Here are a few sure signs that winter is waning and spring is not far off: We will turn our clocks ahead an hour this weekend and fisheries biologist George Madison is shaking out of his winter slumber.
The clock-shifting marker is automatic, we change to daylight savings time each year in March.
As far as Madison goes, this is also the time of year he gets a group of anglers all fired up for upcoming open-water fishing seasons, as well as talking about a few of their pet projects.
Madison, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources district fisheries biologist for the Western Lake Superior Management Unit, will be the guest speaker at next Thursday's meeting of the Central Upper Peninsula Sportfishing Association.
The group meets at 7 p.m. at the Negaunee Elks Club and the public is invited.
Madison is a well-seasoned fisheries biologist who has worked in the region for more than two decades. Years ago I accompanied him out in the field on projects ranging from sucker removals at Lake Independence to brook trout plantings in remote walk-in lakes.
He is certainly knowledgable about the area's various fisheries and he's always an interesting talker about fishing.
Much of his presentation will center around local lakes that interest association members, including Lake Angeline, Teal Lake, Deer Lake and Lake Independence.
The format he likes best, though, is to come to the meeting ready to answer questions from association members and the general public. He said this gives him the opportunity to address specifically what the anglers who attend the meeting are interested in hearing about.
One thing he did mention is the two-story fishery the department and CUPSFA would like to establish in Lake Angeline. The old mine pit in Ishpeming is extremely deep, so it would support such warmwater species as crappie and bass in the upper levels and trout in the deeper, cooler areas.
There's a good chance some lunker trout could be hauled out of Angeline in future years, too, perhaps even a fish or two that would qualify for the Master Angler Award program.
Speaking of Master Angler Awards, the DNR recently released its report on the 2013 program and looking it over always chases the winter blues away.
Being a diehard brookie fisherman, I always head to the brook trout category first. There weren't too many brookies registered last year, with only eight in the catch-and-keep category and seven in the catch-and-release listing.
There were some dandies though, including a 21.88 inch trophy that topped the catch-and-release category, which has a minimum length for entry of 15 inches.
In the brook trout catch-and-keep category, which has a minimum weight of 2 pounds for inclusion, the top fish registered was a 20-incher. The fish is listed at weighing 5.75 pounds, which looks like a misprint to me. Maybe it should read 3.75 pounds, seeing that the second largest brookie was an 18-incher that weighed 3.33 pounds.
Regardless, any brookie that weighs in at 2 pounds or more is certainly a nice one to haul in.
There are other interesting facts about the fish that are registered, including who caught it, where they were fishing and what method of fishing they were using.
For example, out of the 15 brookies registered in the two categories, 10 were caught in the Upper Peninsula and five in the Lower Peninsula. In addition, 13 were caught in open water while two were taken through the ice, and bait and tackle ranged from nightcrawlers and minnows to spinners and flies.
The specific rivers and lakes are included as are the dates the fish were caught, but - being a true trout fisherman - I'll let you do a little searching yourself to find these brookie hotspots.
Other entries run the gamut from Atlantic salmon (with only two entries) and chinook salmon (the most entered species with 125) to walleye (32 entries) and yellow perch (28 entries).
In all, there were 1,208 fish entered in the Master Angler Award program in 2013, which is an increase from 1,189 registered in 2012. The first year of the program, 1973, there were 123 applications filed, with the number peaking in 1999 at 1,698 fish registered.
To take a look at the entire Master Angler Award listings, including previous years, visit the DNR's website at www.michigan.gov/dnr and follow the menu link to fishing in Michigan, where you'll find the Master Angler Award program section.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.