Go Topwater for Explosive Action

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This 3lb bass smashed the topwater I was using

Twitch twitch pause. Twitch twitch pause. Twitch twitch WHOOSH! Your topwater frog is engulfed by a monster bass. Many anglers consider topwater fishing their favorite type of fishing by far. It is pretty straight forward and not too expensive to get started. First thing you need is a rod. Any old rod will work but a stiffer fast action rod works best. Second,  a reel. Most reels that can get a good long cast will work. Next, line. This is not super important, but good to take note of. If you are making “reelly” long casts, you will want braided line because it won’t stretch allowing you to get those solid hook sets from a distance. Other than that, just a line appropriate for the fish you are targeting. Lastly, bait. There are many to choose from. Soft plastics, buzzbaits, frogs, fish, Spooks,        stick baits, poppers, and more. How do you choose what to use? It depends a lot on the water you are fishing. If you are fishing a river, poppers, Spooks and stick baits are my go to baits. When fishing a small pond, frogs are an excellent choice due to their natural existence in the area. Personal preference also plays a big role. I for instance don’t like using buzzbaits, but many have had great success with them.topwater 2.jpg

There are three main ways to work a topwater. The first is walking the dog, or just walking. This technique is used for stick baits and Spooks, sometimes poppers and frogs. It involves repeatedly snapping your rod tip sharply in a downward  motion causing the bait to “walk” in a side to side motion imitating a fleeing baitfish.

Another way to work a topwater is the twitch twitch pause method which is not exclusive to topwater fishing. It is pretty straightforward, exactly what it sounds like. You twitch twice then pause foria few seconds. Many fish will hit on the pauses.

The last way is just ripping it across the water splashing around and trying to trigger a bite. Overall, topwater fishing is a pretty easy and very enjoyable way to get out on the water. So what areiyou waiting for? Get out there and go catch some topwater fish!!

Cooper Evans, YCC member – Grand Ledge



A Fish Tale Away from Michigan

Chown sharkSpring break is always at time for new adventures.  This year my family traveled to Port Saint Joe, Florida, to catch some fish and enjoy the sun. I was hoping to catch some Florida pompano, but pompano are a migratory fish, and I was disappointed to learn that they hadn’t quite started their run to the Panhandle beaches. After talking to some surf fishing fanatics from Wisconsin, I decided to change tactics and do some shark fishing. After learning what I needed and bulking up on heavier tackle, my dad and I, along with his kayak, hit the beach.

The kayak became an integral part of the fishing equation because, even with heavy surf fishing rods, I wasn’t able to cast the couple hundred yards needed to reach the sharks. Instead, Dad kayaked the bait out, dropped it in the water, and paddled back. Since the waves were small, this process went relatively smoothly. Soon, my bait, a cut-up whiting, was in the water and the wait was on. In no time, I heard my drag start clicking out, so I pulled the rod from the holder and set the hook. Unfortunately, I set the hook too quickly and the baiting process had to start all over again. This happened a couple of times before I got the hang of letting the shark take the bait and finally hooked into one. After a brief battle, I beached a juvenile blacktip shark! I went on to catch two more juvenile blacktips and a baby hammerhead. All four sharks made it safely back to the ocean, and I still have a dad and all my fingers. Success!

Martin Chown, YCC member – Traverse City

Hooked on a Mystery

The sky was cloudy but bright, and the ice over LIttle Bay de Noc was crisp….it was going to be a beautiful day for ice fishing! My dad and I had awoken long before dawn to get our poles in the water by first light. It had been a smooth and beautiful ride on the quad out to the holes that my dad had drilled the night before, and all I could think about was catching a monster walleye.

As the morning went on, we were getting discouraged, as we had yet to catch anything besides an invasive Eurasian ruffe (which was actually really cool). Not long after, though, my dad’s pole received an aggressive yank, and he excitedly picked it up and began to reel. Immediately, he knew he had a hog on the line. He reeled and reeled, but the fish was fighting too hard. Every time he gained some ground, the fish pulled the drag back to the bottom! We began to worry that our 6-lb line wouldn’t hold much longer. We both guessed every fish we could think he might have on the hook – maybe the huge walleye we wanted? A pike? Carp? We had no idea! Soon the fish began to tire, and we could see it come closer and closer to the top on the Vexilar.

