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Tag Archive | "Great Lakes"

Dangerous currents, waves and water safety week 


 

Important to be prepared in natural waters

On average, more than ten people die each year because of dangerous currents in the Great Lakes. While residents are encouraged to visit and enjoy Michigan beaches, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is urging everyone to learn about safe swimming and the signs of dangerous currents.

Dangerous currents develop when winds blow toward the shore, and waves are moderate to high (3 feet or higher). The Great Lakes produce structural currents, rip currents, outlet currents, longshore currents, and channel currents—all of which can cause serious danger to swimmers.

The eastern shore of Lake Michigan has the most current-related incidents of all the Great Lakes, and out of the 514 current-related incidents (rescues and drownings) that occurred on the Great Lakes from 2002-2016, more than 71 percent were on Lake Michigan.

The good news for beachgoers is that currents and high wave activity can be forecasted, and with the right information, you can help have a safe and enjoyable time in natural waters.

MDHHS encourages all residents to remember the following before planning a trip to the beach:

  • Everyone is encouraged to learn to swim and how to be safe in and around the water.
  • Watch for dangerous waves and signs of rip currents (water that is discolored and choppy, foamy, or filled with debris and moving in a channel away from shore).
  • It is never safe to swim near a structure such as a pier or break wall.
  • Never go swimming alone, and designate someone to watch people who are in the water.
  • Follow beach hazard statements and avoid the water when conditions are not safe for swimming.

While it is important to avoid currents altogether, it is equally important to know how to survive one.

If you find yourself in a rip current, flip on your back, float to conserve energy, and follow the safest path out of the water – which could be along the line of the current until it is less strong, or along the shoreline.

To learn more about drowning risks in natural water settings, visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/dsdrowningrisks/ or the national weather service site at http://www.ripcurrents.noaa.gov/ for information about rip currents.

To check Great Lakes beach hazards, visit http://www.weather.gov/greatlakes/beachhazards

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Michigan Boating Week 


 

June 10-16 highlights the freshwater state

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources invites residents and visitors to celebrate the state’s unparalleled boating opportunities and one of the best freshwater destinations in the world during Michigan Boating Week June 10-16.

“Water is one of Michigan’s greatest natural resources,” said Ron Olson, chief of the DNR Parks and Recreation Division. “This weeklong campaign encourages residents and visitors to celebrate Michigan’s vast freshwater resources and get out and explore all of the on-the-water opportunities the Great Lakes State affords. Michigan is truly a boater’s paradise.”

Michigan is home to an estimated 4 million boating enthusiasts and approximately 1 million registered boats and 300,000 nonregistered canoes and kayaks. In addition, recreational boating has an annual $7.4 billion impact and the boating industry provides nearly 59,000 jobs across the state.

“Michigan Boating Week is a great opportunity to highlight the importance of the boating industry to our state’s economy as well as its importance to the quality of life,” said Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “Michigan’s access to freshwater resources helps build lakeside communities and boating-related industries such as tourism, commercial fishing and boat manufacturing and sales.”

The weeklong celebration also includes a handful of events taking place in harbors across the state and live radio broadcasts that will feature DNR staff and other industry professionals.

Since residents and visitors are never more than 6 miles from a body of water or 85 miles from a Great Lake, there are plenty of reasons to take pride in Michigan’s vast freshwater resources. The following freshwater facts help define why Michigan is the Great Lakes State:

  • 3,288 miles of Great Lakes shoreline.
  • 11,000-plus inland lakes.
  • 36,350 miles of rivers and streams.
  • 1,300 boat launches and 82 public harbors administered by state, county and local units of government.
  • More lighthouses than any other state.
  • Access to 154 species of fish.

A portion of revenue collected from Michigan’s gas tax and watercraft registrations helps fund state facilities, including 19 harbors and approximately 1,000 boating access sites. Another portion of that revenue funds grants to local units of government that oversee 63 harbors and roughly 200 boating access sites. These resources help fund waterways projects and the ongoing maintenance at public recreational boating facilities, benefiting local and regional economies and contributing to statewide tourism.

