As the deer hunting seasons wane, many sportsmen and women are shifting their attention back to fishing, particularly ice fishing. The weather has been cooperating of late, too, so good ice is forming on many of the inland lakes across the region.
That's not to say the lakes are all safe to venture out on yet, though, and extreme caution needs to used at this time. Ice forms at different rates on different lakes, and can even vary greatly in various locations on the same body of water.
The heavy snows earlier this week will also create problems on some lakes, with ice formation slowed and travel across lakes made more cumbersome.
But it's difficult not to get out on that first really good ice of the season, when the action always seems to be better. Or perhaps it just seems better because many of us haven't been out wetting a line for a few months, and just thinking about tossing a few freshly caught fish on the grill makes my mouth water.
However, it's better to be safe than sorry.
There'll be plenty of time to get out on area lakes, as well as the Great Lakes later on, so don't rush it and put yourself in danger of plunging through the ice and putting a damper on an otherwise wonderful day in the Upper Peninsula outdoors.
There's also plenty of time to figure out some changes in trout fishing regulations that were scheduled to be adopted by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission at its meeting Thursday.
This is the time when the governing body of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment sets trout and salmon regulations for the next fishing year cycle, which begins on April 1.
There are several changes that anglers should take note of, including on both inland waters and the Great Lakes. Many of these changes are the result of extensive work by the DNRE, committees set up the department, fishing organizations and anglers at large.
Included are adjustments to inland trout fishing rules making the 7-inch minimum size limit for brook trout on type 1 streams statewide, setting an 8-inch minimum size limit for brown trout statewide, establishing a 10-inch minimum size limit for all other trout and salmon in types 1-4 streams and eliminating the one-fish limit for Atlantic salmon on inland lakes and streams.
These inland fishing rule changes were aimed at simplifying the rules statewide while still providing adequate regulations to protect the various fisheries.
Other rule changes involve adding gear restrictions on numerous stretches of streams across the state, including such U.P. streams as the Escanaba and Fox rivers and Duck Creek and Cooks Run.
There's also the removal of restrictions on two streams at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Special regulations greatly reducing the opportunity to take fish from the Mosquito River and Seven Mile Creek were in place since 2002 to facilitate a brook trout research project.
However, according to the DNRE's recommendation to the NRC, the study did not show a significant increase in the abundance of brook trout as a result of the restrictions, so anglers in the region requested the restrictions be eliminated and wildlife biologists concurred.
There a few changes in store for Great Lakes anglers, as well, including on lakes Superior and Michigan.
In regard to lake trout, since the bag limit in the eastern portion of Lake Superior was raised five fish this past year there's been concern that large lakers could be over-harvested, especially by anglers making the long trips to Stannard Rock and the Big Reef.
What the change calls for is allowing only one lake trout more than 34 inches long to be kept, which makes sense. Most fishermen who head out even as far as the Reef or Stannard won't mind being able to keep only one big lunker for mounting or whatever, seeing most everybody ventures out for the sport of catching big fish but prefer to keep the smaller ones for eating.
A new rule in northern Lake Michigan calls for changing the 24-inch minimum size limit to a slot limit system allowing fish to be kept that are between 20 inches and 25 inches long, as well as one fish 34 inches or longer. There are other changes for lakers farther south in Lake Michigan, as well.
Anglers who enjoy pursuing splake in Lake Superior will also see a change next season, with the minimum size limit being increased from 10 inches to 15 inches, the same as it is for lake trout. Not only was this change recommended to help create a better fishery for larger splake, but to also eliminate confusion over whether it's a lake trout or splake being caught.
These changes were recommended to be made along with the annual overall trout and salmon fishing package, which can be examined in depth by visiting the website www.michigan.gov/dnre and clicking on the NRC link.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.