Farmers markets won’t be hopping for weeks. But adventurous chefs know a feast of wild edibles thrives around us year round, especially in the springtime woods and waters in and around Sleeping Bear. If you’re into stalking more than supermarket aisles for real, honest food, read on...

Steelhead & Trout


Here in Northwest Lower Michigan, great fishing is literally found around every bend this time of year. The ice on inland lakes and ponds is all melting. But many local anglers turn their attention to fast-moving trout and steelhead water. The tiny, quiet Crystal River that runs through the heart of the Sleeping Bear Dunes holds both trout and steelhead during the months of March and April. And the last Saturday in April (25th) marks the traditional opening day for all Michigan trout streams.

The Crystal offers a couple good, public access points for anglers: the bridge on W. Overbrook Drive off M-22 and the bridge on county road 667 (look for the culvert pipes) are two popular spots. When wade fishing, just remember to respect private property rights.  Michigan Stream access law (click here to read it) says: “If the stream is navigable, the public may wade up the stream and fish but cannot trespass on the uplands. The Recreational Trespass Act does allow access to the upland in the event passage in the stream is obstructed. 

If you’re looking for a fishing adventure you can do with the whole family, head up to Northport April 25th for their annual trout fishing derby. Hosted every year by the Northport Sportsman Club, the annual Scott Brow Memorial Fishing Derby runs from 6am to 2pm and typical draws a couple hundred young fishermen and their parents to Northport’s Old Mill Pond on 3rd Street. The fishing contest award trophies for landing the largest trout based on length, and the pond is usually stocked with more than a few whoopers. There is a five-fish limit, and ribbons are given away to anyone who catches a fish. There’s also coffee for parents, hot chocolate and donuts in the early hours and hot dogs by mid-morning. Make sure to bring your own fishing gear and bait. And dress warm.

Finding Morels

Finding Morelssource:

While there are many wild edibles growing in the woods within the boundaries of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, morels definitely get the nod when it comes to the most coveted wild delicacy in the woods. (From leeks to dandelion, click here for the Visitors Bureau’s shortlist of other “forager favorites” for lakeshore locals.)

Exactly when morels begin to pop, as they say, depends on a witch’s brew of weather conditions—namely ever-warming days and gentle rain. While serious morel hunters are sometimes scouring the woods for the elusive mushroom by the end of April, morel mania typical comes to a head in Northwest Lower Michigan around mid-May.

If you’re love the taste of morels but are sorely lacking in the skills to find them, hire a guide like Glen Arbor’s Kelly Harris. A certified Michigan Mushroom Identification Expert, Harris is licensed through the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and is as passionate about mushrooms as she is about educating others on how to do it. Harris does not charge a set rate for her service. She accepts donations, usually around $20. To get in touch and arrange a “mushroom treasure hunt,” check out her public group Facebook page—Moonshine & Mushrooms (click here)—and send her a PM. 

Turkey Hunting

Turkey Huntingsource:

If you’ve been following the Facebook follies of the Traverse City Turkeys,  you probably think turkeys are pretty are pretty dumb naïve. Strutting around in the middle of the road.  Charging pickups with snowplows in the middle of rush-hour traffic. Wild turkeys like these give the pastime of turkey hunting a bad name.

Out in the woods, however, a wild turkey is frustratingly cunning bird. Coaxing a thundering adult gobbler into close-range is one of the most difficult and thrilling experiences in the outdoors. And there are few places more perfect for pursuing the birds than the rolling forested hills, beautiful farm and orchard country of Leelanau County and the Sleeping Bear Dunes.

The Lakeshore is open to public hunting, year-round, and that includes the annual spring hunt for wild turkeys. (The general season runs May 9th to 31st this year.) A park-issued entrance pass and state-issued hunting license are all that’s required. Click here for information on special restrictions for hunting within the lakeshore. For state regulations and hunting license costs and information, click here for the most current edition of the Michigan DNR’s  2020 Spring Turkey Digest.