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Take time Feb. 18 to fish with your kids

Out, See, Go by Chris Engle, contributor

Darkness fell across Otsego Lake and the wind picked up, pounding on the fabric walls of my shanty like the cold breath of the big, bad wolf. I unzipped the door and stepped out to shovel more snow against the walls to secure the shelter in its place on the ice. By the light of my headlamp, I walked the 50 feet to check the bait on my two tipups nearly buried in windswept snow.

The lines were still baited, their minnows circling in the black water. Walleye had been hunting here the night before but, so far this evening, they were all but absent.

As I marched back to my shanty through slush and blowing snow, a thought passed through my mind: “What the heck am I even doing out here?” With the fish not biting, a frozen lake in a snowstorm is not a pleasant place to be, even with shelter.

Just then, the flap door of one of a dozen nearby shanties zipped open, spilling light and warmth into the night. Out stepped two kids, bundled against the elements to check their own tipups while dad watched their lines inside.

“Suck it up,” I told myself.

My daughter joined me on a couple fishing trips last week at her request. The timing couldn’t have been better – with the “January thaw” in full swing, temps were in the 40s and the ice surface was clear of snow, making walking easy for her little feet even though she prefers when I tow her in the sled.

Paige peeks through the window of her shanty for a picture.

Paige peeks through the window of her shanty for a picture.

A fisherwoman I’d met the day before was back again and welcomed us out. She pointed us to some holes a short distance away that had been vacated by another fisherman.

“He was getting a lot of action over there,” she said. “He caught some nice perch too.”

Paige and I set up on those holes and in just a few minutes a flag went up on one of our tipups. There was a fat perch on the other end of the line and Paige jumped around, happy to have a fish to play with in her gloved hands.

“See?!” The woman shouted from her bucket seat 50 yards away. “I told you they were there!”

Over the next hour Paige and I put five perch on the ice, a meal’s worth for our small family. Using my ice scooper, she carried each fish to a pile, stacking them carefully on top of each other like steamed corn cobs on a platter. Naturally they flipped and flopped and she chased them around with her scooper, laughing and scolding the fish.

Paige and I with a nice perch caught on Otsego Lake in January.

The trip ended when she stepped in a slush pocket and got a wet foot. We packed up our gear and fish and headed back to shore, Paige lying on her back in the sled and staring at the sky.

Our outing a day later was a lot slower and Paige blazed through her snacks while she watched her motionless fishing rod. That trip was a lesson in patience and she passed the time by belting out a Taylor Swift song on repeat, her words slurred through a mouthful of Goldfish crackers.

This week is bound to be a typical one for February, with highs in the teens and lows in the single digits. I’ll leave it to Paige whether she wants to go fishing after school but, with a new set of waterproof boots rated to -25*, she’s apt to be up for it. It will likely be me who will need some coaxing.

Even if you don’t have any gear or a fishing license, you can still have an ice-fishing experience with your kids right here in Gaylord.

Saturday, Feb. 18 marks the annual Youth Ice Fishing Derby at Otsego Lake State Park. Hosted by the Northland Sportsmen’s Club of Gaylord, the event provides poles, holes, bait and tackle to kids and parents. The event is held during Michigan’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend so all license fees are waived, and the park will waive passport fees for that morning.

Good luck and have fun!

Chris Engle lives with his family in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at

Locals Vote Best Chili in Gaylord


It’s fall and there is nothing better than a warm hearty bowl of chili.  Chili, with beans or without, spicy or mild, from white chicken, beef or venison; a bowl of chili is just as unique as the individual who eats it.  Eat it alone or pour it over fries and bowl-of-chilibaked potatoes.  Add garnishes like fritos, cheese and/or sour cream and serve it with a side of corn bread.

We have cook-offs, contests, and tail gates to boast our favorite recipes….and in true fashion we asked our readers where their favorite place is to warm their palate on a “chili” autumn day.

