Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Polluted rivers makes comeback

   Just 40 years ago, the Rouge River caught fire. About the same time, a man fell into the river, swallowed some water and later died due to an infection from  a waterborne disease.
   Even carp, the fish that survives in oxygen depleted water, were being found washed up on shore, dead due to the extreme pollution.
   Fast forward to today. While the Rogue River isn't a pristine trout stream, it nevertheless has weathered the storm and cleaned up fairly well.
   Thanks to groups that have taken an interest in it's preservation, trash and other debris continues to be removed thanks to the efforts of various "Friends" groups.
   Improvements to the way sewage is processed and handled continue to be addressed. Today, even with the many advances made to identify accidental or intentional discharge of pollutants, run off of raw sewage continues to be problematic during storms when combined sewers are used.
   An excellent book, "Burning Rivers-Revival of Four Urban-Industrial Rivers that Caught on Fire," by John H. Hartig Ph.D. explains in easy-to-understand language how these rivers; The Cuyahoga, Chicago, Buffalo, and Rogue, came to be so polluted, and the miraculous recovery they have made.
   There is still work to do. Proceeds from Hartig's book go to the Aquatic Ecosystem Health and Management Society.
   "I don't receive any money," Hartig said. "I just get the satisfaction of further the cause."

Monday, March 28, 2011

We've endured "dead" water-Now it's fishing paradise

   Dead water as in the Detroit River and Lake Erie. Sadly, that was the case around here several years ago. 
  You couldn't hardly buy a fish in either body of water. The Rogue River which flows into the Detroit was another example of  man's ability to destroy parts of nature.
   This river was a sewage pit. It remained that way for years as it meandered it's way through Hines Park, slipping, slurping and smelling it's way into the Detroit River.
   Game fish were non existent. So were flies and other aquatic bugs that signal a healthy river. Vegetation had been stripped from it's banks and wildlife shunned it.
   These days, the Rogue has made a comeback just like it's relatives, the Detroit River and Lake Erie. One shining example is Newburgh Lake in Wayne County.
   Drastic measures were taken to improve the overall conditions of the lake. It was drained, contaminated soil removed along with "junk" fish, then re-filled and stocked with a nice array of game fish.
   Today, one can fish the lake with a good change of catching bluegill, perch, crappie, bass or walleye and not have a bad smell to contend with.
   In the Detroit River and Lake Erie, walleye begin showing up, especially this time of the year. Known around the country as the premier fishing locations for walleye from eaters to wall hangers these systems have made a remarkable comeback.
   For a good historical read on how these and other bodies of water went from pollution to survival read "Burning Rivers," By Dr. John H. Hartig, 183 pages, Multi-Science Publishing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Weather is bound to get better-make plans now for warmer days

   The weather must change soon and for the better. That's because of the time of the year, it always does. You can take that to the bank, as they say.
   In the meantime, a good idea is to begin planning a little ahead as to what you would like to do or see once the weather breaks.
   If you think you'll be enjoying part of your summer paddling a canoe or kayak, check out "Michigan Rivers Less Paddled," by Doc Fletcher, 192 pages, from Arbutus Press.
   Descriptions of four Upper Peninsula rivers and 17 Lower Peninsula rivers are mentioned. Only rivers with canoe-kayak liveries and relative contact information are presented.
   Whether the water is fast, time of trips, any obstacles in the water, interesting places in nearby towns, and a place for a bite to eat are helpful.
   An earlier book, "Weekend Canoeing in Michigan," Also by Doc Fletcher, 176 pages, Arbutus Press Publisher, includes twenty rivers with four in the U.P.
   Beginning with the quote, "Everyone must believe in something. I believe I'll go canoeing," by Henry David Thoreau, one river featured is the Huron River in southeast Michigan.
   Readers will notice at the beginning of each chapter the listing for the Detroit Tigers on radio is shown if there is one available.
   Quotes about each river along with selected music the author feels is compatible with a float on that river are featured.
   These books are good for locating liveries on a river you may be interested in paddling, along with contact information.
   For a general, lighthearted overview, one or both of these books might be a good, quick reference guide. In the meantime, find those paddles and PFD"s, get the dry bags out, pick one of these books up and start dreaming about warm weather as you turn the pages, river to river.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring-this season didn't get the spring forward memo

