The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) would like to remind everyone that the annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, February 16-17, 2013. On those two days, residents and non- residents alike can fish Michigan waters without a license. All other Michigan fishing regulations still apply.
Started by the state of Michigan in 1994, Free Fishing Weekends (there are two – February and June) celebrate and promote public awareness of the our vast water resources and myriad fishing opportunities. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 36,000 miles of rivers and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a perfect match.
“Fishing is one of Michigan’s most popular outdoor activities in the winter, and for good reason,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “It’s a fun, inexpensive activity anyone of just about any age can pursue – on your own or along with family and friends. We want people to get outdoors this February and experience the thrill of the catch, for free!”
As in years past, the focus of the Winter Free Fishing weekend is icefishing. Fishing can be a very relaxing way to spend a day. Michigan winter weather lends itself to icefishing, although winter, 2012 was a notable exception.
For those who have never tried it, ice fishing is sometimes looked upon as an oddity, but for others, ice fishing is the best kind of fishing. Although it doesn’t appeal to all, many anglers actually prefer fishing through the ice to open-water fishing. For one thing, anglers can get just about anywhere on the lake during ice fishing season, something they can’t do without a boat during the open water season. Virtually every fish that’s available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice – some are even caught more frequently in the winter. Also, your beer will NEVER get warm while you fish, although there’s a slight risk of having a can adhered to your face or goatee if the weather is cold enough. Author’s note: if you are drilling holes in the ice and the water that comes up steams in the open air, you are at risk for beer-can adhesion. Proceed with caution when you begin swilling your favorite brew. Be sure that you are with someone to help with removal if you get stuck.
Once you’ve spent a little time on the ice, you’ll soon see a different picture. Ice fishing is more than just a way to fill the long days of winter. It’s a chance to breathe the cold, clean winter air, to spend quiet time outdoors with family and friends, and to relax and collect one’s thoughts away from the hustle and bustle of a busy world.
Just walking on the ice can be a unique experience, especially when no snow obscures the view of the water below. Solid clear ice allows you to watch a hooked fish fighting below your feet. However, as with any outdoor activity, safety should be your top concern. When it comes to ice safety, you should steer clear of dark spots or places where the snow looks discolored.
Organized Free Fishing Weekend activities are being scheduled in communities across the state. These activities are coordinated by a variety of organizations including schools, local and state parks, businesses and others. A full list of events can be found online at www.michigan.gov/freefishing.
Get out, stay warm and tight lines!