The votes are in.  Although a couple of you felt your house was the best place for chili; we doubt you want people showing up on your doorstep.  So, for a tasty bowl…drum roll please… Louie Louie’s BBQ!  Stop in to this deli located on Gaylord’s west side.  Choose from Spicy smoked pork or white chicken chili….mmm mmm good.

For your own version of spicy smoked pork Chili try this 5 Star recipe:


Have You Herd?

Jack Elk 1

Gaylord has it’s very own elk herd.  The Elk Park has over 70 elk, sika and fallow deer contained on 108 acres.  September is one of the best months to observe.  The male bulls are trying to establish dominance for mating with the female cows.  They are very active and make loud vocalizations known as “Bugling.” Their antlers are impressive and can weigh up to 40 pounds.  Some of these bulls weigh over 800 pounds and stand roughly 6’ tall.  The West end of the Elk Park is located at 116 Grandview Blvd. or take a walk on the paved trail in Aspen Park and view the South end.

The DNR also has a list of over 11 elk viewing locations.  Most viewing locations can be accessed by seasonal roads; however, some may require a short hike.  The Pigeon River State Forest is just a short drive from Gaylord.   This 105,000 acre forest is home to the Midwest’s only free ranging elk herd.

For More Information Visit>>>





National Left Handers Day, Saturday, August 13th

Fellow lefties, advocates and supporters,                                                                                                  right handed desk

It’s National Left Hander’s day!  We definitely need to celebrate and raise awareness of the many challenges we face on a daily basis.  As children they tried to make us conform and write with our right hands but we persevered.  We took tests and wrote on the infamous half desk top (mysteriously only made for right handed children).  Many of us have learned to compensate and are able to exercise some ambidextrous abilities (like using right handed scissors and potato peelers).  Sometimes we even forget how unique we are.   People around us are a constant reminder.  They are amazed by us and often marvel and point out our left handedness when they see us writing.  So, when you are strategically placing yourself at a table of right handers be proud southpaw, only 10-12% of all people on earth are left handed!

Out See Go: Time for ice inventory

By Chris Engle, contributor

There was one day a year at the convenience store where I worked in college when every item in the shop – from the dustiest Caramello candy bar to the freshest pack of Camel cigarettes – was counted and logged.

January 1 was Inventory Day and I managed to weasel out of it every year, leaving the tedium to my coworkers at the cost of time-and-a-half wage of $7.75 an hour.

In theory, the idea was to start every year off fresh with a list of what we had in stock. In practice, it was an excuse to get rid of anything past its expiration date which, let’s be honest, included every single Caramello.

Though I never participated in Inventory Day I have personally applied the concept to my collection of fishing tackle ahead of every season.

With ice fishing so delayed this year I thought I’d take the time to share with you what my inventory holds. In return, I’d like to hear your suggestions on must-have lures for a winter tackle box.

My winter tackle box was a gift from my wife and her friend in senior year of high school. It was filled with Swedish Fish candy and gummy worms.

My winter tackle box was a gift from my wife and her friend in senior year of high school. It was filled with Swedish Fish candy and gummy worms.


I’ve ordered my list by species and have included photos for reference because I honestly can’t remember what most of these lures are called.


In summer, bluegills, sunfish and crappie are aggressive feeders, gobbling down big chunks of worm and minnows casted on jigs. In winter their metabolism, appetite and physical activity slows to a crawl and bait presentations need to be adjusted accordingly.

By watching on an underwater camera and through the hole in a dark shanty, I’ve seen that panfish feed by approaching the bait slowly and slurping it in horizontally. The best option is to use a horizontal jig with a #8 or smaller hook bending upward.

My choice for panfish: #8 tungsten jig, the pinker the better.

My choice for panfish: #8 tungsten jig, the pinker the better.

Some of these jigs have flat bodies which help impart a nice wiggling action to a bait when jigged lightly. The tungsten ones are also heavy for their size which lets you go without a split shot, meaning less distraction for bluegill. My favorite colors: hot pink/yellow.


