That was our state motto or slogan when I was growing up and I think it defined the great state of Michigan perfectly. I was told as a youngster that you could not stand anywhere in Michigan and be more than 5 miles away from a lake, pond, river, or stream and I loved every minute of it. Michigan has 26,266 lakes that are greater than one acres in size, over 120 major rivers covering about 36,350 square miles, and 3,288 miles of great lake shoreline.
There are over 6,300 miles of snowmobile trails located throughout the state in six State Forests, three National Forests, and many acres of privately owned lands. Michigan is also home to more than 40 ski resorts.
Unfortunately since moving back, between working remotely full time and spending the remaining waking hours building my log home, I've had little time to truly enjoy all the events and beauty that Michigan has to offer. But, that is going to change!!!
Last weekend, I attended the Black Lake Sturgeon Shivaree. Wow, was this ever interesting. First of all, I think Sturgeon are more dinosaur than fish. Not to mention the season is really strange. First, there is a summer hook and line season, but only on the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, and Lake Otsego and each lake has it's own regulations. Then, there is a winter spearing season on Black Lake.
Black Lake is the seventh largest inland lake in Michigan, covering over 10,130 acres, and is located in the northeast portion of the lower peninsula.
My first introduction to Black Lake was when I was a young kid, maybe 11 or 12 years old. We took a family boat ride from our lot on Pickerel Lake (marked with a "+") through Pickerel Channel, Crooked Lake, Crooked River, Burt Lake, Indian River, Mullett Lake, Cheboygan River, and finally to the Black River which we thought would take us to Black Lake. So here we are, 5 of us, my mom, dad, older sister, older brother, and me all squeezed into a little 15 foot runabout with a 30 horsepower Mercury engine setting off on our little cruise (our version of a three hour tour). It was quite the adventure as waves on Burt and Mullett can get in excess of 4 feet, which is a bit more than our boat can tolerate comfortably. Then to add more insult to injury, unbeknownst to us, there was a dam at Alverno. I remember they had a trolley type lift which lifted boats up to the higher water level on the other side of the dam, but it was no longer operational. So, we never did see Black Lake!
Now, some 50 years later, Spencer and I are heading to Black Lake, in the middle of winter, to watch a bunch of fishermen spearing prehistoric fish. Now the special season for Sturgeon on Black Lake is like 3 days long (8 am to 2 pm each day) or 7 fish, whichever comes first. To make sure no more than seven are harvested, the DNR stops the season at 6. This year there were over 410 registered fishermen. The season opened at 8 am, with DNR and Conservation officers from all over Michigan on hand to monitor things.
We arrive only to see the DNR had set up on the ice and parking was on the lake. At the end of the parking was an ice road marked by little pine trees that went across the lake and out the other side. I felt a lot more comfortable when I was told the ice was in excess of 18" think here and as you went further south east, it got even thicker, closer to 24" thick. Not to mention a 67,000+ lb sand truck had been used to provide sand for the festival's tent that was also setup on the ice.
At about 8:20 AM the first fish was harvested. We were told, that when one of the registered fishermen got a fish, they had to notify the DNR immediately. The DNR would go to the shanty and verify that the fish was still alive and then had to bring the fish to the main DNR station on the lake. The fish were scanned for microchip tags, measured and weighed, before given back to the fisherman. The first fish was taken by a women from Wisconsin. Within a few minutes of her return to her shanty, her bother got the third fish.
Here's a photo of both of them with their fish. Interestingly they are from Fond du lac, Wisconsin and are planning on a Sturgeon spearing this weekend on lake Winnebago.
Within an hour and 18 minutes, the sixth and largest fish of the day was harvested and just like that, the season was over. The last fish was 72 inches long, weighed 80 pounds, and was estimated to be 60 - 80 years old. Middle age for fish that is known to live to be 150 years old.
One thing I can say about these fish, is they are one butt ugly fish. But, then again, they are prehistoric! I'll leave you with a few more photos.
I hope you enjoyed our little adventure out in the winter. For more Michigan winter festivals go to: https://mynorth.com/2019/01/northern-michigan-winter-festivals-the-superguide/
Till next time, stay safe and keep the greasy side down,