1000 + Fishing Trips: Montague angler unlocks White River secrets

Cliff Minton holds up a sign telling friends he is making his 1000th fishing trip on the Lower White River. Photo:  Photo Bill Bishop.

Cliff Minton holds up a sign telling friends he is making his 1000th fishing trip on the Lower White River. Photo: Photo Bill Bishop.

By Howard Meyerson

To look the state’s list of Master Angler entries for the White River in Muskegon County one gets the impression the river is filled with redhorse, white suckers and carp. Only three salmon or steelheads were listed in the last 20 years and two of those were caught in 1994, an inauspicious depiction of what anglers can expect.

But, Cliff Minton knows far better than most that the White River can be an exceptional place to catch big fish. The 75-year-old Montague angler celebrated his 1000th fishing outing there last fall – on October 25th to be precise. That’s the day he landed a nice 8-pound steelhead, one of countless big salmon and steelhead he has hooked over the years on the quiet and winding river he knows like the back of his hand.

“I thought of the fish caught and fish lost; men who no longer fished the river over those 40 years…the fishless days, the fish a-plenty days and big fish days,” Minton wrote about that day in a chapter of a book he hopes to publish sometime called “The White; A River of Memories.”

Minton fishes the White every chance he gets. It is close to the home he shares with his wife, Mary. He may launch his 12-foot aluminum boat and visit dozens of holes he knows intimately. Or, he may hop in his “fish truck” and go for a drive, then don a pair of waders and set off cross-country in search of the upper river’s Holy Grail brook trout and brown trout waters.

“I am on my third boat and fourth motor on the lower White,” Minton shared. “It’s a dandy river and I do catch northern pike, walleye and smallmouth bass there, but those are incidental to the trout and salmon I catch.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

DNR’s Lake Huron Atlantic salmon slow to show

A student at Lake Superior State University's aquatic research facility holds up an adult Atlantic salmon that was raised there. Photo: Dave Kenyon, MDNR.

A student at Lake Superior State University’s aquatic research facility holds up an adult Atlantic salmon that was raised there. Photo: Dave Kenyon, MDNR.

By Howard Meyerson

Michigan’s experiment with stocking Atlantic salmon in Lake Huron has yet to produce the results that anglers had hoped for this summer, but state fisheries managers say they aren’t worried. The Lake Huron Atlantic salmon program is its relative infancy,

“Our program is still young,” said Todd Grischke, Michigan DNR’s Lake Huron Basin coordinator. “It’s true we haven’t seen many (of ours) show up in the fishery, but we hope to see them this fall. We’re in our second year of full-production stocking and we have one year of stocked fish we expect to start showing up. The next milestone comes this fall when some should return (to spawn) on two tributaries.”

Approximately 100,000 hatchery-raised Atlantics salmon were stocked by the DNR in 2013. Another 130,000 were stocked this year. Those fish, marked with adipose fin clips, were released at four Lake Huron sites: St. Mary’s River, Thunder Bay River, AuSable River and the port of Lexington. Grischke and others think Atlantics can help fill the void created in 2004 when the Lake Huron chinook salmon fishery crashed. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance: 60 Miles of Local Trails, From Riders For Riders

An area rider enjoys the 9-mile trail at Kent County's Luton Park, built by West Michigan  Mountain Biking Alliance members. Photo: Howard Meyerson

An area rider enjoys the 9-mile trail at Kent County’s Luton Park, built by West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance members. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids is known for a lot of things: good beer, a spectacular downtown arts festival and great fishing on area rivers, among other things. But, what isn’t known is that West Michigan mountain bikers are turning the region into a mountain biking haven. A mountain biking group, called West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance, is responsible for that growth. Its members are out building trails.

My latest story for the city of Grand Rapids blog, called Experience GR, lays out what area riders are doing for other riders on their own accord and with financial help from local foundations and businesses.  Eleven mountain biking trails totaling 60 miles have been built so far. Read more at: West Michigan Mountain Biking Alliance: 60 Miles of Local Trails, From Riders For Riders.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Avian Botulism Takes its Toll: Scientists Continue to Look for Clues

Common Loons were hit the hardest during the 2012 avian botulism outbreak. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Common Loons were hit the hardest during the 2012 avian botulism outbreak. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Howard Meyerson

Joe Kaplan didn’t have to look far to find dead birds in 2007. Thousands had washed up on the northern Lake Michigan shoreline, from Sleeping Bear Dunes north across the Upper Peninsula. Carcasses littered the light-colored sands. It was a big year for avian mortality due to botulism, a potent toxin that causes paralysis and death.

“We wouldn’t know about these botulism outbreaks if it weren’t for birds washing up on the shore,” said Kaplan, a Michigan Audubon field representative and co-founder of Common Coast Research and Conservation, a Hancock-based nonprofit that studies Common Loons and helps in the cooperative effort to tally dead birds.