As I was getting my phone ready to capture the big reveal, my dad gasped in disbelief… he had pulled up a sturgeon!!! Never in a million years did we think we could ever have had a sturgeon on the line. He got it up and out of the hole, and it was a BEAUTIFUL 42 incher! Neither my dad nor I had ever caught one before, and neither had any of the people fishing around us. We knew we had to release it right away, as sturgeon are only legal in specific places during a very specific season. Before we finally let it go back into Lake Michigan, we both gave the fish a hold…it was unlike any fish I had ever felt. It felt neither wet nor slimy…it felt like sandpaper! We didn’t end up catching much more that day, but getting to witness such a magnificent sturgeon made every second worth it. Times like that is why I wake up at 5 in the morning to sit over frozen water.

To see a video of the sturgeon catch follow the link below.

Audrey Naeyaert, YCC member – Rapid River

Late Winter Fishing, Its Never Too Late

barrette 3Last week was one of the best weeks we have had this year. I’m from Detroit, MI and I attend college at Michigan Technological University. The past couple of weekends my friend Matt and I were able to get out on the ice and get into some fish on Portage Lake. It was a very slow bite in January and February, but it picked up quick after that. We were able to get out twice in the past week because it was right before our spring break and we finished all our work ahead of time. The first time we went that week Matt’s roommate wanted to go out with us. He hadn’t been out fishing too much before and it turned out to be a success. It was warm enough to where we didn’t need a shanty which is always nice. From 11:00am to 3pm we were consistently chasing flags every 10 min. We ended up landing 10 pike and 1 perch and of those we kept 5 pike and of course the perch. That was the best day we had at that point.

barrette 2The next time we got out it was only Matt and me. We went to the same spot and set up a shanty with a heater due to the weather. It was slow up until Noon and then we were chasing flags again. This time we got lucky. We heard of people catching walleyes out there, but we never could find any until this time. We were in the shanty and Matt’s rod started to slowly bend over. He let him take it a little bit and set the hook. We had no clue what it was, but he said it felt different than the others. When it was coming up it got stuck on Barrette 1the edge of the hole. I had to reach all the way down and grab it. It turned out to be a 25 in walleye. It was a big female. We were ecstatic. That day we had a few more flags and I was able to get a 29 in pike that we kept. It’s nice to change it up once in a while and eat some fresh fish instead of dorm food.

Zach Barrette, YCC member – Detroit

Coyote Hunting? Why Not?


There are several reasons why I personally hunt coyotes.  As an avid conservationist, I believe that we need to manage predator populations so we will have both predators and prey such and deer and rabbits. I hunt coyotes to help keep their populations in check so that I can also maintain a healthy deer herd where I hunt deer. I also like to hunt fox, rabbits and various game birds that inhabit the Upper Peninsula’s woods.  Coyotes will kill any fox in their territory and they also hunt a lot of small game. Hunting coyotes is also a great way to get outdoors and test your hunting skills as they inhabit almost any environment such as the swamps and pretty much anywhere there are deer. I live outside of town a few miles and have even killed coyotes right in my backyard. Their wary nature makes them a great challenge to hunt and although many people won’t eat the meat, the fur can be sold to clothing manufacturers overseas

Justin Cobb, YCC member – Bark RiverCobb coyote

Making Sweet Maple Syrup in Michigan’s Outdoors

battel 1My family has been producing maple syrup for six generations. Some of my earliest memories are watching Great Grandpa Battel boil sap late into the night and helping the rest of my family collect buckets and dump them into great big sap tanks that were above my head at the time. Now I’m 15 years old and I’m proud to be carrying on my family’s tradition, with my own operation called County Line Kids Pure Maple Syrup of 217 maple taps that a friend and I run alongside my family’s business Battel’s Sugar Bush. I want to share with you a glimpse of what it’s like to be a Battel in the spring. We’ll explore the science behind maple syrup production, modern maple syrup tools, and the potential for maple syrup in Pure Michigan. battel 2

Syrup production by maple trees requires a very specific climate that only occurs in a small part of the world. Our beautiful Michigan just happens to be smack-dab in the middle of that region. We enjoy the perfect temperatures  for  a 5- to 7-week period, beginning around late February and lasting as late as early April. As soon as temperatures reach above freezing during the day, but still below 32 degrees F at night, maple trees begin to wake up from dormancy. Like all trees, maples produce sap. Sap is responsible for transporting sugary energy within the tree through xylem and phloem, which are like a tree’s veins and arteries. Warm temperatures in the day pull sap through xylem and up into the tree’s canopy to begin producing leaves for the coming spring. As soon as temperatures cool down at night, sap is pushed through phloem deep into the root system to keep from freezing.