Visit www.michigan.gov/boating to learn more about Michigan boating, Michigan Boating Week, water safety and much more. In addition, the Michigan Harbors Guide is available for download and is designed to offer essential boating information and a list of locations and amenities offered at state harbors.

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Michigan Boating


OUT-Boating-lake-michigan-10

Five Great Lakes, Five Great Boating Tips

From the Michigan DNR

Boaters are smart, creative and resourceful. That’s why we want to hear tips from Michigan boaters.

This month, we’re starting with five “musts” as you get ready for the season. Our featured boater is a 46-year sailing veteran from the home port of Sanilac. Glen Stephens has sailed inland lakes, the Great Lakes, Tampa Bay and the Virgin Islands. Here is his list of “musts” before you set sail:

  • Insurance! The costs of recovery are FAR greater than any seasonal insurance premium.
  • Become a better boater with a Coast Guard Auxiliary course at http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/.
  • Have a ship-to-shore radio on board all the time. Cell phone reception can be spotty on the Great Lakes.
  • Double-check the venting of your fuels to be sure they are clean and positioned properly.
  • Sailors should have bolt cutters on hand in case you ever need to cut away your rig. (Let’s hope not!)

Next, we are seeking your list of five great boating destinations in Michigan. Share your list via email at turekm@michigan.gov and you could be our featured boater!

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State is home to thousands of miles of trails, great riding opportunities


A rider heads out on a trail, having just made a highway crossing. Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails to enjoy.

A rider heads out on a trail, having just made a highway crossing. Michigan has more than 6,000 miles of snowmobile trails to enjoy.

Ask snowmobilers around the country about the best places to ride a sled, and the Great Lakes State is sure to come up in conversation.

Michigan is known by snowmobilers nationally for its unique combination of abundant and dependable snow, exciting terrain and an extensive network of nearly 6,500 miles of designated snowmobile trails.

American Snowmobiler magazine recently featured Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula on the top of its list of “25 Epic Snowmobiling Destinations.”

“The area’s location by Lake Superior guarantees plenty of lake-effect snow each winter. This natural phenomenon coupled with state-of-the-art grooming equipment makes the western U.P. a premier destination in the Midwest,” the magazine said. “As you travel over 2,000 miles of trails you can see Lake Superior ice caverns, scenic overlooks, frozen waterfalls and abandoned railroad beds that lead you over majestically high trestle bridges.”

Michigan’s snowmobile trails are among the finest anywhere.

Michigan’s snowmobile trails are among the finest anywhere.

Over the past several years, SnowGoer magazine has named the Upper Peninsula the best overall snowmobiling area, as well as the area with the most scenic snowmobiling and the best trail riding.

“If you close your eyes and imagine perfect riding, what do you see? Do you visualize trails weaving through the forest? Do you see hotels with more snowmobiles than cars in the parking lot?” said an excerpt from SnowGoer. “Well, welcome to the best all-around snowmobile spots in North America. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, with an average snowfall of 60 to over 200 inches, offers plenty of snowmobiling amid spectacular natural beauty.”

As these national publications have recognized, Michigan’s draw for snowmobilers, besides the plentiful snow and vast trail network, is the unique opportunity for sightseeing along the way – and a great deal of those sights to see are located in Michigan’s state parks.

“A lot of snowmobilers visit places like the Lake of the Clouds in Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, Indian Lake State Park and Tahquamenon Falls State Park,” said Ron Yesney, U.P. trails coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Bond Falls and Brockway Mountain are other popular sightseeing destinations as well.”

The U.P. has about 3,300 miles of state snowmobile trails, which connect communities, provide access to beautiful scenery and draw riders from near and far.

“We really have an outstanding snowmobile system in the U.P., that’s very accessible and links you to snowmobile-friendly towns,” said Rob Katona, DNR central U.P. trail specialist.

The northern Lower Peninsula also is a popular snowmobiling destination.

