DNR News: Starry skies, new fishing season and more

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Youth Conservation Council now taking applications

Girls around campfire in the woods

Young people looking for an opportunity to gain leadership experience and explore outdoor recreation issues statewide should consider a stint with the Youth Conservation Council, a program started a few years ago by the Michigan Natural Resources Commission. The council is accepting applications now through April 30 for new members, ages 14 to 18, to serve a two-year term.

Ray Rustem, council advisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said that time serving on the council is a great way for young people to both shape the conversation about the great outdoors and find new ways of connecting more kids and young adults with those resources. 

“Our kids are losing a tremendous outdoor heritage of trail hikes and campfires and the stories told around them,” Rustem said. “On the council, members work together to brainstorm ideas about ways to protect and promote outdoor recreation and wise use of the state’s natural resources." 

Council members should plan to participate in three to four meetings each year. At least two of the meetings will be weekend training sessions (typically at the end of June and early December) at a conference facility; other meetings will be shorter, with possible attendance through teleconferencing and/or web-based applications. 

The council continues to explore how to use social media to engage youth, and already has developed a Facebook page and established a youth blog and an Instagram photo-sharing site (#yccoutdoors).

“The youth is the next generation of outdoorsmen and women. As adults, we need to allow kids to get dirty, play, and simply have fun in the rain!” wrote council member Graham Smith in a recent blog post. 

Know someone who might be interested? Get details on the council webpage or contact Ray Rustem at 517-284-6070.

It's a new fishing season: Don't forget your license

Man dressed in winter clothes on a boat, holding a steelhead

Yesterday marked the start of the 2018 fishing season, so don't forget to purchase your new license before hitting the water.  

It's a great time to target walleye and northern pike, with their seasons on the Lower Peninsula's Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers open all year. From Lake St. Clair all the way down to Lake Erie, anglers will be traveling near and far to target walleye, with plenty of opportunities to try and catch their limit. 

Interested in steelhead? April can be a perfect time to fish for them on Michigan's rivers. Our state is home to some of the best steelhead fishing in the country. Consider a stop along the Au Sable, Betsie, Grand, Huron, Little Manistee, Manistee, Manistique, Pere Marquette, St. Joseph or Two Hearted rivers to try your hand at landing one or more of these beauties.

For more information, visit michigan.gov/fishing or contact Elyse Walter at 517-284-5839.

Wildflower ID/photography, fishing, biking and more

Purple wildflowers in green grass

Interested in trying something new in Michigan’s outdoors, or maybe brushing up on your skills with some tips from professionals? The DNR’s Outdoor Skills Academy can help, with expert instruction, gear and hands-on learning. 

"Coming up the next couple months, the Outdoor Skills Academy calendar features some of Michigan’s most popular springtime activities," said academy coordinator Ed Shaw.

Classes to get students ready for fishing season include a steelhead clinic on April 7, open-water walleye clinic on April 21 and Saginaw Bay walleye clinic with Professional Walleye Trail World Champion Mark Martin on May 7-8.

Opportunities to learn fly-fishing skills include a fly-tying workshop on April 8, Women in Waders on May 19 and a fly-fishing clinic on May 20.

Mountain bikers can gain confidence in their abilities with a mountain bike skills and on-trail service clinic on May 5-6.

Learn to identify spring wildflowers with naturalist/nature photographer Craig Elston on May 5, then learn how to photograph them with a wildflower photography workshop by world-renowned photographer Tom Haxby May 12-13.

The Outdoor Skills Academy offers in-depth classes on a range of outdoor activities at locations around the state. Most classes include lunch, and many include materials for students to take home. Check out upcoming classes at michigan.gov/outdoorskills or contact Ed Shaw at 231-779-1321. 

Study the stars during Dark Sky Week April 15-21

shadow outline of a telescope against a starry night sky

Enjoy incredible stargazing opportunities right here in Michigan during International Dark Sky Week April 15-21, a time to celebrate the beauty of the night sky without the effects of light pollution.

Michigan is home to six state-designated Dark Sky Preserves (areas that are protected against light pollution) located within state parks, including Lake Hudson Recreation Area, Negwegon State Park, Port Crescent State Park, Rockport Recreation Area, Thompson's Harbor State Park and Wilderness State Park. There also are plenty of excellent night-sky viewing opportunities across more than 15,000 square miles in the Upper Peninsula. 

Participating parks will stay open later for self-guided views during Dark Sky Week. Please call ahead for individual park hours. Learn more at michigan.gov/darksky.

Making memories in Michigan's great outdoors

James, John and Jeff Pepin outside Eben Ice Caves, Alger County

Forging family connections to the great outdoors is one of the most common things people mention when listing their reasons for participating in recreation activities in Michigan. Every year – whether camping, fishing, hunting and snowmobiling, or hiking, picnicking, boating and off-road vehicle touring – families make lasting memories across the Great Lakes State.

DNR employees and their families are no different.

In case you missed it, DNR Deputy Public Information Officer John Pepin recently wrote about the connections he and his family have experienced enjoying the wonders of nature, in a Showcasing the DNR feature story, "Making Connections in Michigan's Great Outdoors."

Pepin was born in the Upper Peninsula, relocated to southern California for a few years, but returned to the forests and four seasons of his beloved home state. 

New Showcasing the DNR stories are issued Thursdays throughout the year, providing an in-depth look behind the scenes at DNR personnel, their jobs, projects, research, partnerships with user groups and the public and much more.

Sign up to receive Showcasing in your email each week or explore an archive of past stories at michigan.gov/dnrstories.

If you have an idea for a Showcasing story or if there’s an aspect of the DNR you'd like to learn more about, contact John Pepin at 906-226-1352.

things to do

Love the outdoors but not the bug bites? Make your own insect-repellent bracelets at the Michigan History Museum's April 14 "Second Saturdays" program.

buy and apply

Don't forget your Recreation Passport! It's your ticket to state parks, trails and other outdoor spaces, and it helps protect our natural resources for the next generation. 

get involved

Want to help keep the natural areas in your favorite parks healthy? Join in a stewardship workday this season! Check out all of the DNR's volunteer opportunities.