   Spring in Michigan. As far as the weather goes, it's one of the most iffy times of the year. Anything can happen. High winds, no wind, snow, rain or very dry. It depends on what Mother Nature is sending us that year.
   This year is no exception. Just when you think about grabbing the rake to get those leaves left over from last fall raked and put into the compost pile, here comes another front as the weather gurus call it.
   Working for a couple of days in shirtsleeves and even sitting outside for a bit, caught some of us dreaming about plowing the garden up and doing some early season planting. Better hold those thoughts for now.
   Last nights cold temperatures, high wind, snow, sleet and freezing rain reminded us in no uncertain terms who is in charge around here. It definitely isn't us even though our thoughts have turned toward warm weather.
   Like tulips, daffodils and crocus we look for in early spring, night crawlers have joined them by staying covered up for just a little longer.
   Yes, you'll find some of these little plants and animals alongside building foundations, but for the most part, the ground is too cold and wet for much to get started.
   In the meantime, gather your children and read about "Hannah and the Talking Tree," by Elke Weiss. The winner of several awards, it's a story about saving the environment, namely trees, being different and learning to listen.
   The 36-page book is alive showing children playing outdoors and interacting with nature. It's a really great teaching tool for youngsters, keeping their attention at the turn of every page.
   Spring is a wonderful time of the year to teach young people about the world outside. "Hannah and the Talking Tree," are one way to do it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tweener season is upon us

   Tweener season is that time of year when we are in between those things we enjoy doing outdoors. While there is still ice on area lakes, it's not safe. Any day now we'll wake up to find the lakes clear of ice.
   That means the boat or kayak stays put a little longer before launch day. Hiking trails are going to be muddy making for sloppy going until the ground thaws enough to get rid of some of this moisture we have and more on the way.
   Even our yards are going to have to wait a little longer for spring clean-up. Ours looks like someone dumped a truck full of oak leaves all over it. And there are no oak trees close by!
   Once it dries out a little, we'll rake them and add them to the compost pile and eventually the garden. Speaking of the garden, our thoughts this year have to do with gardening in contained areas.
   My wife has wanted to do this for a long time and feels we'll get more out of our garden this way. Plus it should be easier to weed.
   Now we need to make the frames that act as containers, mostly rectangular shaped I would think, get a good load of black dirt and get to work.
   It will be fun to give something new a try in the garden. One of neighbors told us last fall he's had it with gardening. It's too much trouble and hard work to be bothered with when you can buy produce at the store or a farmers market.
   That's all true but there is a certain amount of satisfaction and joy not to mention relaxation that come with putting in, growing, and tending a garden. To each his or her own, I guess.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Those new gadgets-Use em' for several activities

The new gadgets or you'll be reading about in this Sunday's Oakland Press have more than one use.
   Yes, the backpack is one item that is specific to trails for hiking or overnight stays while hiking or otherwise walking.
   But the Aussie Chiller hat is excellent not only on the trail, but working in the yard, or on the water, when paddling or fishing.
   It's design with the wide brim helps keep those harmful rays of the sun off exposed skin on the face, especially the ears and nose.
   Light My Fire new FireSteel is a great alternative to carry matches or a lighter on the trail, in a canoe or around camp.
   Matches probably won't ever be completely replaced but in the meantime this lightweight, small piece of important equipment is the next best thing. Besides it works when those matches are soaking wet.
   You'll find lots of uses around home, camp, or standing in the middle of your favorite river at night trying to tie a new fly on, for the Irix II headlamp.
   Bright light from the LED's, it's very lightweight, fits nicely on your head using an adjustable band, and allows you to see what is in the fly box, tool chest, or camp chest all the while being hands free.
   Check them out. They can make like a little easier in not compact!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Spring has arrived-at least in my backyard!

