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MDNR Report

Michigan SplakeMichigan Splake

Many anglers say fall fishing for splake on Lake Superior is an experience unparalleled anywhere else in Michigan. When temperatures begin to drop and leaves start to turn, the splake bite picks up as the fish move nearshore.

Splake – a hybrid cross between lake trout and brook trout – have been stocked in Lake Superior most years since 1971, with annual stocking since 1990.

Marked splake have been central to that stocking effort since 2021, as part of an evaluation study. At the Marquette State Fish Hatchery in Michigan’s central Upper Peninsula, staff from the DNR’s Lake Superior and Northern Lake Michigan management units, as well as field staff from across the state, put in long hours carefully marking the splake by hand.

These fish are then stocked in the spring at three Lake Superior ports: Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Bay and Munising. Splake stocked at each port are given a unique mark or fin clip consisting of a single fin or a paired clip, which has two fins. The goal is to create nearshore fishing opportunities in the smaller bays of Lake Superior, where some fisheries are available year-round.

The evaluation study will be conducted through 2030. It is designed to help fisheries managers understand the percentage of stocked fish caught by anglers, the home range of splake, and harvest metrics such as harvest rates and fish size at harvest by year and location.

“Preliminary study results indicate that most splake remain in close proximity to their respective stocking locations,” said George Madison, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist for the Western Lake Superior Management Unit. “Splake are known to prefer shallow water habitats, meaning these fish are accessible with small boats or shore casting during the open-water periods on Lake Superior. Splake are also readily available through the ice during winter fishing months.”

Identifying the fish

So far, fisheries managers have learned that identifying the correct fin clip on splake can be difficult to do while fishing. This creates challenges when considering the reported data for the evaluation study. When looking at a caught splake, anglers should inspect it for missing fins or a jawbone clip, indicating that it has been marked. Some clipped fins can be misshaped or missing or appear abnormal.

Marked fish then can be reported through the DNR’s Eyes in the Field app to give information such as species, length, weight, sex, and date and location caught, or by contacting a local DNR fisheries office.

Names of Fish FinsNames of Fish Fins

Anglers also can report marked splake to DNR creel staff stationed at various ports along the Lake Superior shoreline. Because they're genetically tied to both lake trout and brook trout, splake can take the external appearance of the parent species, making them difficult to distinguish. Creel staff can help to correctly identify the fish, determine the marks on the fish and record any angler trip data.

“If you’re fishing for splake on Lake Superior this fall, we encourage you to talk with DNR creel staff, who are scheduled through the end of October,” said Madison. “It takes just a few minutes to share information about your fishing trip, but those details mean better data and greater understanding about splake abundance and behavior.”

Anglers are reminded, too, that other natural resources agencies and tribal units mark a variety of fish species for different evaluation purposes. For information on fish marking in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/TaggedFish.

By Louie Stout

Muskie brood stockMuskie brood stock

The future continues to look bright for Webster Lake muskies in northern Indiana.

Contestants in this weekend’s Indiana Muskie Classic should find a fair share of 40 inchers. Sure, the really big ones may be few and far between, but the lake is a lot healthier than it was 10-15 years ago.

We know that because the Indiana DNR was there in late March and early April, gathering adult muskies to strip them of their eggs to be developed and matured at hatcheries.

The St. Joseph County Chapter of Izaak Walton will host a one day “learn-to-tie flys” class for beginners April 22.

The class will teach the basics of fly tying and many techniques needed to advance in your fly tying skills.

The class will be taught by experienced fly tiers with explanation of what the fly represents and how to fish the pattern. Vises and materials will be provided along with recipe and diagrams of how to tie each pattern. There will be 6 to 8 difference patterns taught, time permitting.

Mercury Report

Soft PlasticsSoft Plastics

One of the simplest, yet most effective lure combos for catching a variety of fish species is a soft-plastic jig tail rigged on a lead jighead. When reeled, twitched or jigged through the water, these tails swim and flutter with impressive fish-catching action.

Sometimes the toughest challenge is choosing the right one. Soft-plastic jig tails come in thousands of sizes, styles, colors and brands. So how do you know which to choose in any given fishing situation? By following these five simple tips, you can confidently pick out a tail that gives you a good shot at success.

1. Match the Hatch

Choose a tail that’s similar in size and profile to the common forage fish where you’re fishing. The predators in any given body of water generally key in on body shape and size as much as any other factor when they go on the hunt, so you want to choose an offering that matches up with their prey. If you’re fishing for Spanish mackerel chasing anchovies, a small, slender tail will be a top pick. If the target is bass in a lake full of 4-inch shad, a 4-inch tail with a deep body should do the trick.

2. Choose a Tail’s Action According to Angler Skill Level

Beginners who haven’t mastered the art of subtly twitching and jerking a jig to make it look lively will almost always do better using a twister or paddle-style tail, which produces its own swimming action as it moves through the water. But there’s one big exception, covered by tip No. 3.

3. Change Up Based on Presentation

Horizontal and vertical presentations can require different soft plastics to get the best action. For instance, many paddle tails and twisters look great on a straight retrieve, but will spiral when allowed to free-fall, which isn’t the most natural look. Straight, tube or forked tails tend to fall at an angle to the bottom, and by twitching the tip you can get many to fall like a feather, slewing back and forth one way then the other — an effective presentation. So, while all the above work well when casting out then jigging horizontally as you retrieve, when you’re jigging vertically, using tails that won’t spiral is often a better bet. Since there can be so much variation in how different jigs fall, when jigging vertically the smart thing to do is to hold your lure next to the boat, give it a few jerks and watch how it falls before sending it down deep.

FAF Report

Future AnglerFuture Angler

Bass fishing clubs have made a big splash on the high school scene in recent years, helping bridge the gap between academics, competitive sports and the great outdoors for teens across the country.

While the number of high school bass fishing clubs is growing at a rapid pace, there’s plenty of room for more, which is why the non-profit Future Angler Foundation (FAF), in conjunction with Into The Outdoors Education Network, offers a free series of four classroom videos with lesson activities covering all aspects of high school bass fishing, including a youth-to-youth introduction designed to help students form a club and get it up and running in their very own schools. These peer-driven lessons are even correlated to national education standards for use in schools across the country.

“At FAF, we strive to introduce the public to the joys and thrills of fishing and boating through our extensive educational, promotional and grass roots efforts,” says president, Patrick Neu.