A lesser outbreak occurred in 2006, an incident that signaled significant change: botulism had not been seen on Lake Michigan since the 1980s, though outbreaks had occurred on Lakes Erie, Ontario, and Huron. The toxin has surfaced annually on Lake Michigan since then to greater or lesser extents. And scientists with the U.S. Department of Interior are now diligently working to locate the source and identify the chain of events that kills off birds by the thousands.

The 2007 toll was high. Staff and volunteers at Sleeping Bear discovered 1,135 dead birds along the park’s shoreline; there were 63 Common Loons. The lake-wide toll was 4,158 birds. Five years later, in 2012, the death toll was even higher. Beach monitors around Lake Michigan reported 4,386 dead birds, according to National Park Service regional staff in Ashland Wisconsin. At Sleeping Bear that year, 580 dead loons were collected.

“That was awful. It was devastating,” laments Sue Jennings, a wildlife biologist for the

Endangered Piping Plovers have been affected by avian botulism. Photo. USFWS.

Endangered Piping Plovers have been affected by avian botulism. Photo. USFWS.

national lakeshore. “We have 64 breeding pair of (endangered) Piping Plovers here. We provide nesting habitat for one-third of the entire population. So far, we know six chicks or adults have succumbed to botulism. It may be as high as eight. That’s a huge concern.”

Infected birds that die and wash up on a beach present a danger to other birds and animals that may feed upon their carcasses. National lakeshore volunteers that monitor beaches and collect carcasses wear protective clothing and gloves when handling them. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New stream fish trend viewer let’s Michigan anglers find wild trout

Wild trout populations can be identified in rivers around the state along with other wild trout species. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Wild trout populations can be identified in rivers by using the new web application. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

I’ve lost track of how often I have wondered trout fishing on this or that river, how big they are, and how to access the water. Perhaps you too keep a dog-eared copy of Gerth Hendrickson’s original “The Angler’s Guide to Ten Classic Trout Streams in Michigan” near, or the revised version by Jim DuFresne, with 12 streams listed.

I have stacks of references, including faded copies of the Michigan Blue-Ribbon Trout Streams list, assorted river guidebooks by authors like Tom Huggler, Janet Mehl and Bob Linsenman and Steve Nevala – and odd lists collected over the years. There’s little that’s more fun than pouring over a topographic map and putting the pieces together, plotting a strategy and hitting the river, however old the information may be.

While older references don’t tell me about fish populations today, they do help with narrowing down where to go. I’m not a big fan of online fishing boards and forums. Too much junk passes as truth on them. But, as someone who uses digital media and the Internet all the time, I do appreciate a credible source for information.

That’s why I am impressed with the Michigan DNR’s new Stream Fish Population Trend Viewer, an interactive web page recently unveiled on the agency website. It allows trout anglers, in particular, to see where wild brook trout, brown trout and rainbows were found by DNR fisheries surveys along with coho salmon and smallmouth bass. Users are able sort the locations by abundance, length and size and other measures. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Banding Loons

Originally posted on LOON NETWORK:

Loon banding has only occurred for the past 25 years so there is much we do not know about these majestic birds. However, with continued research we can start to understand the Common Loon better and discover more effective ways to increase its survival. To learn more about loon banding visit the Studying Loons page.

View original

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Lake Michigan’s charter-fishing catch rate slips in 2013

State fisheries officials predict salmon will be hungry and bite lures more readily with fewer alewives in Lake Michigan.  Photo: Howard Meyerson

State fisheries officials predict salmon will be hungry and bite lures more readily with fewer alewives in Lake Michigan. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Lake Michigan anglers complained in 2013 about catching fewer though bigger chinook salmon than prior years, but charter fishing captains had a pretty good year. They logged 11,875 fishing trips, the second highest number since 2009; the highest being 2012 when they reported 12,236 charter trips.

Those 2013 findings were released in May by the Michigan DNR and can be found in the latest report about charter fishing catch and effort on the agency website.

Last year’s catch went down following several years of way above-average catch-rates,” notes Dan O’Keefe, Michigan Sea Grant southwest district educator. “But the fish were bigger – and that helped the number of trips that were taken.”

Charter captains are required to report their catches each year, along with the number of hours they spend fishing, or what is called “charter effort.” Lake Michigan fishing charters targeted, caught and kept 35,218 chinook salmon in 2013. They released 904 according to the report. That translated to a catch-rate of .132 chinook salmon per hour fishing and 3.184 chinooks per excursion. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Newaygo fishing guide, author breaks new ground about fussy trout in book

 Matt Supinski fishes Nelson's Spring Creek in Montana while shooting the Selectivity DVD. Photo by: Tom Harman

Matt Supinski fishes Nelson’s Spring Creek in Montana while shooting the Selectivity DVD. Photo by: Tom Harman

By Howard Meyerson

Perhaps you’ve cast to a trout or steelhead only to find yourself snubbed. It approaches, looks, and backs away. Was it the motor oil on your hands, the color of the fly, the pattern chosen, or its presentation?

Or maybe it was a “fussy” trout.