I’ve always preferred using minnows for perch and any lure that lets the minnow swim freely will work to your benefit.

This style of teardrop has been my go-to for perch for years. Bobber for size comparison.

This style of teardrop has been my go-to for perch for years. Bobber for size comparison.

Weighted tear drops that hang vertically will allow a back-hooked minnow to move in a circular motion and attract more fish. Some anglers will hook a minnow further back on the tail and make the baitfish swim faster in order to right itself. Favorite colors: white, green, pink.


Most tipup fishermen will use a super sized perch rig for walleye and bait those lines with walleye minnows (blues or grays).

I don’t have much luck with tipups and prefer to be more hands-on with my tactics. Thankfully there’s some great jigs for this purpose.

Looking like miniature stingrays, these winged jigs fly and glide in wide circles when jigged and are good at kicking up sand and silt from the bottom as a way to attract fish. At rest, a large lip-hooked minnow can still swim freely on the horizontal hook.

My walleye jigs of choice.

My walleye jigs of choice.

It’s important to remember to keep your line taut on the down-stroke because that’s when most walleye hit. A slack line means you won’t feel the bite and you’ll probably miss the fish. Favorite colors: Yellow, orange, green.


The most predictable thing about rainbows and splake is that they are unpredictable. Any of these tactics applied on trout lakes will catch fish but I’ve always found spoons to be the best bet.

Trout are in deeper water and this calls for a heavy lure that’s going to sink fast. The gold standard for ice-fishing spoons is the Swedish Pimple, a slim, dense lure that falls straight down where you want it.

Swedish Pimples come in all sizes and several different shapes but I’ve always preferred the smaller, narrowest versions. New lures come with an extra single hook and red or yellow plastic accents. I usually opt for the treble hook (to bait up with two waxworms or minnows) and the red plastic fin to mimic blood.

Mepps spoon on left, Swedish Pimple on right.

Mepps spoon on left, Swedish Pimple on right.

If you’re looking for more action in your lure, consider a Mepps Little Wolf. Its curved spoon shape will spin and flutter more with each jig but be careful: You’re more apt to get tangled and twisted with one of these. Favorite colors: silver, blue, pink, gold.


The lakes around Otsego County where trout reside often have smelt too, but it’s going to take a much more subdued tactic to catch these finicky fish.

Again you’ll be in deep water so you will need a heavy lure that can get back down to the fish quick. You’ll also need a small hook for the smelt’s tiny mouth.osg6

For smelt it’s all about the Hali Jig, a pencil-shaped spoon with a thin, wiry hook dangling from a fine chain. Favorite colors: silver, blue, pink, white.

In the past couple years I’ve doubled my odds at a fish by tying a small black nymph fly about 18 inches to 2 feet above my Hali jig and tipping it with a waxworm. I catch about half of my fish on the Hali; the other half, on the fly.

Just a warning: If you have a fish on the Hali Jig, be careful as you bring it up to the hole. The fly has a tendency to snag on the bottom edge of the ice and I’ve lost a few fish when this happens.

The last item for the inventory is ice. Let’s hope it shows up soon!

Chris Engle is an avid outdoorsman and outdoor columnist for the Gaylord Area Convention & Tourism Bureau and the Gaylord Herald Times. He lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at

Me and my dog at Section Four Pond during a July 2009 hike with friends.

Out, See, Go: Adventure is subjective

By Chris Engle, outdoor contributor

A friend of mine works for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado. His job is to four-wheel and backpack his way up Colorado mountainsides and clear trails with his chainsaw. On his days off, he posts pictures to Facebook for every 14,000-foot mountain he summits in the Denver area. He’s at 24 and counting.

Another buddy in the Forest Service – coincidentally they’re both named Eric – has fought forest fires on an island in Washington’s Puget Sound. He and his fellow firefighters spend days at a time living in the backcountry working 14- and 16-hour shifts digging trenches and bulldozing fire breaks in the trees. They sleep in tents and eat out of cans and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

I, on the other hand, feel like I live on the opposite end of the high-adventure spectrum. I’ve rarely wandered outside of Michigan and have never left the country. I didn’t go to a university where they offered rock climbing or backcountry canoeing as electives. I regret that I’ve never seen Yellowstone National Park or the Appalachian Mountains but it doesn’t mean I never will.

