HOUGHTON - The weather should be beautiful, several events are planned and the price is certainly right as thousands of people across Michigan prepare to take advantage of Free Fishing Weekend.
As part of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' twice-annual event, all fishing license fees are waived Saturday and Sunday for people to fish on the state's 3,000-plus miles of Great Lakes shoreline, 11,000-plus inland lakes and 36,000-plus miles of rivers and streams.
"It gets people out. Some people only fish that weekend and they get their kids out that weekend," said Keith Machiela, president of the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsman's Association.
While kids can fish for free anyway, Machiela said this weekend provides the perfect chance for parents to take their kids fishing at no cost to anyone. Many first-time anglers take to the waters this weekend, too, and while all fishing regulations still apply, starting out is pretty easy.
"They don't need much money to get started. Get a fishing rod, a hook, a sinker, get some worms and see what you can do," Machiela said. "Find a nice body of water - there's water all over the place up here. It's supposed to be really warm weather so come out and have fun."
And while this weekend provides the perfect chance for anglers to casually fish, event organizers are taking advantage of the increased fishing interest to offer a wide array of local fishing events.
The LLHSA offers one of the longest-running events as it prepares to host its 39th Annual Fishing Derby on Rice Lake from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. this Sunday.
The event usually draws about 300 participants, many of them kids. Registration is $5 for adults, $3 for juniors and $1 for children 10 and younger.
"It's geared toward the kids and we have really low entry fees," Machiela said. "We like to see the kids out there getting those prizes. It starts whenever they want to start fishing after 7 a.m. Sunday morning."
Registration closes at 1 p.m. and all fish have to be weighed in and measured by 4 p.m., as anglers will compete for $1,500 in fishing prizes - the top three pike and top three walleye in each of the three divisions will receive prizes. A total of $5,000 in prizes will be up for grabs with a raffle as well.
Another large local event is the Baraga County Lake Trout Festival, which includes the Keweenaw Bay Classic Fishing Tournament. More than 100 boats are expected to participate in Saturday's event, and all anglers are required to attend a pre-fish meeting at 6 p.m. tonight at the L'Anse American Legion.
"Every one fishing in the derby has a license otherwise, but Free Fishing Weekend does encourage new people to come to fish," said Steve Koski, tournament organizer and owner of Indian Country Sports in L'Anse.
Lake trout and salmon are the two categories for anglers in the tournament and thousands of dollars in prizes will be up for grabs - last year's first-place winners took home $1,200 each.
"There will be some good numbers in both categories," Koski said. "The weather is consistent looking and there's been some good catches size wise so it's looking like a great fishing weekend."
The Ottawa National Forest Free Kids Fishing Derby in Ontonagon has been cancelled this year, but there are still plenty of chances for locals to try their hand at fishing.
For more information on Free Fishing Weekend, visit michigan.gov/freefishing. For more on the Rice Lake fishing derby, visit llhsa.org, call Machiela at 906-296-0365 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the Baraga County Lake Trout Festival, visit laketroutfestival.com, call Koski at 906-524-6518 or email email@example.com.