The signs of spring are sure looking good. As a matter of fact, I'm declaring spring has arrived at least in my neck of the woods.    Yesterday, as I was looking out into the backyard, I noticed two red winged black birds. Normally they make their presence known by their singing in the nearby swamp.
   But there they were, trying to get something from the bird feeders. One fed while the other watched, looking down from a nearby telephone line.
   Later the same day toward evening, a robin landed on the ground and began hopping around as if in search for a worm or some other meal.
   Yes, I know some robins winter over. But this past winter I haven't noticed any until now. When you add up the bird sitings along with the sunshine of a couple days ago and temperatures predicted to hit 60-degrees this week, it's fairly safe to say we've come out of the cold months.
   The late J.P. McCarthy used to decry all of the months with "r" in them. He preferred the others for the better weather. I'm beginning to see his point.
   By the weekend I expect to hear the sound of mowers being started for the first time, just to be sure they are running.
   Now to lose some ice so we can slide a kayak in for some early fishing!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hitting the trail? Check out some new gear.

   Headed for a backpack trip soon? Better get your house in order before stepping on the trail. "House" in this case refers to the backpack you carry with everything you'll need while on the trail.
   High Peak Sierra Sport has a new pack, the Everest 65-10 that's self adjustable from small to extra large. An internal frame pack, carrying capacity is from 4-5,000 cubic inches.
   While packs may carry more, this is a good in between choice as it forces you to pack a little lighter than going with the idea of throwing all the extras in, just in case.
   Comfortable because you fit it to your body frame, the sternum strap and hip belt help distribute the load evenly making for a more comfortable walk. Visit for more details.
   One thing you must have on any trip is a sure way to start a fire for cooking, warmth or for signalling purposes.
  While matches and lighters may get wet or otherwise become unusable, the FireSteel 2.0 Scout from Light My Fire works in any condition.
   Weighing next to nothing, it's a must for outdoors pursuits of any kind. You can check it out at
   Read about these products in next Sunday's Oakland Press.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Spring can't come too soon

   Each year, spring seems to take its time getting here. We are in a hurry for it to arrive once and for all.
   That's understandable given the part of the country we live in. It's more understandable this year due to record snow levels, cold weather and plenty of those drab, dreary days.
   When you add to that the recent earthquake in Japan followed by the Tsunami that left people homeless- many still missing-high gas prices, and plenty of inter-national strife, a dose of warm, sunny weather may be just what the doctor ordered.
   A neighbor who is a talented gardener, has already begun planting flowers and some vegetables from seed. He'll gradually move those young plants to cold frames he has scattered on the warm side of his house.
   About the time I'm thinking of doing some garden clean up and tilling, he'll be planting some of those little shoots, covering them at night for protection against the frost.
   His biggest competition in gardening comes from all the deer and woodchucks in the area who know from past experience, that he sets a good table.
   The seed catalogues have begun to arrive right along with Bass Pro and Cabelas showing all that is new in the fishing, hiking, paddling world, and what we must have to enjoy our outdoor pursuits to the fullest.
   Bring on spring. Not only will it be a refreshing addition to our daily lives, hopefully with all of the activity warmer weather seems to generate, will help take our minds off all the negative news we seem to be hearing lately.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Summer travel? Depends on gas prices!

   Here we go again. It seems each spring the question of travelling north for outdoor recreation becomes a big "if" and depends on the cost of gasoline.
   Depending on who you listen to, prices could go as high as $4 a gallon while others seem to think the prices will spike soon-maybe they already have-then get back down to below $3 a gallon.
   If you think you're going to be spending the summer close to home there is plenty to do. Besides the many parks in the area, Oakland County is home to hundreds of inland lakes many of which have public access and launch sites.
   Right there you've saved several gallons of gas by staying close to home. Now for the boat. Instead of a large, gas-guzzling walleye or bass boat, what about a fishing kayak?
   They are relatively cheap when compared to other fishing boats, use muscle power to get around, and don't require a trailer to haul them.
   Easy to launch, you can be on the water and fishing in no time. In fact, you don't need to back down the ramp to get the thing in the water.
   Anyplace you can legally get on a lake will do. Just slide it in off the bank and you're set to go. Of course you won't be able to haul all of the gear you would in a larger boat, but that is part of the fun.
   Planning the trip and what to take. I still go through all of my tackle trying to make decisions as to what to bring. There is always some baits that look great which make me think maybe I should have those along too.
   If these warm months are going to find you staying close to home, think about down-sizing into something you can use on these smaller lakes.
   Don't write summer off yet!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Kayak Fishing-a hit at Quiet Water Symposium

