In Michigan, spring arrives from south to north

About the only boats moving around in the Upper Peninsula right now are ice breakers like this one – the USCG Alder, which was moving up the St. Marys River shipping channel towards the Soo Locks while the writer was ice fishing March 19. (Photos by Tom Pink)

It’s officially spring, but most Yoopers from one end of the Upper Peninsula to the other are still shaking their heads at this winter that is only now slowing giving way to the sun’s warmth. Even the residents of the “banana belt” counties along the UP’s southern edge are ready to cry “uncle.”

It still amazes me to see how different our state is from north to south. During the week before the official first day of spring, my daughter and niece in southern Michigan texted to tell me there were many flocks of Canada geese and tundra swans headed my way. As I received those messages, I was fishing in an ice shack that was sitting on about two feet of ice. I told the girls I wasn’t sure where the birds would land.

Ice breaker CCGC Samuel Risley as seen from inside of the writer’s ice shack window on the St. Marys on March 21. The ship is based in Ottawa but works the upper Great Lakes and was headed out to Superior to assist U.S. cutters.

Spring bird migration is a give-and-take kind of thing – the birds move as far north as the weather will let them, and they’ll retreat a bit if a winter storm pushes them back. Still, now that spring is officially here, I’m sure we’ll see Canada geese staking out territory and walking around the ice while we’re fishing on it.

Besides migrating birds, southern Michigan has spring blossoms pushing up, while in the north, we can’t walk around in the back yard without snowshoes. Fishermen are on Lake Erie in boats, while the only boats moving around here in the north are ice breakers.

But the signs of spring are there if you look. While ice fishing, I’ve been listening for geese and sandhill cranes. I still haven’t heard any, but gulls are coming back in greater numbers, as are crows. I can hear them today. The geese can’t be far behind.

Categories: Blog Content, Ice Fishing, Michigan – Tom Pink

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