DNR News: Fishing chats, maple syrup season, birding tips & more

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News Digest - Week of March 9, 2020

Fishing at Interlochen State Park - summer 2019. Photo courtesy Tyler Leipprandt and Michigan Sky Media.

Spring and summer fishing are right around the corner! Are you ready?

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Michigan 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 in this email, and others, are available in this folder.

Talk Michigan fisheries at spring 'Conversations & Coffee' events

A small group of African-American youth and adults fishing from the shoreline; picnic table and supplies in the foreground

Sizing up smelt this season? Wondering where the walleye are? Curious about coho? If you’re interested in talking with DNR fisheries staff about local and statewide issues important to you and your community, stop by one of the upcoming “Conversations & Coffee” events around the state in March, April and May.

The DNR hosts these outings to give people an opportunity to meet with state fisheries managers and biologists, discuss local issues and management activities and ask questions. To encourage conversation, the meetings are very informal; at many, no formal presentations are planned. Refreshments will be provided.

These forums also are great opportunities to catch up on local and statewide fishing regulation changes that affect anglers. The schedule includes the following dates and locations: March 23 (Elmira), March 25 (Beulah), March 30 (Iron Mountain), March 31 (Newberry and Waterford), April 2 (Munising), April 6 (Sault Ste. Marie), April 14 (Ironwood), April 15 (Grandville and Ishpeming) and April 16 (Coldwater and Houghton), plus a May 7 virtual meeting covering the northern and southern Lake Huron management units.

For more detailed information about the meetings or other questions, visit Michigan.gov/Fishing or contact Suzanne Stone at 517-284-6162.

MI Birds offers birding inspiration, education and more

American robin perched in a tree in full bloom, courtesy of Mick Thompson's flickr album

If you're searching for signs of spring, how about a birding trail program in Woodhaven, a black tern nest platform-building workshop in Harrison Township or a guided bird walk at Chocolay Bayou Nature Preserve in Harvey? These are just a few of the upcoming MI Birds events on the calendar; all are sure to leave you with great information and tips for learning even more about our feathered friends.  

Michigan’s birds are some of the most beautiful and fascinating creatures to observe outdoors. With the MI Birds program, residents easily can get involved in local events like bird talks, bird walks, volunteer stewardship days or community science programs. 

Founded by Audubon Great Lakes and the DNR, MI Birds seeks to deepen all Michiganders’ engagement in the understanding, care and stewardship of public lands important for birds and local communities. Keep up with all things MI Birds by following the group's Facebook or Twitter or visiting GL.Audubon.org/MIBirds.

Questions? Contact Erin Rowan at 313-820-0809.

Move over, March Madness; it's maple syrup season in Michigan

Hartwick Pines State Park interpreter Craig Kasmer leads a group of kids and adults through the forest, ready to tap maple trees for syrup

Something sweet is happening in Michigan’s forests, and Craig Kasmer, a park interpreter at Hartwick Pines State Park in Grayling, is right in the thick of it. Many of the state’s maple trees are getting ready to share the rich sap that will flavor syrup, candy, popcorn and other tasty treats. Kasmer runs the maple syrup making education program at Hartwick Pines, and he knows pretty much every step of the sap-to-syrup process – including much of the history.

“Collecting sap in the spring is something Michigan's First Peoples did before European settlers began arriving. The early pioneers learned it from them, adapting the process using new tools and technology,” Kasmer said. “Cheaper cane sugar and molasses from southern U.S. states and the Caribbean became available here in the early 1900s, replacing the use of maple syrup.”

But Kasmer said there’s nothing like fresh, Michigan maple syrup. In the northern Lower Peninsula, maple syrup season typically begins in March and the time frame can last about four to five weeks, though it varies every year due to weather.

So, how does it work?

“Trees store sap – the ‘life blood’ of the tree, rich in nutrients that trigger leaf production – in their root system over the winter. When temps start to get above freezing, the sap starts working its way up the tree,” Kasmer said. “The best days to collect sap are when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s or 40s and then below freezing at night.”

A young boy and girl in winter gear near a bucket hanging on a maple tree that's been tapped to collect sap

Kasmer said all trees produce sap, but the trees in the maple family have the highest sugar content. In Michigan, the most commonly tapped trees are the sugar maple and red maple, but other maples like silver maple, mountain maple and box elder can be tapped as well. That lineup consistently keeps Michigan among the top 10 maple syrup-producing states in the country.

Once a tree’s buds start to swell, eventually producing leaves, the sap gets bitter (commonly called “buddy sap”); when that happens, maple syrup season is over.
The process from tap to table requires patience. From collecting, filtering and boiling to straining, finishing and, yes, burning – Kasmer joked that you’re not a real syrup maker until you’ve burned your first batch! – does take a bit of time, but the result is well worth it.

If you’d like to see this mouthwatering Michigan tradition in action, two of the best opportunities are coming up:

Questions? Contact Craig Kasmer at 989-348-2537.

Heed Smokey's safety tips for careful campfire fun

Play button for a Smokey Bear campfire safety video

Whether they’re due to debris burning, sparks from equipment or power lines, fireworks or, yes, campfires – in Michigan, nine out of 10 wildfires over 10 acres in size ultimately are caused by people. The good news is that by committing to some simple steps, anyone enjoying a campfire can help reduce that scary statistic.

As Michigan moves into prime campfire season in state parks, state forests and other outdoor spaces, everyone is encouraged to put safety first.

This brief “Smokey’s Campfire Safety Competition” video pokes a little humor at how easy it is to properly extinguish a campfire, and the importance of doing so. The next time you and your family and friends are ready to gather ‘round the campfire, make sure your fire-dousing techniques would earn a Smokey high-five!

Learn more about campfire safety at Michigan.gov/PreventWildfires.


Author and educator Lynne Smyles is bringing her Michigan History Nightmares series (aimed at third and fourth graders) to Detroit's Outdoor Adventure Center March 14 for a reading and book-signing.


If you own a boat or other personal watercraft, don't forget that registrations are valid for three years, expiring March 31 in the third year of issuance. Visit the Secretary of State watercraft webpage for info.


Stewardship workdays are scheduled this month at state parks in Brighton, Detroit, Pinckney, Sawyer and other locations. Spend a few hours outdoors and help keep your favorite parks beautiful.

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