"It feels good to be back northa the bridge," said travel-weary WW&W wildlife correspondent and ice fishinista Paris Hiltunen, "I can only take so much ice fishing and my quota was filled."
We were both glad to be back in the Keweenaw after a fabulously fishy five-day road trip covering a Mark Martin Pro-Media Ice Fishing event in Cadillac, far to the south. As the token Yoopers at the show, I felt like I was skating on thin ice; theirs is only 6-8 inches thick.
Whenever I get invited to fish with AIM walleye pros Mark Martin, Mike Gofron and Mark Brumbaugh and and their pro staff, I yump at the chance, especially when it takes me southa the bridge, not just the Portage Lift Bridge, but the Mackinac Bridge, and with changes in latitude come changes in attitude.
You get to use the latest electronics and gear, ride hot snowmobiles, and get spoiled rotten in bait & tackle shops, motels, restaurants and bars, something Paris is used to. I blame Joy VanDrie, Executive Director, cadillacmichigan.com, and Mark Martin, whose joint hospitality paved the way for the pundits.
Local guide Jamie Clous, Old AuSable Fly Shop, oldausable.com, showed me how to find fish-holding submerged logs and lumber structure, and 75-year old ice fishing wizard Don Luenberger taught Paris a thing or two about jiggin' and wigglin' in the strike zone.
"It's a fertile, multi-species, year-round fishery," said retired Yooper MDNR fisheries biologist Tom Rozich, whose beat and bailiwick was the Cadillac area, "a two-lake urban fishery with a colorful history to rival Yooper standards."
"The Clam River flowing outa Lake Cadillac is a noted trout stream with brookies the size of beer bottles," he added, holding one up for good measure and a refill.
Operating outa Pilgrim Village Resort in Cadillac West, we drilled down on both lakes, traveling from tent to tent by snowmobile. You can walk to Lakeside Charlie's, Cadillac Sands, Days Inn, Burke's Waterfront, Cheryl's Landing, Frosty Cup, Dawg House, Timbers, Carl T. Johnson Hunting & Fishing Center, and this is key, Mr. Foisie's is right across the street, serving homemade Yooper-style pasties, strawberry-rhubarb pie and apple dumplings.
We had to drive around the lake to Chef Hermann's downtown and Coz's Cozy 8-Ball Lounge, but it was just a hop, skip and a yump from base camp and well worth the trip. Once again, I've done the research, so all you have to do for a darn good time in Cadillac is follow my trail.
Side trips I recommend are a factory tour of Rec Boat Holdings, manufacturers of Four Winns, Glastron and Wellcraft, which you can see at fourwinns.com, and O'Keefe's Reef, where they do fishing jackets, shirts and caps with "more fish designs than anyone on the planet," lots of it for women. Paris went on a shopping spree, and so can you at okeefesreef.com.
Named after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac, the French explorer who founded Detroit in 1701, Cadillac was founded in 1872 by George A. Mitchell, a prominent banker and railroad entrepreneur, who constructed the Clam Lake Canal, connecting Big and Little Clam Lakes, present-day Lakes Mitchell and Cadillac, so they could float logs to the hungry sawmills and waiting trains in the village of Clam Lake, which officially became the City of Cadillac in 1882. The rest, as they say, is history.
Part of the Muskegon River watershed, Cadillac lies five miles south of the geographic center of Michigan. Lake Cadillac is a soft water kettle lake, 1,150 surface acres, average depth 12 feet, max depth 28 feet.
Lake Mitchell, 2,580 acres, max depth 22 feet, 90 percent less than 15 feet, flows into Lake Cad via the short canal, featured by Ripley's Believe it or Not, due to the phenomenon that it freezes before the lakes, then after the lakes freeze over, thaws and remains unfrozen for the resta the winter; Hot limnology action at work.
That's a combined 3,730 acres of prime shallow water fishing chock fulla northern, walleye, crappie, bluegill, perch, largemouth and smallmouth bass. It was a tough bite; neither lake gave up its game easily, but we managed picture fish of most species. For fishing reports, photos, reservations and live bait, visit pilgrimvillagefishing.com or call Steve Knaisel, 231-775-5412.
In other outdoor news, the Keweenaw groundhog was hung over, slept in, and did not see his shadow yesterday, which means we're down to our last 13 weeksa winter.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at jjunttila@ chartermi.net.