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February 5 : Au Sable & Manistee River Report

I caught a mudpuppy!  No kidding.  I hadn’t even seen one of these lengthy salamanders since I was kid and that was in the shallow muddy banks of the Thunder Bay River backwaters.  But I caught this critter while perch fishing on Higgins lake in 60 feet of water. IMG_20150203_100731_507 I was on a pretty good run of perch and had four or five on the ice.  The rod tip was bouncing just as soon as you could take a fish off and get your bait back down to the bottom.  It was a nice start to the day.  Then just as quickly as it started the bite activity went stale for at first a handful and then more minutes.  My rod was acting sorta strangely, but it was tricky to tell what was going on with the wind knocking around the flimsy fishing stick.  Almost unnoticeably the rod would quit the side to side, erratic wind activity and make a slow and steady downward pull.  Finally, I just gave the rod a jerk and set the hook and felt the weight of what I assumed was another small perch on its way to light through the ice. It was very cool and surprising to see this creepy little creature twisting up the ice hole.  Now, mudpuppies aren’t endangered or anything, but they do spend their whole life underwater, hence the external gills.  The fact that I hadn’t seen one since I was a kid means that I haven’t been exploring and hunting in the shallows of lakes, rivers, and ponds in the way only a child can.  It means I’ve gotten too old and too practical.  But the way I grimaced taking the hook out and ugged at my slime coated glove and the way I got close and checked out his gills and mouth and toes, means that there’s just enough kid left in there to keep things interesting. IMG_20150203_144503_993 One of the coolest happenings on the ice this week is the Black Lake Sturgeon season and annual Black Lake Sturgeon Shivaree. The Black Lake sturgeon season starts on Saturday, February 7th and is limited to just five fish.  Anglers need only a fishing license, a free sturgeon tag, and to register with the DNR on either Friday the 6th or before the 8 a.m. season opener on Saturday.  The festival is Friday evening and all day Saturday up in Cheboygan in front of the Black Lake Hotel. Good luck and have fun, Andy

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