Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hard Water

If life gives you lemons, make lemonade. That's exactly what the game plan has been here over the last few cold weeks.  Ice fishing has sparked my interest as some new opportunities for some unique fisheries has provided some good times in the cold weather.
The U.P. is littered with countless lakes as well as ice fishing on the big water of Lake Michigan & Lake Superior.  The big water ice scene is pretty damn cool, sketchy ice conditions & the chance at hooking some damn nice fish through the ice is interesting.

Playing the winds is key when venturing out on the big water ice, watching for offshore winds can save your life.  Not a wise decision to head out when a south wind is kicking up for example on Lake Superior ice, the ice can blow out in a matter of minutes.  Not a pleasant ride!!
The ice fishing scene is kinda more about relaxing and being outside verses slaying fish.  Sure, you are going to have some good days on the ice occasionally-but most of the time on the ice is going to be spent catching up with friends!
Super Bowl-after a season plagued with injures to key players, the Pack has made it to the big show!


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Frozen Coast

Yup, it's the middle of Winter & that makes it cabin fever time.  Not something I look forward to, I start looking at the 10 day forecast hoping for a day in the mid 20's so I can possibly wet a line.  Doesn't look like that will be happening for a while right now as everyday is pretty much single digits or barely over 10 degrees.  Hopefully this new video can uplift the spirit & remind us that it isn't that much longer till the warm season begins!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Homegrown in da U.P.

When people think of ice fishing lures, most likely the first lure that comes to mind is the one & only Swedish Pimple.  The Pimple has been around since the late 1950's & anyone who fishes regularly owns a handful of them. I have to beleive that more Walleye/Perch have been caught while jiggin' through a hole in the ice on this lure than any other lure in existence. My limited experience in ice fishing,  I pretty much exclusively fish the pimple. Why not-it catches fish & its made right here!  This lure & many others were designed here in Michigan's U.P. by the Bay De Noc Lure Company.  The lure company sits right in the majestic downtown district of Gladstone-right outside the door is probably the best testing grounds (Little Bay de Noc) one can have to design a lure for ice fishing.  A world class Walleye fishery that people travel to from around the world-quite a perfect laboratory for designing lures!

Last week I was in Gladstone, so I decided to stop by the Pimple factory for a visit-I just missed the afternoon coffee break & all the employees were hard at work in their specific areas.  I was greeted by Dave & Anders Nyberg-owners of the company. Dave was designing new custom color schemes for specific fisheries, a new aspect from the Bay De Noc lure Company.  Anders was filling/taking orders on the phone as it is Winter & this is the busy season for ice fishing.  The guys showed me around the shop & were explaining the process that goes into the lure making.  I was amazed at how many steps were involved in making one of these small lures.  A truly unique factor in this business is that nearly everything in the shop was handmade & designed in house.  Lloyd Nyberg-one of the founding fathers of the Bay De Noc Lure Company was a Tool/Die maker by trade.  He designed  many of these unique dies & other pieces of equipment that are still being used on a daily basis-built to last & one of a kind!

Lloyd, his brother Carl & the Apelgren family of Gladstone designed these lures as a hobby and now a second generation of family is running a phenomenal business distributing these lures across the world.  The Bay de Noc Family of lures- The Swedish Pimple, The Do-Jigger, The Laker Taker, The Flutter Laker Taker & The Vingla.

Swedish Influenced, but Yooper Made!


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Baitfish-the future of them?

Seems like only yesterday when I was a young boy fishing on lake Michigan with my Grandpa & Dad for Chinook Salmon, many of these giants would reaches sizes in the 30 lb range.  This was not uncommon in the early 1980's, Chinook up to 40 pounds were recorded every season on both Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  Massive populations of Alewives gave these Salmon plenty to feed on all year long in these two Great Lakes.  These Chinooks thrived in the Great Lakes during this time frame.

Around 2000 Chinook Salmon populations seemed to be declining a bit on the Lake Huron side, maybe we thought it was just a smaller run of fish this year. Chinooks seemed to be skinny & on the small side verses what we were used to. So another season came around and even less fish were around, no one seemed to have an answer as just as many Salmon were being stocked as prior years. This trend continued until finally some answers were being given by scientists, fisherman & our state agencies.

The answer to the declining Salmon fishery on Lk Huron was directly related to the shipping industry that uses the Great Lakes for commerce.  The vessels that enter the Great Lakes system from the saltwater were directly dumping ballast water that was collected from water bodies other than the Great Lakes directly into our waters carelessly.  This was introducing invasive organisms into a water body that has never seen anything such the likes of this.  What has happened since is absolutely horrible.

Organisms such as the zebra & quagga mussel has overtaken Lake Huron-in laymans terms these mussels eat the food that the alewives need for survival more or less. Thus creating an environment void of food for the alewives, this means if the alewives have nothing to eat-they starve to death. This in turn creates a entire crash of the system from the bottom to the top predator (Chinook).  Luckily Steelhead, Atlantic Salmon, Pink Salmon, Lake Trout, Brown Trout & Coho are not as reliant upon the Alewife population as the Chinook Salmon.  These other Salmonid populations seem to remain strong despite the low numbers of Alewives in Lake Huron, they have a more diverse diet that doesn't purely reply upon baitfish.  Atlantic Salmon & the others tend to eat what is available, aquatic insects & other baitfish provide enough food for these species to still thrive.

Since this crash in baitfish populations Michigan DNR has cut back stocking efforts on Lk Huron, no reason to stock a fish that purely relies upon alewife when there are no alewives present.  The only stocks of Chinook that happen on Lake Huron are purely for tribal treaty reasons, which is a whole separate issue.  Michigan & Canada now rely solely upon natural reproduction for Chinooks in Lake Huron, some of the river systems have astounding rates in natural reproduction which keeps Chinook numbers present.

Michigan DNR biologists figured that this may happen in Lk Michigan in the near future, so they cut stocking efforts of Chinook to try to balance out the predator/prey balance.  This was done around 5 years ago & now Chinook numbers are not nearly what they used to be in Lk Michigan.  Current research on Lk Michigan on baitfish populations are not good. Steadily declining numbers of alewives, smelt & others are pointing towards the same issue that happened in Lk Huron. This year class of Chinook appeared to be smaller & not as many as usual. I'm not panicking yet as fish were still what I would consider strong in numbers & fishing was good. This is such a frustrating situation that was caused by something our government could have controlled.  Its not rocket science either, it is amazing that uncontrolled dumping of ballast water has occurred for so long.

Check out this link to a study on Lk Michigan biomass, it pretty much tells the more scientific story of what I explained above.  Hopefully sound management & good decision making by our State agencies will ensure quality fishing for generations to come.

It is amazing to me how quiet people are keeping about this, hoping that it will go away or something. It isn't going away & it seems like not many people are stepping up.  The more people who know about this problem the better, tell your legislator about this & that it is of importance to you.  It's better to be proactive verses reactive.