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Try warmer waters for early season trout

Editor’s note: Bill Ziegler is a retired fisheries biologist who managed fisheries in the southwest U.P. for most of his 34-year career in the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

May 5, 2011
By BILL ZIEGLER - For The Daily News , The Daily News

CRYSTAL?FALLS -Cold spring weather can inhibit trout fishing success on typical inland trout streams.

Trout are less active in streams with cold water temperatures as the ice breaks up. As those streams warm, trout fishing should improve.

Often anglers go out on the streams with great anticipation at the opening of trout season only to get discouraged by high water and trout inactivity due to low temperatures. They may give up fishing prior to the time when the stream trout fisheries become productive. Brook trout prefer water temperatures in the range of 50 degrees.

Trout anglers can improve their prospects by targeting trout waters that warm faster or lakes where the temperature has less impact in the early trout season activity.

Past creel results have often improved by fishing the more marginal trout streams. A good choice is a trout stream that comes out of a lake that provides slightly warmer water early in the season.

Some better early season marginal trout streams include the Brule River or the North Branch of the Paint River in Iron County and the Sturgeon or Ford rivers in Dickinson County.

The advantage of marginal trout streams is that trout grow faster in these waters due to higher water temperatures and higher minnow forage populations. These streams often produce bigger trout for anglers, although trout populations are lower than in better quality streams.

Anglers need to fish these streams in the first part of the trout season before their waters warm above levels trout can tolerate. These marginal trout streams cannot support trout throughout the summer due to high water temperatures that are intolerable to trout.

Trout in marginal streams have to move to areas with springs or cold tributaries that provide cold water refuge as the stream channel temperatures increase. Unfortunately, those streams are not as resilient to harsh droughts like we have been experiencing here in the last several years.

Another way to improve early season success is to fish the small managed trout lakes in the area. DNR fisheries managers have maintained a number of small lakes by planting brook and rainbow trout.

These lakes are managed in different ways. Some lakes are managed entirely for trout and have easy access and less restrictive fishing regulations.

A few lakes are managed to produce larger trout, but have more restrictive fishing regulations and walk-in access.

Some lakes are managed as "two-story" trout lakes with warmer water fish in shallower waters and trout inhabiting colder deeper waters in the summer.

Some drive-up access lakes are managed for rainbow trout. The minimum size limit on these lakes is 12 inches which is a Type A regulation lake in the Michigan Fishing Guide. Fortune Pond (west of Crystal Falls), and Hannah Webb Lake (north Iron County) are rainbow trout lakes.

Drive-up access brook trout lakes include Deadmans Lake (southeast Iron County) and Killdeer Lake in (northwest Iron County).

Nearby, a cluster of southwest Marquette County trout lakes are only about 30 miles north of Iron Mountain off M-95. This group includes the brook trout lakes of Island, Just, Bedspring and Cranberry lakes. All can be accessed by vehicle with a nearby carry-down small boat access.

Several lakes in west Iron County are managed in part by more limited access. These lakes require walking in from 1/4 to 3/4 of a mile in one case. Madelyn, Spree and Skyline Lakes in northwest Iron County require a short walk of about 1/4 mile. The brook trout (Type A) minimum size limit is 10 inches and the only bait restrictions are a ban on minnows.

Two lakes, Forest and Timber, in west Iron County are managed as Trophy Brook Trout lakes.

Forest Lake has a walk in access of about 1/2 mile and Timber Lake access trail is 3/4 of a mile. Fishing regulations at both lakes (Type D) attempt to maintain larger fish through a one fish bag limit with a 15-inch minimum size limit, and a tackle requirement of artificial lures only.

This set of regulations has resulted in a sustained quality fishery with a number of larger trout caught. Most anglers use light carry- in inflatable "belly boats" or small light canoes/kayaks.

Another trout lake option is to go to one of the multi-species trout lakes (Type B). This group includes Golden, Ottawa and Caspian Pond (west Iron County); Chicagon, Long, and Ellen lakes in east Iron county.

The Witch Lake area of southwest Marquette county has Squaw and Twin lakes.

Bass Lake, Dickinson County's only trout lake, is a type B regulation and is located west of Iron Mountain. Type B regulation lakes are the only trout lakes where minnows can be used as legal bait.

The hybrid splake are currently being planted in Lake Ellen and Bass Lake. Golden, Long, and Squaw lakes are currently only being planted with rainbow trout and support modest fisheries for that species. Chicagon and Ottawa lakes were historically native lake trout lakes.

These lakes occasionally receive plants of larger size surplus brood stock lake trout. Significant natural reproduction by lake trout is not currently occurring, so the recent plants produce a fishery for a period and then drop off as planted trout numbers decline.

Fish planting by the DNR can be easily accessed on the DNR web site on the Fishing home page.

Chicagon and Ottawa lakes do have self sustaining populations of lake whitefish that are closely related to trout. There is an increasing hook and line fishery for whitefish in these lakes during both summer and ice fishing season.

Trout anglers can improve their odds throughout the season by remaining flexible and angling several different types of trout waters. By fishing the more marginal trout streams and lakes, early season trout anglers can give themselves a chance to catch larger trout with potentially fewer anglers around them.

As trout action slows in those waters, switching to the better year-around waters can keep good trout action going.

Anglers fishing new waters should consult with the Michigan Fishing Guide before going out. If you have questions you can call the Michigan DNR at (906) 875-6622 in Crystal Falls.



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