I posted a similar warning last year, but that was in August, when most people were fishing during the day. With the move to July and more night-time fishing going to occur, I thought it would be a good idea to post it again.

If you have never fished the AuSable, especially the Mason Tract, or the upper Manistee, you need to know that the woods around these rivers are more than meets the eye. These are not your typical grove of trees, or woods that you may be used to. These are wilderness areas, and as such you need to take extra precautions to stay safe (no Betty this has nothing to do with the cougars). If you are not careful you can get into some deep woods or swamps and get yourself lost in a hurry! Take it from someone who learned this lesson the hardway last year, if you stray from the fisherman trails into the woods, you can become completely disoriented. You can be less than 100 feet from a stream or trail in some areas and never even know it, and that is in the daytime!! You won't hear the stream, and trust me, no one will hear you!! At night, this will only be worse. I am serious about this. I was ignorant of this fact last year and a little too cavalier about it and it darn near got me in a WORLD of trouble! If there is time, I can share the story around the campfire some night, but for now just trust me!

There are some simple things you can do to keep yourself safe and insure that you will have the time of your life:

1) Always use the POSTED fisherman trails from parking areas to the river. Almost all of the parking areas have one if not more posted and/or obviously maintained trails. If not, strongly consider parking and fishing at another location. This is the single best way to make sure you will not get hurt. Do not be tempted to take a smaller trail that looks like it is a more direct path. Chances are it is a deer path and it could send you off into the woods.

2) Either go fishing with someone else (always the best option, there is always someone at the Fish-In you can tag along with, just ask), or let someone know where you are headed, when you are going and when you will be back.

3) Always carry with you - some water, food, and a cell phone (they should work in most of the Mason Tract areas).

4) Ask questions before you go to a site, and know what to expect. How far is the parking area from the river? What kind of water can I expect? Etc. Get a hold of the Michigan Atlas, and the AuSable and Manistee River Guide books. Then review them at the parking site before you head to the stream. DO NOT GO IN TOTALLY BLIND!

5) Consider carrying - a compass and map or preferrably a GPS unit (don't forget to waypoint the car before you leave), a small first aid kit/survival kit. Before you think I am totally crazy about that, ask yourself, what if I sprained my ankle/broke a bone/fell and hurt myself/got cut badly/etc. and had to patch myself up, or worse, couldn't make it back to the car and had to sleep the night out under the stars. Some matches and an emergency blanket would be real nice if the temp dipped into the 40's.

6) Things you should not need - a handgun. Don't get scared by stories of bears or cougars. That snapping sound you hear behind you is more likely to be a fisherman than a wild animal.

Of these recommendations, I would say that #1-3 are absolutely essential, #4 is always a smart idea, and #5 and 6 are just offered as food for thought. But I cannot stress #1-3 enough! THEY ARE ESSENTIAL, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE FISHING AFTER DARK!! If you follow #1-3, you more than likely can get away without worrying about the other recommendations. Take it from someone who was stupid enough not to follow any of these recommendations, and learned the hard way. Had I gotten lost like I did in the dark, I probably wouldn't have made it out to write this!

Just use your head, be safe, and I guarantee you will have a blast! Looking forward to seeing you all there!