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Training Academy #12: Week 8

Oct. 23-27, 2023

Author: PCO Ryan Jager, Plainwell, Michigan

Week 8 of Training Academy #12 was back at the DNR’s Rose Lake Shooting Range in Bath. The bulk of this week focused on learning about various fish species and how to identify them in Michigan’s rivers, inland lakes and Great Lakes. It was a hands-on training with many different species on display. We learned specific characteristics to differentiate species, some of which were hardly noticeable. It was nice having real fish available to handle so we could see the differences up close for ourselves.

People looking at fish on a table

Photo caption: Week 8 of Training Academy #12 focused on fish species identification and fish patrols. Probationary conservation officers were able to handle real fish that were on display in the classroom, so they could become familiar with characteristics of each.  

We learned enforcement techniques for the various types of fishing we will patrol throughout the state, ranging from checking charter captains on the Great Lakes to checking anglers ice fishing in shanties on inland lakes. We also learned how to identify illegal lures and snagging techniques on rivers and streams. 

Person measuring a fish on the ground next to a bucket

Photo caption: By the end of Week 8, PCOs were proficient with identifying different species of fish and daily limits. PCOs completed two scenarios in which they encountered instructors, who were acting as anglers committing various violations, and had to approach them and educate them about fishing regulations. 

Thursday, we had our final exam for everything “fishy” we learned throughout the week. The whole class agreed we were more comfortable identifying different fish species than when we started class Monday morning. After our exam, the instructors prepared a fish fry for lunch, allowing us the opportunity to sample different species that were freshly prepared. My favorite was brown trout, which I had not tried before.

Two men outside in the rain looking at a phone

Photo caption: An instructor who is pretending to be an angler during a fishing scenario, presents his fishing license on the DNR’s Hunt Fish app to a PCO.

Friday morning’s lesson was about tribal rules and regulations throughout the state. Instructors explained that some of us (based on our county assignments) would be working with tribal laws throughout the year, and that it is very important for us to understand treaty rights and the culture in the area. Friday afternoon we continued our survival tactics training, which built upon our training from Week 5.

Two men talking next to a fishing pole and bucket

Photo caption: A PCO (on the left) discusses several violations with an angler during a scenario, in which the PCO witnessed the angler (one of the instructors) snagging and taking undersized fish. Scenarios allows PCOs the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned throughout the week and receive constructive feedback.  

Most of us have been in contact with the field training officer who we will patrol with after graduation. We are getting excited for graduation and beginning the FTO program. After making it through water safety last week – the toughest week of our academy – it’s starting to feel like graduation is right around the corner!

Read Week 9.