooting birds out of the sky by late morning.” said Donna Jones, DNR wildlife technician at Flat River State Game Area. “We look forward to making this experience available again to ladies who want to try pheasant hunting.”

Established in 1975, Pine Hill Sportsman’s Club offers its members some of the finest in upland bird hunting anywhere on four farms totaling more than 600 acres. Pine Hill’s intensive land management program not only benefits the population of free-ranging upland birds, but also enhances habitat for deer, turkey and waterfowl.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Ladies’ guided pheasant hunt set for Oct. 11 in Belding

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.

Posted in Featured, OutdoorsComments Off on Bowfishing: combining two pastimes into one sport