DNR pilot project clears the way for winter fishing access

Courtesy Michigan DNR

Note: It’s cold out there and northern lakes are frozen solid. Nice to see Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources taking steps to expand access to good ice fishing waters. Here is their recent announcement. Enjoy! –HM

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The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has organized a pilot program to keep boating access sites plowed this winter at more than two dozen popular Upper Peninsula ice-fishing locations.

Various local partners have volunteered to assist the DNR with the program to help ensure that access to ice-fishing opportunities in the U.P. are available consistently during winter.

The 26 locations – situated across 10 of the U.P.’s 15 counties – are DNR boating access sites managed for recreational boating.

“Because we have had continued requests from the public to maintain access throughout the winter, we’ve partnered with a number of entities to assist with plowing for winter access,” said Zack Bishop, a DNR Parks and Recreation Division unit supervisor. “We have entered into agreements with each partner to try this concept for one year. Depending on the success of the pilot program, we may or may not continue it into next winter.”

An evaluation to take place at the end of the winter will assess several things, including how often the plowed sites are used and whether damage occurs to the access ramps, which has been a concern.

Boating access sites to be plowed this winter include:

Baraga County: Vermilac Lake, Silver River

Chippewa County: Conley Point

Delta County: Kipling

Dickinson County: Hamilton Lake

Iron County: Indian Lake, Swan Lake, Lake Mary, East Lake Emily, Lake Ellen

Keweenaw County: Gratiot Lake, Lake Medora, Lake Bailey

Luce County: Little Lake Harbor, Kak’s Lake, Big Manistique Lake (County Line access)

Mackinac County: South Manistique Lake, North Manistique Lake, Milakokia Lake and Millecoquins Lake

Marquette County: Lake Michigamme, Greenwood Reservoir, Johnson Lake, Big Shag Lake, East Bass Lake

Schoolcraft County: Big Spring Landing

“The DNR is very pleased with our partners offering to make this program possible, including the county road commissions in Baraga, Chippewa, Dickinson, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette and Schoolcraft counties, Forsyth Township, Bayshore Resort Bait & Tackle, Travel Marquette, South Shore Fishing Association and Gwinn Bait & Tackle,” said Doug Rich, DNR Parks and Recreation Division western U.P. district supervisor.

This pilot project is something the DNR has been trying to implement for several years but doing so is not as simple as it might seem.

“The DNR has more than 85 restricted funds. By law, the adopted budget allocations involving the state and federal restricted funds must be used properly,” said Stacy Welling Haughey, DNR U.P. field deputy. “We cannot use funds from one source to pay for another. As an example, we cannot utilize funding that comes from boater registration fees for non-boating uses.”

Specifically, money used to build and maintain DNR boating access sites comes from the state’s Waterways Fund, which is derived from a portion of gasoline taxes and proceeds from the sale of watercraft registrations. This funding is restricted to be used only to support recreational boating.

DNR boating access sites are designed and built for boating, not winter use.

Haughey said DNR staffers consulted their counterparts in Wisconsin and Minnesota to learn how those departments address this same situation.

“It is often handled on a site-by-site basis. Wisconsin indicated they work with several local units of government and Minnesota mentioned that resort owners often keep the sites open to bring in tourists,” Haughey said. “In the U.P., we have worked with local units of government, tourism groups, county road commissions, bait shop owners, fishing groups and individuals in creating this opportunity for this winter, and we hope folks will get outside and enjoy the additional access.”

Organizations or individuals interested in partnering to keep additional sites open if this pilot project continues next winter, please contact Stacy Haughey at WellingS1@michigan.gov or 906-226-1331.

About Howard Meyerson

After more than 30 years in the outdoor writing business, you would think I'd know better.
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