The new, highly anticipated Snowmobile Trail No. 37 in Wexford and Manistee counties recently opened for the 2016-17 snowmobile season. The 16.5-mile trail, which runs from Yuma to Copemish, connects the trail systems near Cadillac to trails north in Benzie, Manistee and Leelanau counties.

“This new connector trail will greatly enhance snowmobiling opportunities in the northwest Lower Peninsula, as well as increase tourism in towns such as Mesick and Copemish,” said Todd Neiss, a DNR recreation specialist who works out of the Cadillac office.

Another northern Michigan snowmobiling hotspot is the Gaylord area, which,  according to American Snowmobiler, “offers great winter fun with rolling hills, thousands of acres of unspoiled forests and reliable snowfall.

“Sledders are welcomed by local businesses and you can ride your machine right up to your door and back out onto the trail. Plus there are many trail connectors for uninterrupted travel.”

The magazine calls the trail from Gaylord to Indian River “the crown jewel of snowmobile trails in northern Michigan. The trail runs along an abandoned railroad corridor, crosses the Sturgeon River and winds through some of the most spectacular scenery in northern Michigan.”

While the focus tends to be on the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula when it comes to snowmobiling, there are plenty of opportunities to ride in southwestern Michigan as well, with about 700 miles of sled trails.

“There are a lot of trails in southwest Michigan that are close to population centers that many folks don’t even think about. Many of these trails go through DNR lands, and can be very scenic,” Neiss said. “While snow conditions are much more temperamental in southwest Michigan than in the north, if you catch it right, there is no need to drive hundreds of miles to ride.”

There are snowmobiling trails on National Forest lands too, which riders often use along with state trail routes.

“There are 1,157 miles of designated snowmobile trails on National Forest system lands. The U.S. Forest Service and Michigan DNR work together with club sponsors to ensure these trails are maintained,” said Kristen Thrall, recreation and hydropower program manager and forest accessibility coordinator for the Huron-Manistee National Forests. “We have worked together since the 1970s to develop a high-quality long-distance system that connects communities to the great outdoors.”

According to a 2012 National Visitor Use Monitoring Study, 27 percent of people recreating in the national forests identify snowmobiling as their primary activity.

There is plenty of information available on the DNR website to help plan a snowmobiling adventure, including trail maps in a variety of formats and links to trail reports from organizations like the Michigan Snowmobile Association.

Snowmobilers need to purchase a snowmobile trail permit, which is required to operate snowmobiles in Michigan and is valid for one year, from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30. Riders also need to register their snowmobile, as a valid registration from the Secretary of State (or another state or province) is required to ride as well.

Those new to snowmobiling who would like to try out this fun winter experience should consider rental snowmobiles that are available.

This week (Jan. 21-29) is International Snowmobile Safety Week, a great time to brush up on how to stay safe while out on the trail.

“Safety is the most important aspect of this sport,” said Lt. Pete Wright, a DNR district law supervisor. “Safe snowmobiling means riding within your own capabilities, operating at safe and appropriate speeds for the terrain, and never drinking alcohol before or while driving. Always wear a helmet and adequate clothing, stay on the designated trails, and always snowmobile with another person, never alone.”

Other safety tips from the DNR include:

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Pick safe places to stop off the trail.
  • Be aware of changing trail conditions.
  • Use extra caution when riding on an unfamiliar trail.
  • Stay far enough behind other riders to avoid the snow kicked up by their machines. This flying snow may blind snowmobilers to hazards, including other riders.
  • Check the weather conditions before you depart.
  • When possible, avoid crossing frozen bodies of water. Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low-strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and tail lights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look both ways for traffic.
  • Steer clear of trail groomers if you can. Never follow a groomer, give groomers the right of way, and if you meet one head-on, give it room to maneuver.

Snowmobilers also should make sure they are familiar with all of the rules and regulations for snowmobiling in Michigan, as well as the universal snowmobile trail signage the DNR developed to help keep everyone safe on the trails.

Snowmobile safety education training and online safety courses are recommended for all snowmobile operators and are required for youth 12 to 16 years old.

