Fishin’ in the Mitten: Get the scoop on best spots for big fish

A new visualization tool makes Michigan DNR’s Master Angler Program data easy to use and full of useful tidbits.

Fishin’ in the Mitten lets anglers access user-friendly maps and graphs that include 22 years of Master Angler Program entries from Michigan DNR.

Fishin’ in the Mitten lets anglers access user-friendly maps and graphs that include 22 years of Master Angler Program entries from Michigan DNR.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources maintains a database of entries in its Master Angler Program, which began in 1973 as a way to recognize anglers who catch a trophy-sized fish. In recent years, the program has also given anglers access to catch records for qualifying entries since 1993.

As an avid angler and educator for Michigan State University Extension, I have spent many hours poring over tables of data generated using the searchable database. The Master Angler database is a great resource for anglers curious about top places to fish for their favorite species, best methods of fishing for trophy-class specimens, and seasonal trends.

One drawback is that, until recently, anglers needed to sort data and create graphs on their own to get a handle on trends. A free data visualization tool called Tableau Public has been put to good use in making Master Angler Data a bit more user-friendly. Nolen Akerman, a senior business analyst at Kellogg Company, created Fishin’ in the Mitten to give anglers ready access to interactive maps and graphs that provide a wealth of information at a glance.

Want to find out which lures are top for trophy brown trout? No problem. Just click on the drop-down menu of species and select “brown trout” and you will find that over 87 percent of Master Angler browns have been taken by trolling.

How about a map of top spots for Master Angler brown trout? The map is also automatically generated when you select the species. A very large dot appears in Lake Michigan waters of Manistee County, and hovering the cursor over that dot shows that 146 award-winning brown trout have been caught here since 1993.

Want more info on when and how to fish Manistee County for giant browns? Just click on the dot and graphs are automatically filtered by location. This means you can figure out which fishing methods, lures/baits, and months of the year are best for brown trout in Lake Michigan waters of Manistee County with a quick click of the mouse!

The possibilities for exploring are nearly endless, and serious record hunters will want to check out the section at the bottom of each species profile, which explores how difficult it might be to break the state record. For example, the state record lake trout weighed 61.50 pounds but the next largest lake trout recorded by the Master Angler Program since 1993 weighed 42.19 pounds. With nearly 20 pounds between the first and second largest lake trout caught in recent history, this seems like a very “safe” state record that is not likely to fall anytime soon.

Contrast that with the white perch record, which fell last year. State records are set by weight, but six white perch as long or longer than the new state record have been caught since 1993. The next heaviest white perch weighed only 0.05 pounds less than the state record, which is a far cry from the 20 pound gap for lake trout!

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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