ESCANABA - While the lake ice conditions vary, those who are out on Little Bay de Noc seem to be enjoying the first of winter fishing. I have reports of some fishermen limiting out with walleye in a few hours and have seen some nice perch.
That's pretty good news considering how poor things have looked through the summer months.
Conditions may be getting even better come spring as fishermen will be on the receiving side of some increased and better quality fish plants, as well as an added measure of cormorant control efforts.
On December 13th Jim Dexter, Lakes Basin Coordinator for the MDNRE, issued a press release that will immediately impact the walleye stocking.
"Walleye stocks in Little Bay de Noc and Mullet Lake in Cheboygan County received an unexpected boost with the stocking of 10,000 fall fingerlings provided by the Inter-tribal Fisheries and Assessment Program (ITFAP). Little Bay deNoc received 7,480 fingerlings and Mullet Lake received 2,592 of the robust, six-to-eight-inch fish."
While the aggregate amount of fingerlings is only about 7 percent of the total amount of the smaller (two-inch) summer fingerlings released in a July State/Tribal stocking event in the same two locations, the survival of the larger fall fingerlings is expected to be much greater.
Tim Kobasic is 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 Saturday mornings.
The ITFAP hatchery program is headquartered in Sault Ste. Marie and administered by the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, with funding support by the Bay Mills Indian Community, and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
All the fish released were tested and cleared from infection of Viral Hemorrhagic Septicemia (VHS).
In fact, the news about the MDNRE's efforts to combat VHS has been cause for more good news as they have developed a technique to disinfect walleye eggs and prevent the spreading of VHS. With the increased prevalence of VHS in brood stock waters going back to 2006, the MDNRE had cut back on most of its walleye rearing activities.
Now the MDNRE plans to "gear up to return hatchery production of walleye to historic levels. Plans this spring include taking some 50 million eggs to produce fry for pond rearing and direct stocking, an eight-fold increase over the last two years."
The two year plan will include some pond maintenance and a goal for 80 percent of the total in 2011with completion in 2012.
No matter what the levels of fish planting, one of the most negative impacts realized to date for fish survival has been the double crested cormorant.
Having recovered from near extinction, the cormorant population has exploded with returning numbers in the spring that have immensely impacted not only the fishery, but has damaged bird habitat throughout the region of the southern UP.
While the bird remains protected by federal law, there have been some very successful control programs initiated, beginning with areas of the eastern end of the Peninsula. Lethal Harassment Programs in the areas that include Beaver Island, the Les Cheneaux Islands and Brevort Lake by volunteers has made a difference. The groups were trained by representatives of the US Department of Agriculture Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), with funding coming in part from donations by conservation organizations and government grants.
Prior to now, the allocation for lethal control amounts in the south-central region of the UP have remained at a minimum. To date they having been totally administered by the USFWS personnel, however news from the south-central cormorant control coordinator Dave Westerberg, indicates things are going to be (literally) looking up come spring 2011.
On December 17th, Westerberg issued a release indicating the expanded program is slated to take place locally and that the State has put aside $22,000 for cormorant control training in 2011. While Westerberg indicates we are the last area with a large cormorant population to get into the program, it looks as though it will happen this year.
Details are yet to be worked out and the initial meeting planned for mid-December was cancelled due to weather. Another meeting will be slated soon and Westerberg asks that anyone wanting to attend, to contact the UP Sportsmen's Alliance president Dale McNamee (906)786-5816 or himself, Dave Westerberg (906)786-3950, to sign up.
Westerberg also noted that he is sending out requests for grants for additional funding of the program in Delta County that will be used to cover the costs incurred by volunteers that includes fuel for boats, ammunition and disposal of the birds.
All this news is a great way to finish out the year on a positive note, and do so prior to spring when whatever comes forward, at least since 2006, has been disappointing.
Not a bad Christmas present for those who continue to work so hard to maintain this marvelous fishery.