In 2016, Michigan had more than 200,000 registered snowmobiles – only Minnesota and Wisconsin had more, according to a report from the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.

The same report indicates that, in the United States, snowmobiling has an economic impact of $26 billion annually and that the average rider spends $4,000 each year on snowmobile-related recreation.

It’s clear that snowmobiling contributes significantly to Michigan’s tourism industry and the state’s economy.

“I snowmobile quite a bit and meet all kinds of wonderful people out being safe on the trails, spending money, and enjoying the U.P.,” Yesney said.

Snowmobiling is a social sport, with clubs throughout the state. The Michigan Snowmobiling Association maintains a list of clubs at www.msasnow.org/snowmobile-clubs.

Learn more about snowmobiling in Michigan at michigan.gov/snowmobiling.

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Forest Legacy Program looks to the future


About 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River, a cold-water trout stream, flow through the Pilgrim River Forest property. A conservation easement is in the process of being acquired here. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

About 3.5 miles of the Pilgrim River, a cold-water trout stream, flow through the Pilgrim River Forest property. A conservation easement is in the process of being acquired here. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

We all want to leave some sort of lasting legacy—some kind of mark on the world—something that’s there for the next generation to take, use and carry on with.

That idea lies at the core of the Forest Legacy Program, which ensures that private forest land remains forested and open to the public forever.

Under the program, private forest landholders can transfer ownership or development rights through conservation easements to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to protect healthy forests.

Doing this leaves a rich legacy of working forest managed sustainably, wildlife habitat protected, landowners still able to harvest timber, and the public permitted to access the land for recreation into perpetuity.

Hovels Main Block walking path fall: Walking paths through the forests of the Pilgrim River property will allow for abundant opportunities for public recreation. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Hovels Main Block walking path fall: Walking paths through the forests of the Pilgrim River property will allow for abundant opportunities for public recreation. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

As part of the 1990 federal Farm Bill, the U.S. Forest Service was authorized to begin the Forest Legacy Program to help private forest landowners across the country develop and maintain sustainable forests.

As a result, Michiganders and visitors to the Great Lakes State today have access to more than 150,000 acres of unique, well-managed, private forest lands.

Kerry Wieber, forest land administrator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Resources Division, has managed the Forest Legacy Program in Michigan since 2006.

Wieber says it is one of the most rewarding parts of her job.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to protect some of our most environmentally important forests and ensure that they are managed sustainably,” she said. “It allows private forest landowners to manage their forests for timber and also ensure public access.”

The program provides federal funding to state agencies on a three-to-one matching basis.

States may request funding for up to three projects annually, totaling $10 million, but no more than $7 million for any one project.

Competition for the program’s grants is nationwide, so projects from Michigan are vying for funding with other states and U.S. properties.

“There’s no guarantee that any state will receive funding if projects from other states are deemed more worthy,” Wieber said.

A number of Michigan projects have been awarded Forest Legacy grant funding, and Michigan has used conservation easements and land acquisitions to protect unique forests.

An aerial view of the Elk Forest at Black River project shows Walled Lake and a smaller pond located on the forested property. An application for grant funding was submitted in November for this project. The land is currently in private ownership. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

An aerial view of the Elk Forest at Black River project shows Walled Lake and a smaller pond located on the forested property. An application for grant funding was submitted in November for this project. The land is currently in private ownership. Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan has protected over 150,000 acres of forest lands through conservation easements and has acquired 4,170 acres that were added to the existing state forest system.

One example is the Gitcha-ninj Nebish (aka Thumb Lake) Forest, located just east of Boyne Falls in Charlevoix County.

Here, the DNR partnered with the Little Traverse Conservancy to seek funding for a conservation easement on 750 acres on the west side of Thumb Lake, which is owned by a church camp.

Ty Ratliff, director of donor relations with Little Traverse Conservancy, said his crew helped write the grant application and took on getting the land appraised as well as working with the landowner to make sure the process was understood.

“It’s a very complex and difficult process to go through,” Ratliff said. “This is a large working forest, already in the commercial forest program, 95 percent wooded, including nearly a mile of lake shoreline – so we protected this forest, as well as the shoreline.”

Gitcha-ninj Nebish is the Ottawa word for “Big Finger Water,” and considering the cultural and environmental importance of the area, the conservation easement was a “win-win,” Ratliff said.

“The landowner didn’t want to sell it,” he said. “They still own it and maintain control, they still get to timber it, and the conservancy got to see it protected. It allows for public access, so you and I and our grandkids are allowed to go on it to hunt and hike and it’s protected for perpetuity.”

The 750-acre site is adjacent to state-managed lands on three sides and the shoreline of Thumb Lake making up the fourth.

“In this case, the landowner sold the development rights below the appraised value, so the landowner essentially donated the match,” Ratliff said. “Once people understand what a working forest is – from a land perspective and a wildlife perspective, and how important it is to the local economy – this program is compelling. This is what Michigan is about: woods and water and recreation.”

Crisp Point, located in the northeastern part of the Upper Peninsula, is an example of where the DNR acquired land as part of the Forest Legacy Program.

Here, the DNR acquired 3,810 acres in Luce and Chippewa counties, including an inland lake and more than 2.5 miles of Lake Superior shoreline.

The grant provided nearly $6 million, 75 percent of the purchase price. A private individual donated the remaining 25 percent.

“It’s a highly visible site because the Crisp Point Lighthouse, which is county-owned, is adjacent to the property and draws a lot of visitors,” Wieber said, “So it draws a lot of visitors to the state land. It’s open to any use any other state forest land is open to. There’s snowmobile trails and numerous two-tracks used by ORVs.”

The way the program works is the DNR requests project nominations from the public, which are usually submitted by landowners or conservancies.

The Forest Legacy Subcommittee of the Michigan Forest Stewardship Advisory Committee reviews the nominations and makes a recommendation to the committee, which decides which projects to seek funding for and the amount requested.

Following state forester approval, proposals are submitted to the U.S. Forest Service. Grant applications are reviewed by a national panel, where they are prioritized and included in the president’s budget.

“No project is a slam-dunk,” Wieber said. “With these nationwide proposals, you’re competing with between 70 and 80 projects per year. The typical funding line for the last few years has been in the $50 million to $60 million range – so depending on the amount requested for each project, it funds 15 to 20 projects. It’s a highly competitive program.”

Deb Huff, executive director of the Michigan Forest Association, sits on the Forest Legacy Subcommittee. The association is a nonprofit organization of about 500 members, which represents private forest owners.

Huff said it’s really important that private landowners have the opportunity to choose to participate in this program.
“There are a lot of variations on how this could be handled,” Huff said. “I think Legacy is critical to conserving those areas that are most unique and at the same time in danger of being lost. Most people who love forests are supportive of this program.”

Wieber said Michigan’s Forest Legacy Program currently has funding for the acquisition of a conservation easement on about 1,200 acres in Houghton County on the Pilgrim River, just south of Houghton, and has submitted a grant request for an additional acquisition—Elk Forest at Black River. It’s currently privately owned, is directly adjacent to the Pigeon River Country State Forest, and includes a mile of river frontage.

If it’s funded, it will be the eighth Forest Legacy Program project in Michigan.

For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/privateforestland. Applications for the Forest Legacy Program are typically solicited in March and submitted by a June deadline.

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Weigh less under a full moon


Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve Mueller

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

If you desire to weigh less, weigh yourself when the moon is overhead or even better when it is a New Moon. When the sun and moon are both on the same side of the Earth during a new moon, they exert greater gravitational pull together and make you weigh less. Tides are highest when the gravity from both pulls toward them. You will weigh your least when the sun and moon are directly in line. The opposite side of the Earth experiences high tides at the same time. This results in high tides every twelve hours. Unfortunately, our bathroom scales do not measure fine enough to actually show how much less you weigh. It is only a fraction of a pound.

