DNR News: Iron Belle Challenge, fishing openers, Trout Trails & more

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News Digest - Week of April 22, 2019

A sunlit view of Hike Lake (Alger County), blue sky at top with clouds, autumn tree line to the right

Beautiful Hike Lake in Alger County, recently added as a Trout Trails fishing destination

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and others, are available in this folder.

Trout Trails web app perfect for planning your next fishing trip

Michigan DNR's Trout Trails web application logo

Trout anglers hoping to find a great new spot to fish in 2019 should check out Trout Trails, the DNR’s web application.

The interactive tool features fisheries biologist-verified trout waters that may be lesser known but are considered outstanding fishing destinations. The app features more than 310 locations covering nearly every corner of the state, with new places being added over time.

The Trout Trails filter features let users conduct specialized searches, narrowing by the fish species they’d like to target and/or the watershed they’d like to fish in.

New for 2019 are nearly a hundred more photos – including shots of nearby parking and trail areas, where available – that provide additional visual help when planning trips.

Trout Trails is not a downloadable app but is compatible with all types of electronic devices. Each destination entry features extensive information, including:

  • Available trout species.
  • Fishing regulations.
  • Presence of stocked or naturally reproducing fish.
  • Driving directions.
  • Area lodging, restaurants and noteworthy information (such as presence of fast water, canoe/kayak/tube accessibility, best times to fish, recommended bait or lures, etc.).

Questions? Contact: Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

Get ready to fish several season openers Saturday

Woman dressed in a blue hoodie jacket, crouching, holding a fish

It’s time to put that new fishing license to good use. Saturday, April 27, is the statewide trout opener, as well as the start of the Lower Peninsula inland walleye and northern pike seasons. The DNR encourages everyone heading out this weekend to take along someone new and share the fun of Michigan’s world-class fishing opportunities.

A few reminders:

  • In Upper Peninsula waters, the walleye and northern pike possession seasons open Wednesday, May 15.
  • Michigan’s muskellunge possession season on all Great Lakes, inland waters, the St. Marys River, Lake St. Clair, and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers opens Saturday, June 1 – though catch-and-release fishing for muskellunge is open all year.
  • Catch-and-immediate-release season for largemouth and smallmouth bass is open all year on nearly all waters (unless otherwise closed to fishing; check the current Michigan Fishing Guide for specifics).
  • The possession season for bass opens statewide Saturday, May 25, except for Lake St. Clair and the St. Clair and Detroit rivers, which open Saturday, June 15.

Before hitting the water, be sure to have the new fishing license for the current season, which opened April 1. The 2019 fishing licenses are valid through March 31, 2020.

The 2019 Michigan Fishing Guide and inland trout and salmon maps, along with plenty of other useful information, are available at Michigan.gov/Fishing. See the complete guide online or download it to your device for later use.

Questions? Contact Christian LeSage, 517-284-5830 or Elyse Walter, 517-284-5839.

DNR invites Scouts across the state to take a hike

About a dozen Girl Scouts dressed in spring clothing pose on a bridge along a stretch of the Iron Belle Trail.

Scouts across Michigan will be hitting the trail – some hiking the Iron Belle Trail or local trails, others riding their bikes or paddling canoes and kayaks – June 1 as part the Iron Belle Challenge.

This annual DNR-sponsored event, which coincides with National Trails Day, started five years ago to celebrate the then-newly designated Iron Belle Trail system and its role in bolstering Michigan’s reputation as the Trails State. Since then, Scouts and their leaders have traveled over 33,000 miles as part of the Iron Belle Challenge.

The DNR, looking to increase that number, invites all members of Cub Scouts, Scouts BSA and Girl Scouts to get out on Michigan’s trails again this year.

“Over the last five years, thousands of Scouts, Scout leaders and parents have participated, and many have remarked on the availability of trails in their community and keep coming back each year,” said Iron Belle Challenge event coordinator Ray Rustem. “The trail opportunities in Michigan are endless! Most Scout groups in the state are only minutes away from the unmatched quality and beauty of a hiking, biking or water trail.”

A Boy Scout troop takes a rest along a stretch of the Iron Belle Trail

All Scouts who participate in the Iron Belle Challenge will receive a commemorative patch. For an even bigger challenge, participants are invited to return to the trail Sept. 21, National Public Lands Day, to complete a stewardship activity and earn a special rocker for the patch.

More information is available on the DNR scouting webpage at Michigan.gov/DNRScouting, under Iron Belle Challenge. Those interested in participating also can contact Ray Rustem, DNR youth program specialist, 517-284-6070.

Michigan’s Iron Belle Trail runs more than 2,000 miles between Ironwood in the western end of the Upper Peninsula to Belle Isle in Detroit, with a route for hiking and a route for biking. Find more information and an interactive map at Michigan.gov/IronBelle.

Eastern U.P. brook trout stocking creates plenty of opportunity

a brook trout from Milligan Creek, Michigan, held in someone's hands

For many people, brook trout fishing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is an unrivaled pastime. In some cases, anglers here have found their lucky “go to” waters where the fish are large and the catch is plentiful.

To support opportunities in the U.P., the DNR stocks these fish in several waterbodies. Hatchery-reared brook trout in Michigan come from the Marquette State Fish Hatchery. Depending on stocking needs, fish at different life stages can be pulled from the hatcheries. This variety has given fisheries managers the option to stock spring and fall fingerlings and yearlings with much success over many decades.

However, some locations where younger life stages of brook trout are stocked have had to withstand overwintering in harsh conditions at smaller sizes, making it difficult to build a fishery. When production was available and where possible, the DNR has stocked yearling brook trout to try and alleviate these survival concerns.

A view on Deer Lake in Luce County, Michigan

“Following a review of this practice – including available rearing space at Marquette State Fish Hatchery – it’s been determined we can now use yearling brook trout at all locations within the Eastern Lake Superior Management Unit,” said Cory Kovacs, a fisheries biologist out of Newberry. “Anywhere we previously stocked spring and fall fingerlings we will now replace those stockings with yearlings.”

This new practice will affect 13 waterbodies, including Brockies Pond, Deer Lake, Holland Lake, Moon Lake, Sid Lake, Silver Creek Pond, Syphon Lake, Ward Lake and Youngs Lake (Luce County); Addis Lake and West Johns Lake (Alger County), and Naomikong Lake and Naomikong Pond (Chippewa County).

Managers expect that stocking yearling brook trout in this area should only improve the already popular eastern U.P. brook trout fisheries.

For more information on where the DNR stocks fish, visit MichiganDNR.com/FishStock.

Questions? Contact Cory Kovacs, 906-293-5131, ext. 4071.


Get hooked on art! Browse and shop for fish- and water-inspired artwork during an art market and gift fair at Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan May 4.


Prime off-roading season is almost here! Be ready to ride by getting your ORV license and trail permit. Visit Michigan.gov/ORVInfo for details on where to ride, closures & more.


Do you have a favorite state park you visit time and again? Be a part of the Give 100 campaign to honor your state park memories, while helping your park make big strides for the future!

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