Dave Schineder Column: Trout fishing bug begins to settle in

With the weather moderating somewhat, more and more people are heading outside to enjoy what the Upper Peninsula has to offer – which this year even includes good ice fishing opportunities on Lake Superior.

Marquette’s Lower Harbor attracted a handful of anglers on a few sunny days this week, while bays around Munising and L’Anse have been hosting ice fishermen, as well.

In fact, you’d have to look real hard to find any open water on Lake Superior, with the ice cover approaching 100 percent on the big lake.

This can be viewed on the website at, which is the site for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

As of Thursday afternoon, informative charts on the website pegged the Lake Superior ice cover at 91.3 percent. The only areas not frozen over are a small circular spot at the east end of Isle Royale and a narrow strip along the northwest shore off Minnesota and Canada.

There is another very small patch of iceless water on the lake that doesn’t show up on the NOAA site – the bubblers in Marquette’s Upper Harbor. These spots offer what amounts to the only open-water fishery in the area during this frigid winter.

There were a few brave souls standing on the edge of the bubblers earlier this week, casting out into the open water in hopes of nailing a salmon or whatever may be lurking in the depths.

While I’m not all that excited about walking out several hundred yards on the ice to be able to fish open water, the view of the fishermen certainly started me longing for the spring fisheries.

I can just envision an ice-free harbor dotted with small fishing boats carrying anglers in pursuit of those wonderful spring coho, which aren’t only a lot of fun to catch but are a delicacy on the dinner table.

Then the idea of opening day of the general trout season came to mind, that highly anticipated last Saturday in April, this year falling on April 26 – only 78 days away!

Some may think the use of the word “only” is a bit odd, but you’ll be surprised at how quickly the big day rolls around. Sure we still have a lot of winter left, and that means bundling up to stay warm and shoveling some snow now and then, but before you know it we’ll be getting our gear ready and planning the assault of favorite fishing holes.

When I mentioned the number of days until trout season to a trout-fishing co-worker, he pulled out a photo I’d left on his desk last winter. Pictured are three nice brookies with this heading: “78 days until the opener,” in my handwriting.

What is it about this time of year – no, this very day – that gets my mind focused on brookie fishing? No doubt it’s a combination of things.

For one, the winter is starting to get a little old, especially this season of prolonged frigid temperatures. I’m a person who actually enjoys winter, but that enjoyment begins to wane about this time of year.

Then we have the aforementioned sightings of anglers casting a line into open water, even if it’s only a small pond-sized opening with ice surrounding it. Simply watching a person rear back their fishing rod and letting a cast go is motivation enough to start thinking about trout fishing on a stream.

Another factor is the gradual lengthening of daylight each day that helps to raise everybody’s spirits, not just fishermen. While it’s still dark in the morning when many of us head to the salt mine, there’s actually enough daylight after work to get outside and enjoy a little recreation. We will hopefully begin to experience gradually increasing temperatures, as well, which will spur on the fishing bug even more.

In addition, the outdoor sports catalogs are starting to arrive and they are fully focused on open-water fishing. All the latest in rods and reels, lures, fishing clothes, boats and all sorts of other fishing-related gadgets are featured.

While there’s some interesting new equipment that would certainly be nice to pick up, I can’t imagine adding anything to my already overflowing supply of fishing gear.

But you never know – maybe I better assess the situation this weekend and see if I’m missing any of the essentials.

After all, with only 78 days to go until trout season begins, I’d hate to get caught without everything I need to make it a successful opening day.

Editor’s note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His email address is