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The proposed DNR access site on Eagle and Juno lakes took another step forward this week when Michigan officials met with the Ontwa Township Plan Commission to discuss its design concept.

The DNR will meet with the Cass County Road Commission next to discuss the concept, details on traffic flow on Eagle Lake Road and what it needs to do to meet Road Commission requirements.

Meanwhile, the Plan Commission provided a list of items it would like the DNR to consider in the final design before getting the township’s final approval.

(Click here for Commission’s complete document)

Those include coordination with the Cass County Road Commission for permits; signage for pedestrian and vehicle traffic; a traffic impact study; site maintenance; modern bathrooms tied to the township sanitary sewer system; Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approvals; a buffer zone for residential areas; a drainage system; efforts to prevent spreading of invasive species; park amenities, shelters and pier/shore fishing areas.

Some really good news is coming for Cass County, Michigan anglers.

Not only did Ontwa Township Zoning Board of Appeals vote down an attempt by lake residents to block the DNR’s new access on Eagle and Juno lakes, but the state moved forward with purchase plans of the 2.2 acres between the two bodies of water.

DNR Project Manager Paul Yauk said the purchase papers were signed the day after the ZBA vote and now await the closing.

The DNR must now present its conceptual development plan for approval to the Ontwa Planning Commission March 5 at 7 p.m.

Bassmaster Classic prognosticators say Jonathon VanDam has too big of a hill to climb in the finals to win the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

While experts predict the winner will come from the top seven anglers in the standings, eighth-place VanDam says you can’t rule him out.

“This place is insane and it could happen,” said JVD. “The opportunity is there for 30-pound-plus bag. I caught 7s and 8s on my places in practice, so I know they are there.”

While Jon sits a little over 8 pounds behind leader Edwin Evers, Uncle Kevin – one of the pre-tournament favorites – failed to make the 25-man cut to the finals. The elder VanDam finished 26th, less than a pound behind the final cut spot.

Jonathon boated 18 pounds, 10 ounces Saturday while Kevin had 17-2.

“Same ol’ story; I had the fish on but lost them,” Kevin offered. “I had one bass come off when it straightened the hook on my swim jig and lost another on a Red Eye Shad. I caught 15 keepers but couldn’t get the ones I needed.”

JVD is 10th after first day of ClassicJVD is 10th after first day of ClassicWhile all eyes were on Kalamazoo’s Kevin VanDam going into this week’s Bassmaster Classic, it was nephew Jonathon who appears to be the VanDam to watch after Friday’s first round.

At least for now.

Jonathon sacked 20 pounds, 11 ounces that included two 2 ½ pounders that he couldn’t cull out, good for 10th place. That left him less than 7 pounds behind leader Randall Tharp, a Floridian who once lived in Alabama and has a winning reputation on Lake Guntersville.

JVD could have done better, losing a 5 1/2 pounder at the boat and another 7 pounder later in the day.

“I caught two 5s right off the bat and then lost the two big ones near the end of the day,” said Jon. “Without losing those fish, I could have been right there with the leaders.”

Kevin also battled the lost-fish syndrome, losing more than a dozen keepers throughout the day.

You wanted ice? You got it. In spades.

In fact, there’s so much ice and snow on our lakes that it’s discouraging most recreational fishermen from getting out.

But not the diehards. The folks going out are catching fish and this warming trend could improve fishing dramatically.

Here’s what you need to know. There’s 12 to 24 inches of ice on the lakes, and within that ice is layers of slush and water as well as rock hard ice. That will make drilling a chore and waterproof boots are required, but get in the right area and you’re going to have a ball. The fish haven’t been molested much this winter.

A fishfinder will help you locate those large schools of roaming bluegill, crappie and perch that others are catching. The best action is coming in deeper water and off the edges of drop-offs.

Bryan Williams at Trailhead Mercantile in Niles said action has really picked up the past couple of days.