By Sydney DeLosh
Mason Times staff writer
The Mid Michigan Steelheaders continued their mission to keep fishing active in the state on March 31 and April 1 at the second Mid Michigan Sport Fishing Show at the Ingham County Fairgrounds.
The Mid Michigan Steelheaders, a chapter in Holt, is a group of 60 who have come together to continue developing fishing in Michigan and get more people involved.
“Our main focus is to get younger people into fishing and keep fishing alive in Michigan,” said Doug Herbruck, chapter president. “We want to get them interested in fishing and out of trouble. It gives them something to do besides sit at home and play video games or something.”
Last year, the group realized there hadn’t been a fishing show in Lansing in recent years and decided to sponsor a one-day event at the fairgrounds in February 2011. This year, the group expanded the show to two days and brought in professional walleye fisherman Mark Martin as a guest speaker in addition to boat dealers and booths of tackle and marine products.
A unique booth at the show was from Brookhaven Lake. This private, fly-fishing only lake in Clare County has led a project to bring Michigan’s native Arctic Grayling back to Michigan waters. The fish, which gave Grayling, Mich., its name, has been reintroduced to the lake after eggs were raised and distributed in it.
“This is actually really big news in Michigan,” said Jeff Johnson of Brookhaven Lake. “A fish that’s been extinct being brought back, that’s huge!”
Money that the Mid Michigan Steelheaders raised at this event will be given to its youth programs, specifically the Dr. Bill Earl Fishing Program. This program, named after a member who passed away in 2010, hosts three fishing clinics in May for local youth.
“Bill just loved kids, so we wanted to honor him and his family with this youth program,” said member John Hesse.
At clinics, the participants are given a tackle box and complete three learning stations where they learn about rigging, safe casting with rods and reels, and the regulations and ethics of fishing from conservation officers.
Participants can earn completion certificates and a youth fishing license.
“It gives kids a feeling of ownership in the fishery,” said Hesse. “They know they’re helping to manage the fishery by continuing to buy a license every year.”
To engage children, the group brought a trout pond and a fishing simulator. Children could fish for trout and even take them home if they wished. The fishing simulator gave the children a virtual fishing experience without having to go outdoors.
“It helps us to help kids learn how to fish,” said member Mike Shewell. “This gives them a good idea if they’ve never been out on the water. It’s as close as you can get.”