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Michigan suckers are popular with spring anglers


Suckers have been given a bad rap.

Michigan’s world-class fisheries are numerous and well-known. Michigan boasts exceptional fishing for many of America’s top game fish – muskellunge, smallmouth bass, walleye and brown trout, among them – and is a popular destination for tournament fishermen seeking those species and others.

Another popular fishery exists for some less heralded specimens as well, including one that is heating up right now as sucker fishing comes to the fore. In spring, many species of suckers head upstream to spawn in the state’s rivers and creeks where plenty of anglers are ready, willing and able to challenge them.

“On some streams, sucker fishing produces more angling effort than anything else,” said Department of Natural Resources fish production manager Gary Whelan.

Thought (incorrectly) by some to be “trash” fish, suckers have been given a bad rap. There are those who believe they compete for food and space with more desirable species. They’ve also been blamed for eating the spawn of other species. However, there appears to be no scientific basis for these beliefs. Suckers have evolved side-by-side with most species of game fish and seem to coexist quite nicely with them. Most species of suckers demand relatively high water quality; in fact, excellent sucker fishing is available in some of the state’s premier trout streams.

“They are not carp,” Whelan said. “And they shouldn’t be thought of in those terms.”

Whelan said that suckers are an important component of the food chain, serving as prey for numerous species, especially northern pike and muskellunge.

Michigan boasts 15 members of the sucker family (Catostomidae), including the endangered Western creek chubsucker and threatened river redhorse. These spirited fighters are generally medium-sized fish – closely related to minnows – though some of them grow to significant sizes. The state-record black buffalo, for instance, weighed 33 pounds, 4 ounces.

The DNR’s Master Angler program recognizes seven species of suckers: redhorse;

bigmouth and black buffalo; quillback carpsucker; and longnose, northern hog and white suckers. A 2-pound longnose (22 inches for the catch-and-release category) or a 3-pound white sucker (20 inches) will earn a fisherman the DNR status of Master Angler.

Whelan said that suckers have an inferior mouth positioned to optimize feeding on the bottom. For the most part, suckers feed on aquatic insects, crustaceans and worms, though some species prefer feeding on snails or algae.

Most suckers will win few beauty contests. They tend to be drab in color—gray to mottled brown—though male longnose and white suckers develop a rose-colored lateral band during their spawning runs. The exception is the redhorse, which is a bright silvery color with orange or red fins.

“Fishing for suckers is typically a low-tech sport,” said the DNR’s Whelan. “All that’s necessary is a hook and a sinker, and earthworms make ideal bait. Cast out a line, let the bait sit on the bottom, and wait.”

Often, while steelhead anglers are wading or boating during the spring run, they encounter sucker fishermen – often whole families – sitting on the bank, rods propped in forked sticks, fishing in the same stretches of stream. Generally, sucker fishing is best in places where there is a break in the current: around obstructions or below riffles. Deep holes are popular with sucker anglers.

 

That said, anglers can make sucker fishing as complicated as they like. Fly fishing for suckers is becoming more popular all the time. Suckers will willingly take nymphs, yarn flies or even streamers fished on the bottom. They can be as selective as trout, and many a trout fisherman has been disappointed when he discovered the big brown he thought he’d hooked turned out to be a big white sucker.

Anglers are divided on suckers as table fare. Some turn up their noses (no doubt because of the trash fish/bottom-feeding reputation), while sucker aficionados swear by them—especially in spring when their flesh is firm. Suckers are bony fish and anglers have devised a number of methods for dealing with the bones. They are popularly pickled, canned, smoked or deep-fried. Folks who deep-fry them typically score the bones to make them easier to eat. Some people grind them and use the flesh to make patties or fish cakes.

“They’re good eating,” said Whelan, who says he’s eaten them pickled, fried and made into patties.

There is a small commercial fishery for suckers, though they are primarily a by-catch of commercial fishermen targeting other species or being caught for the pet-food industry. They do not command a high price, as global competition in the fish market has driven down demand.