Even so I’ve still taken some really great camping trips with family and friends and some of my best memories come from time spent in the Pigeon River Country State Forest with the two Erics.

I hiked the Shingle Mill Pathway with Eric Collins – “Colorado Eric” – and another friend Nathan in July 2009. We took our time covering the 12-mile loop.

The first day we stopped at Section Four Pond, an emerald-green sinkhole lake once stocked with trout. We fished for an hour in the hot sun before a thunderstorm rolled in and, for the next 20 minutes, it rained harder than I’ve ever seen before. We took shelter under overhanging branches – I chose to sit in a patch of poison ivy.

Once the storm passed Nathan caught a beautiful little rainbow trout that glimmered in the sunshine like a piece of silver jewelry.

That night, by the fire, Eric unpacked a small Rubbermaid container with all the fixings for three smores. He recited a line from “The Sandlot” as he assembled his sandwich of chocolate and marshmallow.

“First you take the graham,” he said. “You stick the chocolate on the graham. Then you roast the mallow. When the mallow’s flaming, you stick it on the chocolate then you cover it with the other end.

“THEN you stuff,” he said, taking a bite. We were rolling laughing with his ridiculously spot-on memory of the 90s movie.

MY FIRST TWO winter camping adventures were shared with Eric Dasso – “Washington Eric” – at Cornwall Flooding in the Pigeon River forest.

On the first trip we spent over an hour chopping through two feet of ice with a hatchet to try and catch a meal of panfish. Our cone-shaped hole tapered to just a couple inches wide when we finally broke through the bottom. Maybe it was all that chopping which scared the fish away but we never even got a bite.

That night our tarp shelter crinkled in the wind so much that we hardly got any sleep.

On the second time out I had a 30-minute lead ahead of Eric snowshoeing through the woods to our campsite. The sun set, it got cold, my sweat froze and I got nervous. My snowshoe caught a hidden branch and I fell. My bag chair, camera tripod and sleeping bag came loose from the straps of my pack and sank into the snow. I was miserable and it was the scariest moment I’ve ever had in the woods.

I collected my things and eventually made it to camp in the dark. I had time to build a fire and dry some of my clothes before Eric finally showed. He had reluctantly followed my tracks into thick tag alders knowing I’d made a wrong turn. Instead of taking the correct route, he pursued me to make sure I was OK.

Now there’s a friend.

THAT’S what these kinds of trips are good for. Whether it’s one night or 10, special bonds form when you spend time together in the outdoors.

Another friend of mine, Alex Code, has climbed rock cliffs in at least six states and met his girlfriend on a month-long canoeing excursion they were leading together in Canada. They had 20-some college freshmen tagging along as they paddled from lake to lake, spending as much time on the water as they did on shore.

He taught one girl, who had never canoed before, how to hold her paddle sideways while portaging over a bog so that it would stop her fall if she were to break through the floating mat of moss.

Another student ran screaming into the woods when the constant swarms of mosquitoes caused him to crack the first night.

He’s spent the night on a rock ledge jutting out from a cliff face and resumed climbing the next day.

Alex told me these stories Saturday while we fished together on Manuka Lake. This was no high-adventure trip, just a short drive and a very short walk onto the ice where we caught a couple bluegill and a bass.

I told him about a five-day hike I took along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula – my longest and greatest backcountry trip ever but a cake-walk compared to his experiences.

“I’ve always wanted to do that,” he said. “I love that place.”

— Chris Engle is an avid outdoorsman and stay-at-home dad who lives in Hayes Township, Otsego County. He can be reached at

A memo to all golfers this spring: Enjoy the game regardless of course conditions!


