February 18, 2019

Free fishing weekend available in Michigan


NORTHEAST MICHIGAN –– Free fishing will be offered to residents across Michigan Feb. 17-18 during one of Michigan's two annual Free Fishing Weekends.

As a part of the promotion, all fishing license fees will be waived for those two days. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes waters for all species of fish, while all fishing regulations will still apply, according to michigan.gov.

Michigan offers more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams. A person anywhere in Michigan is never more than 6 miles from an inland lake or more than 85 miles from one of the Great Lakes, according to the Michigan Historical Society.

Tim Cwalinski, senior fisheries biologist for the Department of Natural Resources’ Northern Lake Huron Management Unit, said the most popular fish in Michigan depend on the angler, but mostly include bluegill, black crappie, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass, walleye and northern pike.

The fishing areas are broken down county by county by the DNR, and offer a wide variety of large and small fish.

In Oscoda County, popular fishing waters include the Au Sable River from Mio downstream to Alcona Pond, which is stocked with wild brown trout and rainbow trout. Next are McCollum Lake and Crooked Lake, which have bass, panfish and pike fishing. Mio Pond has pike, walleye and crappie in its waters. Island Lake has good panfish populations while Loon Lake and Crater Lake have stocked trout. Tea Lake is good for smallmouth bass, crappie, bluegill and stocked walleye, while Big Creek has wild brook and brown trout and some public land available along the banks for fishing, according to Cwalinski.

In Ogemaw County, Clear Lake is stocked with walleye and also has panfish and bass.

Southern Lake Huron Management Unit Fisheries Biologist Kathrin Schrouder said Grousehaven and Grebe Lake in the Rifle River Recreation Area have warmwater species, such as panfish and pike.

Lakes that are stocked with walleye and also carry panfish and bass are George Lake, Devoe Lake in the Rifle River Rec Area, Rifle Lake and Peach Lake.

Warmwater lakes that include all species except walleye include Sage Lake, Hardwood Lake, Bush Lake, Skidway Lake and Tee Lake. Lake George is stocked with Eagle Lake rainbow trout and steelhead.

Southern Lake Huron Fisheries Management Unit Manager Jim Baker said the most popular sport fish found in Arenac County are walleye and yellow perch, with steelhead third in line.

“Walleye and perch are found in abundance in Saginaw Bay,” he said. “For most fishing, a boat big enough to safely fish on the Bay is a necessity. Walleye are typically taken by trolling with planer boards or some sort of in-line side planer. Baits and lures include crawler harnesses, assorted crankbaits and spoons. The best walleye fishing begins shortly after ice-out and runs through most of the summer. Ice fishing for walleye is also popular.”

Baker said the best yellow perch fishing in open water starts in August and lasts through the fall season.

“Live minnows fished on perch rigs catch most of the fish,” he said. “Ice fishing for perch can also be productive, especially on first ice.”

Steelheads are planted in the Rifle River and east branch of the Au Gres River, according to Baker.

“They live in Lake Huron and start ascending the streams in late fall to early winter,” he said. “Anglers will need to learn to read the rivers to find where the fish hold in riffles and deeper holes. They can be caught through the winter on spinners, spoons and flies, but as they near spawning, smaller baits such as flies and spawn sacks will produce the most fish.”

The second Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for June 9-10.


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