Suckers may be taken with hand nets (of any circumference and handle length) from the Great Lakes, connecting waters and tributaries up to a half-mile upstream, March 1 to May 31 south of M-72, and April 1 to May 31 north of M-72. They can also be taken with dip nets (measuring no more than 9 feet by 9 feet) from Lower Peninsula non-trout streams from April 1 to May 31 and Upper Peninsula non-trout streams May 1 to 31.

Spearing suckers is a popular pastime, too, legal on non-trout streams April 1 to May 31 south of M-46; April 15 to May 31 between M-46 and M-72; and May 1 to 31 north of M-72. Bows and arrows may be used as well as lights. In the Great Lakes and connecting waters, suckers can be taken by spear or bow year-round.

The sucker fishery is one of the first to catch fire after the ice has melted, but by the time many anglers start thinking about fishing, the spring sucker run has already begun to fade.

Learn more about fishing for suckers and other Michigan species at www.michigan.gov/fishing. To sign up for the DNR’s weekly fishing report and other popular topics, visit www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on the red enveloped labeled “Stay Connected.”

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Weekly Fishing Tip


From the Michigan DNR

Check out the DNR’s weekly fishing tip, obtained from various angling resources throughout the country.
December 1, 2011: Have You Fished for a Muskellunge Yet?
As we’ve been sharing in many tips this fall, the autumn season is a great time to fish for specific fishes – including muskellunge.
Many lakes you might visit to pursue muskies are fairly empty – leaving you plenty of opportunities to fish for this unique species. It’s recommended that you use large crankbaits – larger than eight inches – and large jerkbaits – larger than 10 inches.
You can fish for muskellunge in most waters right now, but keep in mind the season on the most popular spots of Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River will close on Thursday, December 15.
For more information on muskellunge, visit http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,1607,7-153-10364_53405-214034–,00.html.

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Weekly fishing report


From the Michigan DNR

This is the time of year when fishing reports are harder to come by as most anglers turn their attention to deer hunting. Those heading out for the firearm season are reminded that late fall and early winter offer prime fishing on inland lakes for hungry walleye, pike and bass. It is also a good time to catch big perch, bluegill and crappie.
Southwest Lower Peninsula (as of November 10):
St. Joseph: Pier anglers are catching whitefish on a small hook with a single egg. Steelhead were caught in the harbor in the early morning or late afternoon.
St. Joseph River: Has prime steelhead fishing right now even though angler numbers were down.
Kalamazoo River: Had good numbers of steelhead all the way up to the Allegan Dam. Those fishing below the dam caught walleye.
Grand River at Grand Rapids: Salmon fishing is pretty much done but the steelhead action continues to grow with some large fish caught between Fulton Street and the dam. Try spawn under a bobber, small spoons or flies.
Grand River at Lansing: Steelhead were reported in Prairie Creek near Ionia and below the dam at Lyons. No reports for Lansing.
Muskegon River: Has lots of steelhead downstream from Newaygo. Some are fly fishing while others are floating fresh spawn. Walleye and pike were caught near Hardy Dam and smallmouth bass were caught upstream of the dam.
For other areas in Michigan, or to get it in your email, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on fishing, then weekly fishing report.

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Weekly fishing tip


From the Michigan DNR

Gear maintenance an important task
With the colder months quickly approaching, many anglers may be getting ready to store their gear for the season. There are a few maintenance tips you should follow so your quality gear is ready to be used next season.
1. The biggest tip is to always make sure all of your gear is clean and completely dry before storing it. Start by cleaning everything (rods, reels and lines) in fresh water with soap or the manufacturer’s recommended solution to remove any materials that may have become attached or embedded.
2. Now is a great time to inspect your gear for any damage and make repairs, or prepare for replacements.
3. Don’t store any of your gear in direct sunlight and don’t store any of your gear where heat and/or moisture might build up.
4. Have waders? Air them out completely and don’t forget to hang them upside down for the months they are out of use.
Check out the DNR’s weekly fishing tip, obtained from various angling resources throughout the country. Go to www.michigan.gov/dnr and click on fishing, then weekly fishing tip.

