ESCANABA - Licenses and fees are waived this weekend for residents and out-of-state visitors who wish to fish in the Great Lakes and inland lakes as part of the 2012 Summer Free Fishing Weekend. For many, the annual event has become a family affair at local parks.
The 21st Annual Kids' Fishing Day will be at the Camp Seven Lake Campground. Camp 7 Lake is located on Delta County Road 442 approximately 22 miles Northwest of Manistique or 31 miles Northeast of Rapid River.
Registration begins at 11 a.m. and the event runs until 3:30 p.m. Activities include two fishing ponds for children 12 and under, casting contests, raffle prizes, free food, and a visit from Smokey Bear. The event is free for residents and out-of-state visitors age 16 and younger.
Holly Richer | Daily Press
Jackson Bower, 10, fishes from the Municipal Dock in Escanaba during Michigan’s free fishing weekend last June.
"We've been doing it for so long that we have parents who came to the Free Fishing Day as children and now they bring their kids. It has become a generational thing," said Anne Okonek, assistant ranger at the Rapid River/Manistique Ranger District.
Families who wish to camp at the park can reserve a campsite by calling 1-877-444-6777 or visiting www.recreation.gov. Sixty percent of the campsites are reservable. The rest of the campsites are available on a first come, first served basis.
The Gladstone Masonic Lodge 396 is having its annual Thomas A. Vietzke Memorial Children's Fishing Derby at the Gladstone Yacht Harbor on Saturday. Registration is from 9 to 10 a.m. and is open to children ages 4 to 14 who are accompanied by an adult. There is no registration fee, but participants must use their own gear.
Prizes will be awarded to the winners in each age category at 2:30 p.m. A free lunch will also be served. "We're busy setting up the tents and trash cans," said Nicole Sanderson, Gladstone Parks and Recreation director.
The DNR is hosting Family Fishing days every Saturday in June at the Upper Peninsula Pocket Park located inside the U.P. State Fairgrounds. Families are provided with rods, reels, and bait for catch and release fishing in the park's pond. Sessions are at 10 a.m., 1:00, and 3:00 p.m.
"They fish a little more than an hour, then we make any repairs to the poles, take a break, and then go out again," said Joe Russell, manager of the Pocket Park. "If they want to fish in between there, that's fine too."
The Family Fishing Days are a part of a series of programs offered at the Pocket Park. Other programs include "Archery 101," "Fun with a Pellet Gun" and "Friday Fishing Frenzy!" The other programs are offered throughout the month on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays respectively at 1:30 p.m. Children under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult for all Pocket Park activities.
Family Fishing and Friday Fishing Frenzy! are aimed at getting kids outdoors and enjoying the sport of fishing. "We try to get them hooked on fishing - pardon the pun," said Russell.
Russell views the Free Fishing Weekend as a chance for adults to learn the sport at lakes around the state. "The people who don't know if they like fishing can try it," he said.
No matter where people chose to fish, they need to follow the rules. "There still will be conservation officers out there and all the rules apply," said Russell. A digital copy of the 2012 Michigan Fishing Guide, which contains all current fishing regulations, can be downloaded at www.michigan.gov/fishing.
For more information about the Kids' Fishing Day contact Anne Okonek at 474-6442. Information about Pocket Park activities can be found by calling 789-0714.