Author and fly fishing guide, Matt Supinski, has a behavioral theory about feeding fish – when they take and why they don’t – borne of decades of observation, years of watching and fishing for trout, salmon and steelhead on rivers all over the world.

The 56-year-old owner of the Gray Drake and Trout and Eagle Lodges on the banks of the Muskegon River draws it all together in an eye-catching book called “Selectivity, The Theory & Method of Fly Fishing for Fussy Trout, Salmon & Steelhead.”

The 260-page, hard-cover book is creating a stir in fly fishing circles, drawing wide Adobe Photoshop PDFacclaim from top names in the field and rave reviews for its gorgeous color plates, fascinating fishing stories and core ideas which center around three feeding phases Supinski calls: Aggressive/Active, Selective/Reflective and Passive/Dormant.

“My notion of ‘selectivity’ attempts to address what I call the fish’s “split-personality,” Supinski writes. “Why at times they can be ferocious predators and kill artists exercising extreme precision, but with selective and precise demeanor. Or why they can be downright impossible to catch, either being extremely fussy and elusive or despondent.
“These bipolar behavioral phases of selectivity have taunted anglers for a long as people have been fly fishing…” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Story of Recovery: Boardman River restoration looks better all the time

Frank Dituri (left) and Bret Fessell kneel in Grasshopper Creek where they find signs of aquatic insect life that was not there before the Brown Bridge Dam was removed. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Frank Dituri (left) and Bret Fessell kneel in Grasshopper Creek where they find signs of aquatic insect life that was not there before the Brown Bridge Dam was removed. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

While picking through the natural debris on the bottom of Grasshopper Creek, a tiny stream feeding the upper Boardman River, two scientists with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians began to get excited.

Brett Fessell and Frank Dituri both noted things that made them hopeful. Fessell is the tribe’s fish and wildlife coordinator. Dituri is their wetland ecologist. He is also chairman of the multi-jurisdiction implementation team guiding the Boardman River restoration. The multi-million dollar project involves removing three dams and modifying a fourth over the next several years. Brown Bridge Dam, most upstream, was the first to go in 2013.

Boardman Watershed Map and Dams

Source: The Boardman River Dams Project.

The three of us were canoeing though the 2.8 mile restoration area, the zone that was underwater prior to removing the dam. The former pond and backwaters, where paddling was once slow and laborious, had reverted to being a quick-moving river – today a joy to paddle.

What these scientists had discovered in streambed, set in a wild tangle of forest, were the empty cases of caddisfly larvae that had emerged, tiny conical structures made of fine gravel, found only in running water. Trout food, essentially; at very least, an indication of bugs that trout love.

“This place (the creek bottom) was all filled with mud,” Fessell explained, admiring the fresh gravel bed that was uncovered once the muck washed out, pushed by faster stream velocities made possible after pond waters went down.

“Now you have all these little pockets and pools – same as a larger river – and just as important for fisheries. This is going to be better spawning and nursery habitat. I am confident we will see more brook trout.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Endangered Kirtland’s Warbler Recovery: What Now?

Kirtland's Warblers are at their all-time high in Michigan. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Kirtland’s Warblers are well above recovery goals in Michigan. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

By Howard Meyerson

Michigan’s endangered Kirtland’s Warbler appears to be well down the road to recovery. More than 2,000 singing males were reported in Michigan’s 2013 Kirtland’s Warbler census. That was the second consecutive year that the population was double the federal recovery goal of 1,000 singing males (breeding pairs)—a world away from 1967 when the bird was added to the federal Endangered Species List, or when its populations reached record lows in 1974 and 1987 and only 167 were found.

While the warbler’s rebound is reason for celebration, federal and state wildlife officials and Michigan’s conservation community remain concerned about its future. Successful recovery brings talk of removing it from the Endangered Species list, a decision that places the gray-blue and yellow warbler at a crossroad with respect to its future survival.

“This is a conservation-reliant species that continues to depend on our future action,” says Dan Kennedy the endangered-species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “That’s why having a plan is so important.”

Kennedy is one of several who are working on a Kirtland’s Warbler Conservation Plan. He is coordinating that cooperative effort between his agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and Huron-Manistee National Forest. The plan is to be released for public review this summer. It will guide future management and replace the federal recovery plan once the bird is delisted.

Delisting, however, is not an automatic step, according to federal officials. Known threats have to be addressed before that will be proposed. “We have two issues ahead,” notes Scott Hicks, the USFWS field supervisor in the East Lansing field office. “One is to assure an adequate supply of appropriate-aged habitat, and making sure there are commitments to manage for that. The second is cowbird control.”

The USFWS pays for cowbird control, an annual effort to trap thousands of the parasitic birds that threaten the warblers by laying eggs in their nests. Studies show the presence of cowbird chicks, which are larger, more aggressive, and outcompete for food, results in poorer warbler survival. The cost for trapping is approximately $100,000 a year. “It is paid for by endangered species recovery funding,” Hicks said. “If we delist the Kirtland’s Warbler, that funding will be redirected to other species. We will need another way to cover the costs.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments