Hunt on Your Schedule at Grand Rapids Area Pheasant Preserves

By Howard Meyerson

Scott Brosier was 13 years into his career as a Midland County sheriff’s deputy when he decided to call it quits. Law enforcement work had become a grind. He longed to spend his days working outdoors, training hunting dogs and guiding others.  Brosier pulled the trigger in 2011 hoping to realize his dream. Then with the backing of his wife Ada, his business partner, he purchased Pine Hill Kennels and Sportsman’s Club, a private Rockford-based pheasant hunting preserve.

Pine Hill is one of four pheasant hunting preserves found within 30 minutes of downtown Grand Rapids. If you’re looking for an opportunity to experience the good old days of pheasant hunting over the holidays, consider booking a hunt at any one of the four in my latest piece on the Experience GR Blog, published by the city of Grand Rapids. Read more: Hunt on Your Schedule at Area Pheasant Preserves, GR

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DNR to plant 50,000 extra hatchery brown trout on Muskegon River to replace missing year-class

DSC_0169 B-M

Muskegon River anglers noticed a year-class of browns had disappeared. Photo by Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Anglers who fish the Muskegon River for trout are going to get a little extra something this month. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources intends to stock an additional 50,000 brown trout in the waters downstream from Croton Dam.

The fall fingerlings are expected to give the river’s trout fishery a boost. River anglers have been complaining that an entire year-class — the normally abundant 12-inch to 16-inch 2-year-olds — went AWOL this past season.

“This is just a one-shot deal. It’s what’s available (from the hatchery),” noted Scott Heintzelman, the agency’s central Lake Michigan management unit manager. “And given the circumstances it may be a good fit.

“We got calls from anglers that a year-class was missing. And when we did our (spring) walleye egg take, we looked at the trout population and definitely saw the same thing — a bunch of carryover trout (those that survive through the winter) were missing from Croton Dam downstream to Pine Street or Henning Park.

“People said they were still catching some of the larger fish, but the bread-and-butter class from the year before was gone.” Continue reading

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Conflicts between wolves, hunting dogs in Michigan decline in 2015

gray_wolf_canis_lupus Hollingsworth John and Karen, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Gray wolves in Michigan attacked fewer hunting dogs in 2015. Photo: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich. – Michigan’s 2015 bear hunting season ended in October with fewer incidents than last year of hunting dogs being attacked by wolves. Only three attacks were reported to the state, down from 17 in the 2014 season, state wildlife officials said.

“It’s tough to speculate about why,” said Kevin Swanson, wolf and bear specialist for the Michigan DNR. “Livestock depredation reports are down too. We had 23 of those last year and only 11 so far this year. It’s possible that wolf numbers have declined, but we don’t know that and plan to do a wolf survey this winter.”

Michigan’s wolf population was last tallied in 2014. The DNR survey showed a minimum of 636 wolves in the Upper Peninsula. There were approximately 125 wolf packs with an average of 5 wolves per pack. Twenty-three packs were known to be pairs of wolves.  Continue reading

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Trumpeter Swans: A Conservation Success in Michigan

TRSW 130308 tuttle swimming paircopyright Roger Eriksson

Trumpeter Swans populations are becoming more abundant. Photo by Roger Eriksson.

By Howard Meyerson

Fifty years ago the plight of Trumpeter Swans was a cause for concern in North America. The majestic birds were perched on the brink of extinction. America’s largest waterfowl species was in need of a helping hand.

Today their status has greatly improved due to reintroduction efforts by government wildlife agencies, conservation organizations, Indian tribes, and public utilities. Their numbers have increased across much of the continent. Reintroduction work continues in some locales. But here in Michigan the Trumpeters are doing very well; their recovery is a significant conservation success, according to state officials.

“This still needs to be vetted within the agency, have a public review, and be finalized by the legislature, but we will recommend in the next 12 to 18 months that the Trumpeter Swan be removed from the Michigan Threatened and Endangered Species List,” said Dan Kennedy, the endangered species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Their population made a drastic upswing between 2000 and 2010.”

Approximately 756 Trumpeters now inhabit Michigan waters, according to DNR survey records, a dramatic change from none in 1986 when the state’s swan reintroduction efforts began. Michigan’s recovery goal was modest: having two flocks of 100 swans each by year 2000. That goal was reached in 1997, according to Kennedy. It was accomplished by rearing and later releasing two-year-old Trumpeter Swans at select locations around the state. Continue reading

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DNR holds the line on 2016 king salmon stocking


Lake Michigan salmon anglers troll for salmon off the port of Muskegon. Photo by Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich – Lake Michigan will be stocked with 1.7 million chinook salmon in 2016, the same number as the past few years. Lake fish managers plan to hold the course rather than cut stocking in light of a dismal 2015 chinook salmon fishery.

“In April, I was ready to go to the (Great Lakes Fishery Commission) Lake Committee and recommend reducing it,” explained Jay Wesley, Michigan DNR’s Lake Michigan Basin Coordinator. “We weren’t seeing a big rebound in prey (alewives) and the advisors didn’t want to see the fishery collapse. Working with the committee through the summer we started to see wild recruitment was way down too. Then the lake warmed up and people started seeing alewives near shore. We grew confident that a spawning event was shaping up and convinced ourselves to hold the line.

“This season probably has the lowest (chinook) catch rates we’ve seen. There were days it was good, but it would disappear just as fast…And the (fall) river runs have been very poor throughout the lake – maybe a little better from Muskegon south – but well below average.” Continue reading

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Upcoming deer season could be hit or miss

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say the upcoming firearm deer season will require more planning and scouting by hunters if they plan to bag a big one. DNR officials say the acorn crop is spotty and deer will be on the move, meaning hunters can’t rely on the usual hunting spots. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say the upcoming firearm deer season will require more planning and scouting by hunters if they plan to bag a big one. Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Mich – Hunters who plan to go out for the two‑week firearm deer season starting Nov. 15 need to get out and scout if they plan to hunt the woods. This year’s acorn crop is spotty, according to state wildlife officials. Deer will be moving and hunters will have to find them rather than assume their favorite oak stand will be productive.

“It’s an average‑to‑good year for mast, but it’s literally going to be a case of have and have-nots,” said Chad Stewart, deer management specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “If you are fortunate to have white oak producing in your woods, sit around that tree. Or, if you have persimmons dropping, sit there. It’s just a matter of when you will see deer.”

Michigan’s deer herd, overall, is smaller than a few years ago. Three consecutive hard winters took a serious toll, particularly in the Upper Peninsula where most of the fawns died two of those winters. Epizootic hemorrhagic disease, or EHD, also hit the southern Michigan deer hard in 2012, killing many in various areas.

DNR surveys of hunter success showed it declined in 2014. Just more than five out of 10 hunters took home a deer. That decline was seen all around the state, but mostly in the Upper Peninsula, according to Stewart.

“The harvest up there was really low, the lowest it’s been in 30 years,” Stewart said. “The good news for U.P. hunters this year is those who see deer are seeing older‑age class deer. But they won’t see the numbers they have in the past. And, we don’t expect that to change overnight.”

Despite the bad news, there is good news, too. Continue reading

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Officials: Strong 2015 Lake Michigan perch hatch

Michigan's Great Lakes and inland fisheries will be guided by new five year plan. Photo: Howard Meyersoon

Lake Michigan perch fishing could improve in upcoming years . Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, MI – Lake Michigan fish managers see more than a glimmer of hope for perch fishing in the future. A large crop of young perch appeared in late-summer netting efforts all around the lake.

“I am confident we will see an increase in the adult perch population in a couple of years,” said Dave Clapp, manager for the Michigan DNR’s Charlevoix Fisheries Research Station. “Indiana said it was the second best year of perch trawling ever. They saw a couple of thousand perch per hour (of effort). Michigan’s trawl was not as good, but we do have a decent year-class. Our count was half of what we saw in 2010, the last big year-class. We got maybe 200-300 perch per hour (in 2015).”

Perch are a popular sport fish when they are available. Fun to fish, tasty as table fare, they are readily pursued without fancy equipment or a large boat. Michigan anglers caught 335,000 perch annually on average in Michigan waters between 2005 and 2014, according to Clapp. The fishery peaked in the mid-1980s and early 1990’s. Anglers then often harvested over a million fish annually in Michigan waters, and close to 2 million perch in 1995.

What changed, Clapp said, is the ecology of the lake. Zebra and quagga mussels arrived and altered the system, reducing the amount of available food for young perch, among other things.

“The 80’s were a unique time,” Clapp explained.  “We don’t have records of having more perch in the lake at any other time. The ecosystem changing has something to do with (the following decline).”   Continue reading

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A moment of beauty

Source: MarkS.CarlsonNaturalistPhotographer

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Steelhead unpredictable, but pike can fill the day

The lower Pere Marquette River is an excellent pike fishery. This 20-incher hit a gold spinner. Photo by Howard Meyerson

The lower Pere Marquette River is an excellent northern pike fishery. This 20-inch pike hit a gold spinner with red tube on the hook. Photo by Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

LUDINGTON, MI – We knew the odds of catching steelhead were slim. It was mid­October, not November. The weather had been unseasonably warm, but scattered reports had surfaced on the Internet. And fishing, after all, is an optimistic endeavor.

“I have the trailer hooked up. I’ve had my lunch. We’re going to go out and try to catch the first steelhead of the season,” my friend said on the phone when I called to confirm our plans. And so it was that we set out on a cloudy, cool day to enjoy an early season lower Pere Marquette River steelhead hunt — only to come away six hours later having hooked two northern pike.

“You can usually find a pike or two along the river here,” my friend explained. “Most are 20 inches to 26 inches. They add to the migratory steelhead run.”

What he meant by that is if the steelies don’t bite, there is usually a pike around to spice up the fun. In fact, the lower Pere Marquette River is an excellent pike fishery, according to Mark Tonello, the fisheries biologist at the Michigan DNR’s Cadillac office. They move between the lower river and Pere Marquette Lake.

“Pere Marquette Lake is an outstanding pike fishery,” Tonello declared. “Every few years, I hear of a 20 pounder caught through the ice.”

Ours were hardly in that category. Neither measured 24­inches, the minimum keeper size. One was a healthy 20 inches; the other was 15 inches and slim. They hit gold spinners and added some excitement to a day where steelhead seemed to be absent.

“We didn’t see a thing,” two boat anglers reported at the launch site that evening upon returning.

Continue reading

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Sea lamprey abundance dropping in the Great Lakes

Back to back annual lampricide treatments are knocking down populations of young lamprey/. Source: 	T. Lawrence, GLFC

Back to back annual lampricide treatments are knocking down populations of young lamprey/. Source: T. Lawrence, GLFC

By Howard Meyerson

Sea lamprey numbers are dropping steadily in the Great Lakes, but nowhere more so than lakes Huron and Michigan where 20-year and 30-year lows are reported respectively. The joint U.S. and Canadian Great Lakes Fishery Commission recently announced the finding.

“Amazingly, we have 20-year and 30-year lows and we’ve seen a 40 percent drop compared to last year,” said Marc Gaden, GLFC spokesman. “All the other lakes are trending downward too. We saw a 15 percent drop in Lake Superior, about a 20 percent drop in Lake Erie and a smaller drop in Lake Ontario.”

Sea lampreys are the bane of the Great Lakes fishery, a parasitic invasive species that feeds on lake trout, salmon, steelhead and whitefish, among others. They first appeared in Lake Ontario in 1835, and then spread following improvements to the Welland Canal in the early 1900s. The Canadian ship canal is part of the St. Lawrence Seaway. It bypasses Niagara Falls which had until then blocked lamprey passage. Once it opened ship passage between Lake Ontario and Lake Erie, the lamprey spread from one to the other and beyond, according to GLFC.

The decline in recent years is attributed to an increase in Congressional funding for treatment. New control strategies have also helped, according to Gaden. Continue reading

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