Forget long winter, shift into spring

I promised myself I would avoid sounding like a broken record and not even mention the weather this week, but I can’t resist. Even the annual burning of the snowman at Lake Superior State University on Thursday – when spring arrived – had to be delayed because of inclement weather.

However, it was only the ceremonial burning of the snowman to mark the arrive of spring that was delayed, not spring itself, so lets jump right into the stuff we’re looking forward to as the season progresses.

Here are a few items that came to mind:

n Open water fishing is, of course, right around the corner and just about everybody I know is fully focused on the sport.

It certainly helped pique my interest the other day when spied an angler walking away from a local river with two nice steelhead he had just caught. I happened to see him just before he got to his vehicle at a hurried pace and quickly toss the rainbows into the bed of the truck – too late, I already saw him.

Before long there will be cars parked at a few known hotspots along the river, and hopefully the spring fishing will be hot as ever.

Also in the realm of fishing is a reminder to pick up your 2014 license, which is required starting April 1. There are changes in the state’s licensing system this year, as well, so take a close look at what you want before making a purchase.

For me I’m taking the easy route – fork over $76 and get my all-species fishing license, small game license and the combination deer license with two tags. I’ll be paying about $14 more than last year for the package, which replaced the 15 percent discount that we used to get for buying four licenses (the combination deer counts as two) at once.

n In an effort to have anglers meet the fisheries biologists who work in waters in their area and talk about local issues, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is holding a series of public forums.

The gatherings are being dubbed “”Conversations & Coffee with DNR Fisheries Division.”

At least one forum is being held in each of the state’s eight management units. Out of the 11 meetings, six will be in the U.P. Actually, the U.P. gatherings already kicked off, with the first being held in Escanaba Thursday evening.

Others are scheduled for 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 8 at the Tahquamenon Area Public Library in Newberry, 7 to 9 p.m. April 9 at the Ishpeming Township Hall, 6 to 8 p.m. (CST) April 10 at Gogebic Community College in Ironwood, 7 to 8:30 p.m. April 14 at Sydney’s Restaurant in Munising, and 7 to 9 p.m. April 16 at Portage Lake District Library in Houghton.

For more information on the meetings, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

Spring is also a time to get out and do some turkey hunting, with the earliest hunt periods beginning April 21 and the latest ending May 31. License drawing results were announced recently and leftover licenses to hunters who didn’t apply for a license went on sale Monday.

Included in hunt periods is No. 234 that includes the entire U.P. as well as most of the lower Peninsula, and runs from May 5 through 31.

This hunt has become popular because there are an unlimited number of licenses available. That’s not exactly correct, but I don’t think the 995,551 available licenses for the hunt listed on the DNR website Thursday afternoon will be sold out anytime soon. This is the first year hunt 234 licenses can be purchased right up through May 31.

More information about spring turkey hunting can be found on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/turkey.

n Another activity ‘m looking forward to this spring is doing some ORV riding on the backroads and trails of the U.P.

There are endless possibilities for cruising locations in all areas of the peninsula, ranging from basic self-made trails through private property to well-maintained public trails.

There is a new licensing system for ORVs this year, too, with the price going up to $26.25, which is about a $10 increase from 2013. In addition, riders who want to use state designated trails have to pay an additional $10.

Increased revenues from the price hikes will be used to expand the state trail system, add connector trails to communities and enhance maintenance and improve safety of the trails.

In regard to maintaining the trails, the DNR has grants available from the ORV Trail Improvement Fund, Applications are now being accepted through May 1 from non-profit clubs and organizations and public agencies.

According to the DNR, the grants can be used “to maintain existing designated state ORV trails, routes and use areas; repair public lands damaged by inappropriate ORV use; and develop new ORV trails, routes and use areas. Grant funds also are available to pay for liability insurance, leases or easements.”

So it looks like we will be paying a little more to fish, hunt and ORV this year, but it’s certainly worth paying it for the wonderful opportunities we have in the U.P. to enjoy all three sports.

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