The Perseus Meteor shower article two weeks ago took precedence over the moon’s gravity because it only occurs once annually. We experience moon cycles monthly. The Perseid meteor shower peaks about August 11-13 but we can observe increased meteors for a greater time about a week before and after peak.

I have read the moon’s gravity is not great enough to create tides in the Great Lakes because the size of the lakes is too small but my observations do not agree. It is well known that tides in oceans raise and lower water by several feet daily. In the open ocean it is not observable, but along the shore, water retreats great distances when the sea floor slope is gentle. If the coast drops abruptly, it is still noticeable but one must look at the nearly vertical cliff walls. Sea wall life becomes visible for several hours before the water rises again.

I observed a tide in Lake Michigan near Manistique in the Upper Peninsula. We lived there for a couple years when the girls were little. We would frequently walk the mile to the lakeshore with wagon in tow just in case the girls became too tired.

The lake surface was as smooth as glass on a warm summer night. A full moon worked its way to zenith. Dolomitic limestone slabs of flat rock peppered the shallow water near the swimming beach. Some of the flat slabs barely protruded above still water. Rocks made an inviting stepping-stone trail to a large rock that rose several feet above lake level. We walked on the dry slabs to the big rock and sat to enjoy the evening. It was a movie quality evening. We had the lake, quiet, beauty, and the distance sounds of nature from the shore all to ourselves. It was a choice family evening.

We sat on the rock as the moon moved overhead. A Great Blue Heron fed in the shallows to the west. Ring-billed and Herring Gulls walked the beach gathering food morsels in the dimming light as day became night. The moon was bright enough to create shallows of our silhouettes. Aquatic insects skimmed the shiny water surface. We looked for fish but I do not recall if we saw any. I guess it is good reason to pull my daughters away from their busy lives and take them back to look for the abundance of life and see if we can observe fish. Life thrives in the water, on the surface, and above it. I know fish must be present or the heron would not have been wading and hunting.

When we decided it was time to walk home, we planned to walk on flat rocks used to reach our high rock perch. Most were now under water. Moon’s gravity had drawn Lake Michigan closer. The surface of the lake was higher but unlike large ocean tides, Lake Michigan had risen about a half inch. It was enough to submerge several of our stepping-stones. I did not have a millimeter ruler to measure the change. I should have gotten a dried grass stem to determine the vertical lake level change. It is another reason to return so I can measure how high a rock protrudes at low tide twelve hours earlier and then measure how much it is submerged when the moon pulls Lake Michigan closer. Take your family outdoors to observe and experience wonderful everyday nature phenomena.

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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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.

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Weekly fishing tip


whitefish

whitefish

Lake whitefish not just for commercial anglers

From the Michigan DNR

Although extremely important to Great Lakes commercial fishers, lake whitefish are becoming more and more popular with recreational anglers throughout Michigan. But you really have to know how to catch this delicious species!

The lake whitefish has a small, exceedingly delicate mouth and is confined to dining on insects, freshwater shrimp, small fish and fish eggs, and bottom organisms. Most feeding takes place on or near lake-bottoms. Keep that in mind when selecting your bait.

If you’re interested in staying inland and looking for lake whitefish, stick with deep, clear-water lakes. If you’re interested in heading to the Great Lakes, they can most often be found in deep water, either on or near the bottom.

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Winter free fishing weekend


OUT-Winter-Free-fishing-weekend

February 14-15

The Department of Natural Resources wants to remind everyone the annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 14, and Sunday, Feb. 15. That weekend, everyone—residents and non-residents alike—can fish Michigan waters without a license, though all other fishing regulations still apply.

Michigan has celebrated the Winter Free Fishing Weekend every year since 1994 as a way to promote awareness of the state’s vast aquatic resources. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing is a perfect match.

“Michigan’s winter months offer excellent opportunities to enjoy our state’s great outdoors, and fishing is a popular option for all ages,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “The Winter Free Fishing Weekend is an easy, low-commitment way for anglers of all experience and skill levels to explore and enjoy Michigan’s world-class natural resources and one of our state’s most beloved outdoor traditions.”

