Goshen News, Goshen, IN

December 1, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Time to think about ice fishing

By LOUIE STOUT
THE GOSHEN NEWS

GOSHEN — Could ice fishing be around the corner?

It’s starting to look that way.

Ponds and some lake channels are freezing over and there were rumors of some daring souls venturing out on some of those late last week. The colder nights help make good ice while windless days help preserve it.

Now, keep in mind experts say you need at least three inches of hard ice to be safe. Also, ice rarely freezes uniformly; it could be three inches in one spot and one or less in another.

However, first ice can provide some of the best hard-water fishing of the season, but you have to know what you’re doing and go at it safely.

If you’re a newcomer or someone wanting to learn more about ice fishing, you might consider making a run up to D&R Sports Center in Kalamazoo next weekend for the store’s free, two-day weekend Ice Fishing Show.

That’s where ice fishing experts will share their experiences, tips and tricks throughout the weekend while more than 25 representatives from ice tackle companies will display their latest product innovations.

The two-day event runs Saturday from 9-5 and Sunday 10-4.

The seminars cover a variety of topics. For example, Bill Ferris, a veteran ice angler who lives in Ionia, Mich., will detail where to look for bluegills, crappies and perch and how to catch them consistently.

Keith Stanton, will present his seminar, “Pike Under Ice.” He will demonstrate his PikeKilla lure and the vertical jigging techniques he has perfected. He also will share his methods for spearing pike and the proper use of pike decoys to attract trophy fish.

A panel of three speakers, “Michigan Ice Guys,” (Chas Thompson, Steph Sissell and Chad Schaub) will cover modern ice fishing techniques and equipment.

For more information about the program, call D&R Sports Center at 372-2277 or visit D&R Sports Center’s website at www.dandrsports.com.

Steelhead still coming

The winter steelhead movement on the St. Joseph River continues.

Lake Michigan biologist Brian Breidert said although falling water temperatures (38 degrees late last week) have slowed things down, a few fish continue to move.

Bridert said 88 steelhead passed through the South Bend fish ladder between Nov. 21-27, but only nine have ventured upstream since Nov. 24. The steelhead are a mixture of Skamania and Michigan’s winter steelhead.

Some 1,000 fish moved up during November, bringing the total to 7,359 since June 1. Other fish moving up this fall included 444 kings, 469 coho and 8 browns. The bulk of the run occurred August (4,302) and November.

River anglers are catching fish, too, although best reports are coming out of the lower river below Berrien Springs dam.

State passes available

Annual entrance, boating and horseback riding permits for Indiana State Parks & Reservoirs for 2014 are now available for purchase.

The permits are available online at InnsGifts.com and at state park and reservoir property offices.

State Parks & Reservoirs entrance permits cost $40 for Indiana residents and $60 for out-of-state residents. Golden Hoosier Permits, which are entrance permits for Hoosiers age 65 or older, cost $20. Motorized lake permits cost $22, non-motorized lake permits cost $5 and horseback riding permits cost $20.

Permits and passes for 2014 are valid from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2014.

For reservations at any of the state park inns, call 1-877-563-4371 or visit IndianaInns.com. Reservations for camping can be made six months in advance at camp.IN.gov. Reservations will be accepted for Memorial Day weekend starting Nov. 23.

Grass carp in Erie

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has determined grass carp, a species of Asian carp, are naturally reproducing within the Lake Erie basin, confirming reports officials have been receiving from commercial fishermen.

Fishermen have reported seeing more of the carp, as well as specimens of varying age and size, indicating there may be a naturally reproducing population in the lake. This assumption was confirmed by the USGA this fall.

Grass carp do not present the same ecological risk as bighead carp or silver carp, although they do feed on aquatic plants and can significantly alter habitat required by native fish. Grass carp have occasionally been found in Michigan waters since the late 1970s.

Grass carp captured in Michigan’s waters of the Great Lakes were thought to be the result of fish movements from other states where stocking genetically altered (triploid) fish for aquatic vegetation control is allowed.

Triploid fish are sterilized through a heat-treating process when their eggs are developing. Several Great Lakes states, including Indiana, allow the stocking of triploid fish because they believe the fish have a low probability of reproduction, although the sterilization process may not be 100-percent effective.

Given their potential for negatively affecting fish habitat, Michigan has prohibited live possession of grass carp since the 1980s and continues to oppose their use in public or private waters in other states with connections to the Great Lakes.

The Michigan DNR Fisheries Division performs fishery surveys throughout the state, actively looking for these fish. Grass carp that are found during survey work are euthanized and dissected to determine reproductive development. Fish that appear to be fertile are analyzed to determine whether they are diploid (fertile) or triploid (infertile). Fisheries Division has also been actively working with state commercial anglers in Lake Erie to remove and report any grass carp they capture in their nets.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at stoutoutdoors@comcast.net.