Left to Right; Keith Bergmann, Dwayne Durr, Jason Schlesinger
We all have that opening morning memory; that one year that it all fell together and was everything we had been hoping for happened.
2015 early goose opener was one of those mornings.
Early goose snuck up on me this year – even though every trip to the river to shoot fish, and every drive around the neighborhood I had been watching the number of geese rise, and was instinctively making note of their travel, flight and feeding patterns all at once it was the night before opening morning and I realized I was woefully unprepared. So woefully unprepared that I neglected to even get my duck stamp. That relegated me to shooting only with a camera instead of with a gun.
While it seems like almost everyone I know is in high deer season prep mode, waterfowl is where it’s at in my circle and I had the pleasure of being able to accompany two of my favorite waterfowl pro staffers and guides, Dwayne Durr and Jason Schlesinger, out for opening morning.
Schlensinger unloading decoys in quiet pre dawn hours
Durr had been watching a field near his house for a week or so and felt pretty sure we could scratch a few out. I always learn from both of these fellas, and sitting in the back seat of the truck as they discussed what would work best, little did they know I was mentally filing away all the whys and wherefores of their plan.
setting up the go pro
“Okay Dwayne, if these geese don’t get here soon, I’m going start shooting these doves!”
In nothing flat, the decoys were set out, the truck stashed and we began our wait for shooting time at the edge of the corn. Another hopeful goose hunter from the neighborhood, Keith Bergmann soon joined us.
Durr told us that the geese had been coming to feed around 6:30 every morning. Almost like clockwork, about 6:25 Schlesinger said “I hear ‘em – get in the corn!” and in they came. The first round knocked down 5.
As the fellas walked out to pick up the downed geese, suddenly there were more coming and the familiar “Get down! There’s more!” And down came number six.
Durr doing what he does best - putting birds in the bag
By 6:45 we were picking up decoys and heading home.
“Now that’s the kind of opening day I like” laughed Schlesinger, “Limited out and I’ll still be home in time to take baby girl school!”
Fair warning - if you are expecting images of a lovely shore lunch being enjoyed by hungry anglers - with plates, perfectly cooked fish - wild berries and mushrooms; that isn’t what you will see in this post. If snakes send you screaming - suffice it to say you might want to just stop reading now!
Yesterday was an incredibly beautiful day along the Kaskaskia - for a change it was not suffocatingly hot and humid. Receding flood waters had left the mud flats exposed and shore birds were feasting, bees, butterflies and all sorts of pollinators were zooming power lunching on the button bush, milkweed and other assorted weeds and wildflowers.
Bowfishing however was a bust. Despite the herds - nay - thousands of little gar, silvers and bigheads, there just weren’t any shootable fish showing up. Since there wasn’t much to shoot with the bow I just wandered along happily taking in all the other scenes that I stumbled across.
I was endlessly entertained and enthralled by the antics of hundreds of 6-8 inch juvenile gar chasing each other and the ever present carp fry.
I watched small silvers from thumb size up to the size of my hand practice their leaping abilities. Some were meeting untimely deaths as they soared right out of the water and into the mud and rocks. I saw one about the size of my hand struggling along n some rocks and decided I could get a nice up close look and a few photos. As I bent down and reached for the flipping fish I suddenly realized, the fish was not alone! Expertly disguised was a midland water snake having a fine shore lunch. The snake zipped off the rocks and into the water but quickly realized, swimming with a mouth full was a dicey proposition and returned to the bank with it’s prey.
For almost a half an hour I sat in the mud and watched the snake patiently work to get that palm sized fish in its mouth and down it’s gullet. WHEW! Just watching that wore me out! The thought did cross my mind that if I had to work that hard to get my meal in I might be wearing pants a few sizes smaller!
Finally - the snake is successful in getting it all in !
As always I feel very blessed to be able to have the opportunities I have to watch Mother Nature in action - even if it isn’t always pretty. It was fascinating to watch this this process!
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources last week sent several fisheries staff to assist the Illinois DNR with an ongoing Asian carp removal project. The goal of the project is to respond to the leading edge and reduce population levels of Asian carp threatening the Great Lakes via the Chicago Area Waterway System.
While there, Michigan staff assisted the Illinois DNR and commercial anglers in capturing and removing bighead and silver carp from reaches of the Illinois River south of Chicago. Although Asian carp (bighead or silver) are not present in any Michigan waters, this training provided critical knowledge to the Michigan DNR for potential future response efforts.
Methods used during the course of this training exercise included gillnetting, seining and electrofishing. All fish caught and removed were provided to a processor to make fertilizer.
Asian carp are shown in a net following a large-scale removal effort on the Illinois River that occurred last week, with the help of the Michigan DNR. Image courtesy of MI DNR
Eleven Michigan DNR staff members spent multiple days last week on the project. Another fisheries team conducted similar work in 2014. The DNR’s participation in this effort highlights its continued collaboration and dedication to addressing Asian carp issues in Michigan.
In addition to this recent training exercise, the DNR also has coordinated and participated in other field efforts to increase preparedness and implement portions of the state’s Asian Carp Management Plan. These include a field exercise on the St. Joseph River in the fall of 2013 and a multi-jurisdictional field exercise, co-led with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, on Lake Erie in the fall of 2014.
“Opportunities like the one we participated in last week are critical to maintaining regional collaboration and helping to reduce the Asian carp population that’s currently threatening the Great Lakes,” said DNR Senior Water Policy Advisor Tammy Newcomb. “The efforts provide valuable opportunities to help us address any Asian carp issues that threaten our state’s waters while we work toward additional preventative solutions in Illinois.”
Commercial anglers stand with their catch following an Asian carp removal effort on the Illinois River last week, which employees from the Michigan DNR assisted with. Image courtesy of MI DNR
For more information on Asian carp, visit michigan.gov/asiancarp.
Two videos documenting the DNR’s participation are available on YouTube:
Michigan DNR Asian Carp Training - Illinois River 2015
MDNR Asian Carp Training in Illinois - Impressive Netting