battel 3My family has been taking advantage of this process for six generations. As the tree’s energy source sap is dense in sugar, especially in hard maple trees like the sugar maple.  Spring is the perfect time for sugarmakers like my family to begin collecting maple sap. Spiles are a tool sugarmakers use to collect sap; they’re tapped into the tree within a 2-inch long by 5/16th inch diameter hole. This spile acts a bit like a faucet that allows sap to flow out of the tree. Of course, sugarmakers value the health of our trees as our livelihood depends on them. By following university guidelines on the size and number of spiles we put in our trees, we ensure that we’re only collecting about 10% of the total sap a tree will produce in a season and that there’s plenty left over for the tree to continue growing at a healthy rate.

battel 5Once we have sap flowing, we collect it through buckets, bags, vacuum-pump or gravity-flow tubing. If you tasted the sap you would realize of course, it is not the finished product you pour on your pancakes. It takes on average 40 gallons of the watery sap to make one gallon of finished maple syrup. My family uses a reverse osmosis machine, RO for short, which pushes sap through a semi-porous membrane filter system that separates about half the water from the sap. We then boil the condensed sap on an evaporator pan to allow the remaining water to evaporate. My family’s evaporator pan uses wood fire to heat sap to 219 degrees F, at which point it becomes maple syrup. My grandpa has become expert over the years at checking our syrup for finish by watching how it aprons off a dipper, while we also use a hydrometer to double check the sugar content.

battel 6 Once the sugar shack is filled with steam and the sweet smell of finished maple syrup, it’s drawn off the evaporator pan and moved to the canning room. There, we heat our syrup to 200 degrees F and push it through a filter press. After being filtered, it is poured into our beautiful glass or plastic containers and ready to sell.

It’s no surprise to anyone that Michigan’s vast and beautiful natural resources are closely tied to our economy, but it may surprise you to learn that maple trees hold our biggest untapped secret. Michigan sugarmakers only tap between 5 and 15 percent of the available sugar maple trees. Right now, Michigan makes 110,000 gallons of syrup a year while Vermont makes nearly 2 million gallons. Vermont makes 18 times the syrup. But here’s the thing: Michigan has two times the trees. Michigan produces $5.25 million worth of maple syrup a year. If we grow our maple syrup industry it could be bigger than the cherry industry and almost as big as the dry bean and blueberry industries.

Here’s what you can do about that: Tap your trees! Maple syrup making is relatively inexpensive compared to other industries, and the season is short. All a backyard producer needs are a food-safe, environmentally-safe way to tap and collect from maple trees, evaporate water from maple sap and store finished syrup in food-safe containers. Similar to the Cottage Food Law, maple syrup production is exempt from some of the requirements of Michigan Food Law, so by following a few simple guidelines your product can be sold for profit. We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but it does grow in maple trees!

battel 7I hope you now have a better understanding of what goes on inside a maple tree that makes its delicious sweetener possible, what it takes to make maple syrup, and what maple syrup means to our Michigan economy. If you’re interested in finding out more about how to make maple syrup on your own, please visit: https://battelsyrup.weebly.com/learn under “How to make maple syrup in your own backyard.” Or visit us during our annual open house March 17, 2018, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Battel’s Sugar Bush in Cass City, Michigan

You can also visit Addy at her face book page “County Line Kids Syrup.”

Addy Battel, YCC member – Cass City

Running in the Rain

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Opossum tracks in the mud.

Spring time is right around the corner.  Everyone knows the timeless rhyme, “April showers bring May flowers.”  The blossoms begin to bloom, the sun starts to shine, and the animals are out to adventure.  These are the great times to be a nature goer, especially with children! But what about the “showers”?  During the rainy season kids are often trapped in their homes.  We struggle to find something productive, yet exciting to do.  Contrary to what most seem to think, the rain and mud are just another reason to get outside!

Jump in a mud puddle!

Getting children outside, stomping around in the pools of water, allows them to learn about something they are not accustom to doing. With this, you can find worms in the surrounding area. This gives one the opportunity to teach the youth about the change of seasons, along with the circle of life found in nature.

Make castles of mud!

Being able to get hands-on is always the best.  The ability to feel the slimy mud is very important for kids. This makes them ask an adult questions and opens their minds up for imagination and further contemplation. Not only is it a learning curve, but an enjoyable way to spend time outside.

Look for tracks!

Mud is the best way to looks for fresh tracks.  When exploring for tracks, you do not need to go on a long hike, but simply go in your back yard. You can find bird tracks, mouse tunnels, squirrels tracks, or any other foot prints that you cross paths with.

These are just a couple ideas to expand the spring season before the “May flowers” begin to bloom.  The rainy season is not an excuse to stay inside, but an opportunity to adventure, learn and expose children to nature.  The youth is the next generation of outdoors men and women.  As adults, we need to allow kids to get dirty, play, and simply have fun in the rain!

Graham Smith, YCC member – Lyons