Finally, after one of the longest and coldest winters in history, golf courses in northern Michigan are now open and have apparently battled the elements and avoided the tough conditions many courses in the southern part of the State are enduring.

Many courses have opened later than normal and may take extra time to get their fairways and greens in shape following one of the most brutal winters ever. Golfers heading out to their local courses or making that special golf trip this spring should be prepared to accept course conditions that might not be as perfect as in previous years.

Do not be upset with your local golf courses about the conditioning. It is not their fault. Point the finger at Mother Nature. The upper Midwest experienced some of the worst ice storms and frost levels in more than 100 years. Courses are scrambling and working hard now to get their facilities up to par, but it will take time.

Be happy about getting out and playing this wonderful game. Take time to appreciate all of the good things golf brings to us. One of the problems that the American golfer always has is often called the “Augusta National Effect,” as in expecting every course to match the lush, green landscape they see on television each spring when watching the Masters Tournament. Superintendents, who work in a different climate area and can’t possibly maintain a budget or staff to match Augusta National, deal with very high expectations when it comes to course conditions. It’s ludicrous.

Public and private golfers should take note of the history of golf’s origins overseas in Scotland. Golf is not a game of perfect conditions. Courses overseas are often brown, imperfect and have slower green speeds. Yet, the golfers love to play there, and Americans spend great amounts of money to travel there and play. So why then do we expect so much from our courses and conditioning here? If our courses were brown in a few spots and firm with slower greens, the game can still be enjoyed. It would also be easier and take less time, but that is a story for another day.

For now I suggest to golfers and course operators: Let’s start the season by rolling the ball. Yes, this former PGA golf professional said it. Let’s play “winter rules” through the green this spring, enjoy the game and not be upset about the conditions.

In this era of trying to make the game more enjoyable, easier and make it play faster, this spring would be the perfect time for “winter rules.” This would allow golfers some positive relief and allow them to enjoy the game more.

Be patient golfers. Your superintendents are the best in agronomy and they will get your course back to its prime condition. It will just take some time!

Father’s Day at Wings Over Gaylord

Tiffany Larson

I have to admit, trying to come up with a great idea on somewhere to take my husband for his first Father’s day was haunting me for weeks. Our son was born in December, and in just a few short months we had transformed from a young couple with no children, to a mother and a father. I wanted to be able to give my husband a great day to celebrate all we had accomplished, but between late night feedings and sleep deprivation my creative side was clearly lacking. When I had pretty much given up on making father’s day special, a co-worker mentioned the Airshow that happens in Gaylord every Father’s Day weekend.

I logged online and found out all the information I could on Wings over Gaylord. This is an awesome airshow that features a ton of unique aircrafts including a B-25, a Super Decathlon, and a 942 Consolidated Vultee SNV-1 Valiant. Let me first say, I have no idea what any of these things are, but I can tell you that my husband was ecstatic about all of them! I decided that the best way to celebrate father’s day was to make it a family event, so I purchased tickets for myself and my husband, my in-laws, and my parents so that we could all go together. At only $10.00 a ticket (for a two day show), I could not have found a better deal!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We headed down around 10:00am on Saturday even though the aerial performances did not start until 1:00PM. Parking was very organized, simple, and free! It was a little bit of a walk from parking to the runway, but nothing major. We had a lot of fun just walking around, there were plenty of things to see- and even some inflatable bounce houses for the kids to play on. Not my child of course- he was only a few months old and sleeping very soundly in his stroller. We brought our own chairs and set them up right on the side of the runway and watched the aerial show until 4:00PM when the show ended for the day. It was amazing to be able to see all of the planes up close!

Overall, it was an incredible weekend, and my husband said that it was the best Father’s day gift he could have received.  We are very much looking forward to this year’s airshow. I think we are making it a Father’s Day family tradition. This year I am even more excited because I plan on surprising my husband with a helicopter ride that they do right at the show!  I would highly recommend Wings Over Gaylord to anyone, for a $10.00 ticket you can enjoy two days’ worth of unique entertainment for the whole family.