While last week's column fell short of being totally fact-free, it was a valiant journalistic effort nonetheless and I am nominating it for Michigan's most fact-challenged outdoor column, if not the nation's.
"It's better than being spiritually-challenged like religious fundamentalists," intoned WW&W senior religion correspondent Amazing Grace, "at least you're entertaining, make people smile and tell good stories. You never see fundamentalists smiling going into church or coming out," she added scratching her head, "and that's not just mischievous speculation, it's heresy."
Being April Fool's Day, God only knows what you're liable to read here today; it could be heresy or hearsay or both, what's your preference?
Let's at least start out with a fact: Yesterday was the MDNR deadline for removing ice fishing shanties from the ice, if it's not already too late. If you plan to do any fishing, you need a new 2011-12 Michigan fishing license today. An additional (free) lake sturgeon tag is required of anglers who fish for or target lake sturgeon. Speaking of hearsay, they say the largest sturgeon caught in Lake Superior last year weighed 110 pounds, which I can neither confirm nor refute.
"The impressive part is you've managed to get both heresy and hearsay into the column in just the first four paragraphs," Grace added, "how many outdoor columnists can do that?"
Being caught in the vernal vortex between winter and spring, I'm torn. Shall I write my April Fool's Day column about the here and now in the Keweenaw, or take a flight of fancy to Florida where I could be wade fishing for rampaging reds, snook and specks with WW&W saltwater correspondents Amber Jack and Sara Sota, then squiring them to cocktails?
Whether it's the Copper Country or Clearwater Beach, my activities are pretty much the same, just warm saltwater instead of frozen over fresh water, and in a lot less clothes.
This weekend may be your last chance to walk the sensational shoreline ice shelf at the moutha Fanny Hooe Crick with wonderful wave and wind-sculpted ice and snow cones, caves, dunes and formations along Half Moon Beach, and jigsaw-pattern float ice across the harbor to the lighthouse and nothing but the wild blue yonder of Lake Superior beyond. Listen carefully and you'll hear woodpeckers pecking out their staccato spring beat, and the warbling of the winter wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) echoing through the northwoods like woodwinds, reverberating offa Brockway Mountain and sweeping down across Lake Fanny Hooe.
If you're blessed with an inspired imagination and fanciful multi-tasking skills, you can join me in Tampa Bay at my favorite, most romantic PWF (Park, Wade & Fish) spots; The magnificent mangrove shorelines of the Redneck Riviera, Blackthorn Park, Caladesi Island, Honeymoon Island, Weedon Island, Fort DeSoto Park, Trouble Crick, or the mouth of the Anclote River on the Gulf of Mexico near NPR, New Port Richey, not National Public Radio, where I fish, drink Yuengling, and smoke mullet with Ralph Goodman and John Pietila, Calumet snowbird buddies who winter there.
Just because my heart and mind are foot-loose and fancy-free in Florida, doesn't mean I'm living life half-heartedly here. I'm just wearing a lot more clothes to do it.
Yesterday morning, I caught the dawn shift on the ice just off the downtown L'Anse Marina and the fish were snappin'. There were about 18 shanties and tents out there and everybody was catching a nice mix of early-run coho and steelhead with a few browns, lake trout and herring for diversity and good measure. The late-ice bite has also been decent off Baraga and Squaw Beach.
"It's been a slow, gradual Spring break-up," said Steve Koski of Indian Country Sports. "The shoreline ice is getting pretty iffy, but there's still two to eight inches on the inner bay with anglers finding a few early fish in the Falls River," he added.
Florida fishing fantasies are fine and dandy, but I'm making my first Spring Huron River run to Big Eric's Bridge this weekend, wetting a line in the Falls, Silver, Slate and Ravine on the way there and back with wet-your-whistle stops and angler intercept survey interviews at the brand spankin' new Billy the Finn's Huron Bay Tavern, Shelly Jestila's Bella Vista, and a side trip to the KIBC Fish Hatchery right next door.
"It won't be long before the smelt and sap will be running and we'll be making out," Verna Freudian slipped, "I mean out making maple syrup and picking morels."
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 no matter where he is at firstname.lastname@example.org.