ESCANABA - Tomorrow, for some, will be a day set aside with all the importance and anticipation as the opener of firearm deer hunting season. This time however, it will be hook and line as walleye season opens for the year.
The walleye, named for the fact its eyes reflect light. Their eye shine is the result of a light-gathering layer in the eyes called the "tapetum lucidum" which allows the fish to see well in low light.
Sports fishermen/women will begin at the stroke of midnight, the legal starting time, in hopes of landing their first fish of the season. It's a preferred time as many of the fish are in a feeding pattern, again given their ability to see prey.
If you are a daylight fisherman, your best advantage will be to have some "chop" or turbid waters. The less water clarity to the location you choose, the better the odds you will connect with a walleye.
Recent reports indicate the Great Lakes temperatures are higher than usual which may impact where the fish are located. Good numbers were present earlier this spring as they came up to spawn. Recent below normal conditions may be an advantage for some who will fish in the Bays de Noc.
If the fish head for deeper water, you'll either need to have a boat capable of handling the conditions on the big lakes, or utilize the services of one of the quality charter services available in the area.
There is great concern overall numbers are significantly diminished due to poaching over the last several years.
Thousands of pounds of walleye were discovered to have been taken from both Little and Big Bay de Noc by illegal fishermen, after an extensive investigation by conservation officers within the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment (MDNRE).
The good news is plans are in place to increase the planting of walleye to the area and restore it to the quality status the bays have been known to have for decades. Unfortunately it will take a couple of years to accomplish.
I can recall openers years ago when most boats still came back with little to nothing as far as catches. Just like hunting, it will boil down to being in the right place at the right time in order to score.
There are some changes in the regulations this year as well. The slot limit formerly in place for walleye fished out of the bays has expired. The daily possession limit is five and can be in combination with northern pike, however you may not possess more than two pike as part of the daily limit. The possession limit for walleye is equal to the daily limit as well.
Fishermen are also reminded aquatic bait used to fish must be certified as disease free. You can still capture your own live bait, but only in the same waters you intend to fish. It is illegal to trans-locate any live bait. Leaf worms and night crawlers can be collected from various locations but should not be exposed to any water and then trans-located to another body.
If the walleye don't seem to be hitting, the Saturday opener includes northern pike.
There are some inland lakes currently over populated with pike and the MDNRE has relaxed both the size limit, with the normal minimum being 24 inches, and that up to five pike may be included in the daily limit. There are twelve UP counties in the 2010 Michigan Fishing Guide that list specific locations where the amended limits can take place. Anyone fishing the Seney National Wildlife Refuge Pools need to first contact the Refuge office at (906)586-9851.
The concern over the spread of not only disease, but of invasive aquatic nuisance species, requires anyone utilizing a watercraft for fishing, to make sure your boat is cleaned for any potential contaminate when pulling off the water. While plant life may easily identifiable, disease contaminants and microscopic aquatic species need to be eliminated either by cleaning or exposure to atmosphere.
A quick solution spray of 10% bleach mixed with water in an aerosol spray bottle would be enough to do the job. It is dilute enough that it should not affect the finish or content of your boat. You also need to consider the boat trailer and vehicle for cleaning, depending on how far you had to back off the ramp of a boat launch. Any exposure to water should be included as being in need of attention. There is also a specific over-the-counter germicide you can purchase.
Lastly, the MRNE continues to jaw tag walleye during the period egg harvest takes place. Mature fish captured in a netting process are returned to the lakes after being examined for condition and tagged.
If you happen to catch a fish with a jaw tag, or any added marker for that manner, you are asked to size and weigh the walleye and then report where it was caught to your local MDNRE office.
Fisheries Biologist Darren Kramer indicated he has found walleye, tagged in Little Bay deNoc, caught as far away as Peshtigo, Wis.
Regardless of catch potential, please take time to examine your equipment and make sure your time on the water is safe. It is certainly better to be part of reporting catch statistics, than to become one reported.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.