CRYSTAL?FALLS -Any parent, grandparent or adult who has tried to take young children out angling knows you need to find some fishing action without too much delay.
Accomplishing that will make it an enjoyable and lasting outing. For open water season, panfish fishing is probably the best option available locally.
If you are taking several children, and unless you have a larger boat, it is good to consider a shore fishing option. This allows the kids to run around when they lose interest between bites.
Both Iron and Dickinson counties have several options for shore, pier, and boat fishing that are good choices for a youth fishing day.
Iron County's best lakes for abundant bluegills/sunfish are Runkle, Glidden, Indian, Fire and Fortune lakes.
Some shore fishing opportunities are available at Runkle, Glidden, and First Fortune lakes. Runkle Lake Park has a fishing pier and some public shoreline (Runkle Lake Park) available to fish for numerous panfish and is a good choice for very young anglers. Runkle Lake also has a boat access site.
Glidden Lake State Forest Campground provides both shore fishing (entire Shoreline State owned) and boat access.
First Fortune Lake's best shore fishing is accessed through the Bewabic State Park. A fishery Crib Reef is located in easy casting distance from the shore of the point just northeast of the bathing beach. Numerous Michigan Department of Natural Resources surveys and personal snorkeling reveals that the crib reef is heavily used by panfish and bass.
Indian Lake has limited shore fishing opportunities although boating access provides easy access to an abundant panfish population. Three fisheries crib reefs are also located in this lake although a future article will focus more on finding them.
Fire Lake's only practical access is by boat although its small size makes a small boat a reasonable choice to fish from.
With water temperatures warming rapidly bluegill are about to start bedding/nesting. They are very vulnerable during this period and anglers should be encouraged to maintain the fishery by not overharvesting the larger male bluegill that take the role of guarding the nest of eggs and fry.
Fisheries Research reveals that the large bluegills (especially males) maintain the quality of a lakes bluegill population size structure.
With that in mind, fly fishing with small ant imitations is an excellent way to introduce novice fly anglers to that sport. Bluegills are just starting to stage for bedding or limited nesting on some northern bays that warm sooner than main lake areas.
If you get your young angler into nesting fish you should encourage them to selective harvest. You should not take larger bluegills but can keep and eat the medium (less than 8- inch) fish.
Another lake to consider in Iron County is Ottawa Lake. This lake has a U.S. Forest Service fishing pier and is a good place to catch smallmouth bass, rock bass, and occasionally perch and walleye. Anglers should note that Ottawa Lake is restricted to catch and release fishing for bass.
Fortune Pond just west of Crystal Falls has a handicap accessible fishing pier and is currently stocked with rainbow trout.
Dickinson County's best panfish lakes based on abundance are Cowboy, Hanbury, Hamilton, Louise, Mary, Lake Antoine, Genes Pond and South, East and West lakes in the Groveland area.
Cowboy, Hanbury and the Groveland Ponds have the best shore fishing opportunities, although care should be taken at Groveland to avoid some steep shoreline areas with young children.
A concrete fishing pier is available at Island Lake in the Groveland area that contains black crappie and sunfish.
Cowboy Lake also has a fishing pier and public shoreline to fish from which makes it a good choice for young anglers.
Strawberry Lake in Norway is equipped more than one fishing pier in a city park and also has a panfish fishery.
Lake Antoine has another fishing pier provided by Wildlife Unlimited of Dickinson County. Anglers generally catch sunfish and rock bass off this pier.
Hanbury Lake can be fished from the county park shoreline access and a boat access site.
Lake Mary is the most shoreline accessible of the Hamilton Lake chain of Lakes, including Louise Lake. Some shore fishing is possible at both Mary and Hamilton public access and Lake Mary Park.
Lake Louise must be fished by boat and can be reached from a channel from the other two lakes. Genes Pond north of Felch is best accessed by boat, but it has an ample bass and panfish fishery.
This is a great weekend to take a kid fishing and enjoy the outdoors.