To encourage involvement in the Winter Free Fishing Weekend, organized activities have been and continue to be scheduled in communities across the state. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations including constituent groups, schools, local and state parks, businesses and others. A full list of these events can be found online at www.michigan.gov/freefishing.

The website also offers online tools to help those interested in planning and promoting local events.

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Silver carp eDNA detected in Lake Michigan tributary


This is a photo of a silver carp (a species of Asian carp) found in waters outside Michigan boundaries. Though no live silver carp has been found in Michigan waters, a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp was found within the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County, Michigan.

This is a photo of a silver carp (a species of Asian carp) found in waters outside Michigan boundaries. Though no live silver carp has been found in Michigan waters, a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp was found within the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County, Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) are collaborating to assess a recent positive environmental DNA (eDNA) result for silver carp—a species of Asian carp—within the lower Kalamazoo River, Allegan County, Michigan.
Two hundred water samples were taken in July 2014, along the Kalamazoo, from below the Caulkins Dam in Allegan County, to the mouth of the river. Laboratory results, which take several months to process, were reviewed by the DNR Oct. 2. One of the of 200 samples tested positive for silver carp eDNA. The positive sample was taken from just below the Caulkins Dam.

An additional 200 eDNA samples were collected in the same vicinity in June and resulted in no positive results. The July sample represents the first time that Michigan has experienced a positive result for silver carp eDNA in Michigan’s Great Lakes waters outside of Maumee Bay.

The findings indicate the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence that a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds. The lower Kalamazoo River is popular for recreational activities including fishing and boating. Activities such as these may increase the possibility of eDNA entering the river without the presence of a live silver carp.

“Although not conclusive, this finding heightens our vigilance and sets into motion a specific response,” said MDNR Director Keith Creagh. “We will work with our partner organizations and anglers on next steps to protect the Great Lakes and its tributaries against this significant threat.”

In response to the finding, the MDNR:

Requested additional assistance last Friday from the USFWS to implement a third eDNA surveillance effort on the lower Kalamazoo River. The collection of an additional 200 samples begins Oct. 7. Analysis of the samples will be expedited and results should be available within a month.

Will increase the presence of MDNR staff along the Kalamazoo River to enlist anglers to report any Asian carp sightings.

Will place information in local bait shops to broaden public awareness.

“At the state’s request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is providing all the resources and technical expertise we have available,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Regional Director Charlie Wooley. “The Service is committed to working in a coordinated, landscape-level, approach to prevent the establishment of self-sustaining populations of Asian carp in the Great Lakes.”
Asian carp, including bighead and silver carp, pose a significant threat to the Great Lakes ecosystem, the $7 billion fishery, and other economic interests dependent on the Great Lakes and its tributaries. Silver and bighead carp are likely to compete with native and recreational fish species and are known to quickly reproduce.
“The Kalamazoo River results further point to the urgency of the Great Lakes states to be vigilant in seeking all solutions to keep Asian carp and other invasive species out of the Great Lakes basin,” said Creagh. “Michigan continues to advocate for hydrological separation between the Mississippi River basin and the Great Lakes basin as the best long-term solution to the threat of Asian carp. By working together as a united front, we can address the imminent threat invasive species pose to our quality of life.”
Anglers and boaters are vital stewards to prevent movement of Asian carp and other invasive species that threaten Michigan’s waters. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including both adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters. Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live-wells and attach to boat trailers, anchors and fishing gear.
A video demonstrating how to identify bighead and silver carp can be viewed on the USFWS YouTube channel at http://youtu.be/B49OWrCRs38?source=govdelivery. A video focused on identification of juvenile Asian carp species can be viewed at http://www.michigan.gov/dnr/0,4570,7-153–317128–s,00.html. Identification guides, frequently asked questions, management plans and an online reporting form for Asian carp sightings are available online at michigan.gov/asiancarp.
More information on eDNA is available here: http://www.asiancarp.us/edna.htm. Results of eDNA monitoring from the Midwest region are posted here: http://www.fws.gov/midwest/fisheries/eDNA.html.

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