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Weekly fishing report


From the Department of Natural Resources

Steelhead action continues to build in the river systems. November is the month where catch rates increase for perch, pike, whitefish, walleye, bass and steelhead. Some decent bluegill fishing was reported on inland lakes. This is a good time of year to grab a pole and head out for some fall fishing.
Southwest Lower Peninsula Fishing Report as of Nov. 3
St. Joseph: Pier anglers continue to catch good numbers of whitefish when using a small hook with a single egg. Steelhead were also caught.
St. Joseph River: Has good steelhead action all the way up to the Berrien Springs Dam. A few chinook were still going through the fish ladder at Berrien Springs. The river still has plenty of fish but few anglers were out.
South Haven: Whitefish and a couple steelhead have been caught however fishing pressure was low. Anglers are using spawn bags or a single egg on a small hook.
Kalamazoo River: The salmon run is reaching its end but steelhead activity is starting to increase up near the Allegan Dam.
Grand Haven: Is producing some steelhead off the pier but catch rates were still hit-or-miss. Those fishing the south pier caught whitefish on a single egg or spikes.
Grand River at Grand Rapids: Is still producing a few leftover salmon however most are targeting steelhead, especially up near the Sixth Street Dam. Try spawn, spinners, small spoons, or a jig and wax worm. A few walleye were also caught.
Grand River at Lansing: Steelhead were caught at Lyons but the fish have not made it up to Lansing. Walleye were caught over at Moore’s Park.
Looking Glass River: Is producing some pike for those fishing with minnows.
Muskegon: Is producing some steelhead for those fishing off the pier with spawn.
Muskegon Lake: Has walleye for the taking. Boat anglers slow trolling in the late evening have caught fish.
Muskegon River: Water levels are good and lots of steelhead are downstream from Newaygo. Some are fly fishing while others are floating fresh spawn. Walleye and northern pike have been caught near Hardy Dam. Those fishing upstream of Hardy Dam have caught some big smallmouth bass.
You can now get the weekly fishing reports sent to your email address. To sign up, visit the weekly fishing report at www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Catch of the Week!


Congratulations!

Ashlynn Davis, 4, of Cedar Springs, caught this bluegill while fishing with her dad, in a creek near Lincoln Lake, in Spencer Township. And what special gear brought in this fabulous fish? A Dora the Explorer fishing pole, of course! This is the second fish that Ashlynn has caught, with the first one being caught in Texas.
Way to go, Ashlynn! You made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Trout fishing at state forest campgrounds and parks


Looking for a vacation destination that combines great fishing, beautiful scenery, and affordability? Many of Michigan’s state parks and forest campgrounds are located on or near high-quality trout waters.

Michigan boasts more than 130 state parks and state forest campgrounds that are within one mile of a trout lake or stream.

The Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Management Division and Fisheries Division have teamed up with the Michigan Chapter of Trout Unlimited to collate and catalog these opportunities. Maps of campground locations and corresponding fishing opportunities are available online at www.michigan.gov/dnrrecreationcamping and www.michigan.gov/fishing.

Campgrounds near trout fishing are located throughout the state. In southern lower Michigan, state parks provide the camping experience. In the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, there are camping opportunities in both state parks and state forest campgrounds.  All offer a unique experience.

“State forest campgrounds provide an opportunity for anglers to enjoy great fishing in a rustic setting,” says Lynne Boyd, chief of the DNR Forest Management Division.

The state parks offer many fishing opportunities for everyone from the first-timer to experienced anglers, said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. Trout fishing is available everywhere from Spring Mill Pond in Island Lake State Recreation Area to Tippy Dam on the Manistee River.