   Despite all the snow that fell this past Saturday, attendance was good and interest was even better at our booth, Kayak Fish The Great Lakes on the campus of MSU, in conjunction with the Quiet Water Symposium.
   To clarify, we don't have anything to sell at these shows. Our booth is informational and hopefully educational. We're trying to promote the sport of kayak fishing here in Michigan.
   We're able to do this by bringing our own boats and personal equipment to shows, setting them up, then answering questions and explain the who, what and why of what we do.
   Some of the equipment we use is homemade. It's come about from tinkering in the garage, seeing what others have done on their yaks, and looking at web sites that promote the sport.
   That brings me to Kayak Fish The Great Lakes or A Michigan-based web site, it's full of good information as well as links to other related sites having to do with kayak fishing.
   Take a look at it. Like the show and our booth, there is no cost. If you see what you like, join up. Again there is no cost.
   However, if you want to fish in the second annual No-Mo fishing tournament, a benefit for Make-A-Wish, there is a cost for entry of $50 which includes support for Make-A-Wish, a goody bag, a chance to show your stuff, and support for a worthy cause. Details are on the website.
   A lot of interest had to do with a product called Stowmate, which are individual bags or compartments designed to be used on boats and kayaks.
   Attached by Velcro strips or specially desgined tracks, these "pockets" allow you to see what is in them, keep things secure and well-organized, and can withstand wind and water.
   To see the complete line of StowMate products visit

Friday, March 4, 2011

Changing weather brings out the sap!

It's the stuff we like to pour over hot pancakes or waffles usually at the morning's breakfast. Maple syrup, or the main ingredient it's made from, begins flowing this time of the year.
   All around Michigan, maple trees are being tapped to capture that delicious, sweet sap that's boiled down to make syrup.
   It's a practice that has been going on for years and hasn't changed too much. Other than large, commercial syrup manufactures utilizing plastic pipe in an intricate system reminiscent of an irrigation system to collect sap from lots of trees, it still comes down to tapping at the correct time.
   Here in southeast Michigan, Huron-Clinton Metroparks offers programs on sap collection and demonstrations on how sap is converted into syrup. Throughout Michigan, farms and other sap-producing facilities have similar programs.
   Now, plan your outing to see maple syrup production, take the family and bring your camera. All you need is a destination. For information on the Metroparks, visit
   Watch for my story about maple syrup in this Sunday's Oakland Press.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quiet Water Symposium headed for MSU

   If you are considering a summer spent paddling either in a canoe or kayak you may want to attend the Quiet Water Symposium at Michigan State University this Saturday, 9a.m.-5p.m. It's located in one of the agriculture buildings on campus on Farm Lane. Great directions and other information may be found at
   Besides paddle sports there may be information on hiking, biking or other non-motorized activities. You'll see first-hand perfectly crafted canoes and paddles all built by hand.
   Riverside Kayak Connection will have booth space devoted to touring and fishing kayaks along with related equipment.
   Chris LeMessurier and I will be near RKC in our own area representing Kayak Fish the Great Lakes. That's a web site for those interested in fishing from a kayak. Visit for a look.
   We'll have several kayaks on display rigged for fishing and available to discuss fishing from kayaks, answer questions about equipment, and provide any assistance or advice to anyone interested in learning more about this growing sport.
   Last year we had a great response. Our booth was packed at times with potential kayak anglers, but most of the day found a steady stream of foot traffic in to see what was up with these boats sitting on racks, adorned with fishing rods and other related equipment.
   See you in Lansing!