Michiganders sure are lucky. We get to enjoy all four seasons – plus a wide variety of wildlife habitats, including 11,000 lakes that house more than 150 species of fish. Fishing is a relatively low-cost rite-of-passage for us, too. Maybe you’ve heard – or shared your own – stories about catching that elusive whopper. Best of all, the whole family can enjoy this sport and, since a valid fishing license helps to pay for conservation efforts, they can do it while helping the environment.
The Michigan Wildlife Council and the Department of Natural Resources are always looking to improve and maintain the state’s habitats. Both encourage families to fish away – but, before you bait your line and cast out, both have some rules you should follow and tips you should know to make the most of your experience.
Preparing for the trip
The great thing about fishing, explains Elyse Walter, communication specialist for the Michigan DNR, is that it doesn’t take much to get started. “Fishing is such a low-entry sport,” she says. “There’s not a lot of up-front investment and there’s not much skill required, especially if you’re doing hook-and-line from shore.”
You basically just need to pick up a pole for each person, some bait and a copy of the DNR’s 2018 fishing guide, which is available online or at any sporting goods retailer. “In it, you’ll find a variety of things you need to be aware of,” Walter says. This includes possession and size limits, fishing seasons, which fish you can take home and which you mush throw back, legal bait and even local fishing events like the state’s annual Free Fishing Weekends, which happen in June and February, and “Hook, Line and Sinker” fishing courses.
Anglers over the age of 16, including adults who are helping kids fish, also need a valid fishing license. You can get an annual resident pass for $26. Licenses can be purchased through the Michigan DNR and at most sporting goods stores. Best of all, the money you spend on these licenses goes to great causes. Those include funding six hatcheries operated by the DNR, implementing statewide regulations to protect wildlife, introducing species to their natural habitats and the removal of non-native species.
“Throughout the state, great work is done to help manage our wildlife and natural resources – including management of invasive species,” says Matt Pedigo, chair of the Michigan Wildlife Council. “All people of Michigan enjoy the state’s beautiful forests, waters and wildlife, which is why we take great care to protect and enhance these valuable assets.” If you don’t fish or hunt, you can still purchase a license to help with these efforts.
Bringing the kids
Families that fish can also step away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy time together. “It’s wonderful to be out and a part of the stillness that is fishing,” Walter explains. “You can learn patience, and there can be a lot of points of excitement.” Realistically though, this mother of two adds, you can’t expect an antsy younger child to sit by and wait for a bite. She encourages parents to let the kids explore. “They might cast for a few minutes, but I also need to let them throw rocks, poke around in the mud and find sticks,” she says. “I let them control their experience.”
She also suggests bringing along a special fishing treat to help keep kids excited – and to choose a fishing spot based on the experience you want them to have. “There are so many different environments you can be in,” she says. “Parents can choose a familiar or unfamiliar place for their kid to explore.” Locally, try the Trenton Channel, Pontiac Lake and Stony Creek Lake Shelby Township. For a complete list, visit michigan.gov/dnr.
The Michigan Wildlife Council is entrusted with educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation and its role in preserving Michigan’s great outdoor heritage for future generations. The council is dedicated to increasing public knowledge about how wildlife and Michigan’s outdoors are managed and funded so that we can continue to enjoy them as we do today.