HOUGHTON - Everything seems to be coming together for a fun and profitable opener for walleye, northern pike and muskellunge fishing in the Upper Peninsula Saturday.
The traditional May 15 opener falls on a Saturday for the first time since 2004, and weather conditions are expected to be good and steadily improving throughout the weekend.
With a massive fishery waiting to be challenged, it is clear that many anglers from outside of the Copper Country are excited about getting on the water. Dallas Bond, executive director for the Keweenaw Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, said he fielded at least 15 calls last week.
"In the last week, we've gotten several phone calls, just people calling to find out bait shops, any type of fishing activity reports on what the area might have," he said.
An influx of anglers into the Keweenaw can provide a major kick-off to the summer tourism season. A 2006 study assessed the average angler's economic impact at $84 per day. With an average stay of 8.6 days and a count of more than 1,500 such anglers per season, a million dollars or more may be flowing into the area over the days, weeks and months ahead.
"There's a lot of people that do come up, there's a lot of people that know about the Chassell Bay hotspot in Portage Lake and they make special plans, special trips to get up here for the opening day," Bond said.
A stroke of luck from the calendar may prove even more advantageous as the weekend opener gives fishermen a chance to settle in for a few days.
"It'll be very helpful putting some heads in beds for some people coming from out of town. They'll have two solid days of enjoying their sport and hopefully Mother Nature co-operates," Bond said.
Temperatures for Saturday are expected to reach a high in the low 60s with relatively light winds.
There are relatively few changes in DNRE fishing regulations for 2010, however, anglers are reminded that the lake trout bag limit has increased to five in Lake Superior management units east of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
The 2010 license has been required since April 1, but Michigan's free fishing weekend is scheduled for June 12-13.
In addition, anglers are asked to co-operate with the state in combatting the fish disease viral hemorrhagic septicemia. The use of salmon eggs or minnows for bait is restricted in some waters as part of the DNRE's anti-VHS strategy.
Anglers who purchase spawn or minnows for bait should make sure it is certified VHS-free. Such bait is widely available and may used anywhere for 14 days. Uncertified bait (including bait collected by anglers) is restricted in where it can be used and for how long.
Unused bait should be disposed of on land or in the trash.
After leaving the water, live wells and bilges should be disinfected and dried to avoid transferring the virus between bodies of water.
Brandon Veale can be reached at email@example.com.