“The diversity of camping locations and the diversity of trout fishing experiences available are numerous, and would likely take any one person years to experience,” said Jim Dexter, acting chief of the DNR Fisheries Division.

The Recreation Passport has replaced motor vehicle permits for entry into Michigan state parks, recreation areas and state-administered boating access fee sites. Michigan residents can purchase the Recreation Passport ($10 for motor vehicles; $5 for motorcycles) by checking “YES” on their license plate renewal forms, or at any state park or recreation area. To learn more about the Recreation Passport, visit www.michigan.gov/recreationpassport or call (517) 241-7275.

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DNR to raise Great Lakes muskies rather than northern muskies


The Department of Natural Resources plans to raise Great Lakes (spotted) muskellunge at its Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery this year, a change of direction from the northern muskies the department has raised in the past.

“This is a key turning point in our muskellunge production program,” said DNR Fish Production Manager Gary Whelan. “This strain of muskellunge is native to most of Michigan; the northern muskellunge is native to only a small portion of the far western Upper Peninsula in the Wisconsin River drainage.

“The spotted muskellunge will be more at home in more waters than northern muskies.”

The DNR has been studying the idea of raising spotted muskies for more than a decade, but did not want to bring the Great Lake strain into the hatchery system while raising northern muskies because of potential disease concerns.  DNR Fisheries Division personnel plan to take 1.5 million eggs from spotted muskies in Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River this spring with a goal of producing 40,000 10- to 12-inch fall fingerlings.

In order to minimize the risk of spreading disease, the DNR will not take eggs from northern muskellunge this year, but will evaluate the need to produce northern strain muskies in the future.  Ideally, the department will address the disease concerns and be able to raise both strains in the future, Whelan said.

To learn more about fishing in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing.

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Fishing guides need permit on lakes and streams


The Department of Natural Resources reminds fishing guides who utilize state-owned lands to access Michigan’s inland lakes or streams as part of their commercial operation that they are required to have written permission from the DNR prior to using state- owned lands.

Since 2006, inland fishing guides in Michigan have been required to obtain written permission, in the form of a lease to use state-owned public water access sites.  Guides pay an annual Use of Land fee, must also provide proof of general liability insurance, and must have a state-issued inland pilot’s license or a U.S. Coast Guard captain’s license.  Use of Land fees provide funding for maintenance of state forest lands, including public-water access sites.

Michigan residents and visitors have an abundant supply of freshwater inland lakes, streams and Great Lakes that provide a variety of recreational fishing opportunities.  Annually, it is estimated that two million residents and visitors fish Michigan waters.  Michigan’s recreational fishery has an annual economic value of more than $2 billion and provides more than 15,000 jobs statewide.

For more information, contact, Brenda Mikula, DNR Parks and Recreation Division, at 231-597-0472 or visit www.michigan.gov/dnrfishing and click on Angler Information, Inland Fishing Guides, to find a link for the fishing guide lease application form.

For information on how to obtain an inland pilot license, contact, Sylvia Roossien, DNR Law Enforcement Division, at 517-241-3793.

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Free fishing weekend


The Department of Natural Resources and Environment reminds everyone that Winter Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Feb 19, and Sunday, Feb. 20. On that weekend, everyone—residents and non-residents alike—can fish without a license, though all other fishing regulations apply.
Michigan has been celebrating Winter Free Fishing Weekend annually since 2000 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,000 miles of rivers and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a natural match.
“Fishing is a perfect way for families to spend time together while enjoying the beautiful scenery Michigan has to offer in the wintertime,” said DNRE Director Rodney Stokes. “It is a low-cost and interactive outdoor activity—perfect for engaging children in the great outdoors.”
A number of activities at state parks have been scheduled to coincide with the weekend, while clubs, local communities and conservation organizations are also staging events. Many provide bait and free use of equipment. The events often include experienced anglers willing to introduce novices into the joy of fishing.
For a list of Free Fishing Events scheduled across the state, visit www.michigan.gov/freefishing.

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