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Winter Fishing Tips

February 28, 2013: Tip-ups, a no brainer while ice fishing
Tip-ups have been a popular ice fishing method for ages and over time these contraptions have gotten more and more effective. As a result, many anglers swear by them while targeting certain species during the winter.

While older versions of tip-ups were wooden, new versions are plastic and often have helpful features, including a line guide and a tripping mechanism.

Most often tip-ups are used to target northern pike, brown and rainbow trout, walleye, and even larger perch. Anglers will often use heavy, braided line that's black with their tip-ups, which withstands freezing temperatures, tangling and getting lost when it's pooled on the ice.

Consider using a tip-up when you make your next trip on the ice. Want to know more about ice fishing in Michigan, perhaps with tip ups? Check out our ice fishing article online!

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

February 21, 2013: Looking for inland trout this winter? Try Crystal Lake!
Lake trout, one of Michigan's native sport fish, can be a fun species to target, even in the winter months. One of the best inland spots to target this fish is Crystal Lake in Benzie County, where the DNR stocks 60,000 lake trout each spring.

Crystal Lake consists of more than 9,700 acres of great fishing, with lake trout primarily hanging out in the western two-thirds of the lake where deeper water is available. If you're interested in paying a visit to this destination, try one of the following techniques for lake trout:

1. Jig with heavy spoons or jigs and outfit your lure with a strip of sucker meat, smelt (of which there is a population of on Crystal Lake) or the head of a minnow.
2. Use tip-ups with a live smelt or emerald shiners to capture the attention of lake trout.

Crystal Lake has a healthy population of rainbow trout, yellow perch and burbot as well, keep that in mind as you head out on the ice! We should also mention Crystal Lake has coho salmon and is one of only two inland lakes in Michigan with its own population of "landlocked" coho salmon (the other being Glen Lake in Leelanau County)!

Want to know more about fishing for lake trout on Crystal Lake? Check out the lake map of Crystal Lake to get you started!

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

February 14, 2013: Go fishing for FREE this weekend!
Just a reminder this Saturday and Sunday brings the 2013 Winter Free Fishing Weekend to Michigan!

On those two days all fishing license fees will be waived. Residents and out-of-state visitors will be able to enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes' waters for all species of fish during their respective open seasons. Please note all regulations still apply during that time.

There are plenty of ways to take advantage of the upcoming Free Fishing Weekend ? whether that means heading out to your favorite fishing hole or taking your family to an organized event. Events are being held throughout Michigan, including in the counties of Antrim, Bay, Clinton, Gogebic, Ingham, Iron, Monroe, Montcalm, Oakland, Ogemaw, Presque Isle, Roscommon, Tuscola, Van Buren, Washtenaw, Wayne and Wexford.
Please note all events are subject to local weather conditions.

More information on the events mentioned above and on this weekend's unique opportunity to fish for free can be found at

February 7, 2013: Thinking about late winter crappie fishing
It might seem difficult to imagine late winter ice fishing at this point, with snow steadily coming down, but before you know it last stage ice will be here and with it new crappie fishing opportunities.

Right before ice disappears, crappie tend to launch into a feeding frenzy; stemming from more light penetrating the surface and causing the food chain to pick up, increased oxygen levels, and more daylight available. Planning a trip with these conditions in mind can prove to be very successful.

Also remember that crappie are often one of the first fish to spawn after the ice, so you may find schools of them congregated near weed edges or near structure at the first signs of spring.

Keep these two periods of time in mind throughout the coming weeks and/or months. And if you want even more information on fishing for crappie in Michigan, check out their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

January 31, 2013: Targeting panfish when there's lots of ice
Fishing for panfish can become quite difficult at certain points during the winter, particularly when ice and snow are at their thickest. Thick ice and snow hinder fish habitat as a result of decaying vegetation and low oxygen levels which result in changes to the food cycle.

There are a few things you can do to overcome these obstacles:

1. Look for areas on your chosen water body that have new ice, allowing for more light to penetrate.
2. Search for areas where the wind has blown the snow off, as opposed to heavily snowed areas.
3. Consider finding a new water body to fish, particularly one that is larger and deeper and likely to have frozen later than other lakes.

Just focusing on the location you chose to fish can help your panfish outing be that much better!

Want even more information on fishing for panfish? Check out their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

January 24, 2013: What you need to know to catch walleyes this winter!
Many anglers love to target walleyes during open water fishing, but they're leery to target them once ice arrives. But fishing for walleyes in the winter can be just as fun, if you follow some of the tips below!

Where to fish
When ice is new plant yourself on top of shallow shelves that have sharp drop-off points. Then, as the ice thickens, head to deeper water but still stick close to those drop-off locations. You might also want to find places with structure that appeal to schools of bait fish.

When to fish
Since walleyes are fairly photosensitive, the best time to target them is during periods of low-light. That means cloudy days will probably be perfect for an all-day trip, or sunrise and sunset work great as well.

How to fish
Consider jigging for this species very close to the bottom with a good lure or a nice minnow or two.

Want even more information on fishing for walleyes? Check out their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

January 17, 2013: Master Angler, recognizing big catches since 1973!
This year marks the 40th anniversary of the DNR's successful Master Angler program. Launched in 1973 to better recognize anglers who catch unusually large fish, the Master Angler program began with just 19 species of fish eligible to win distinctive Master Angler shoulder patches. In 1992, the catch and release category was established.

Master Angler has expanded over time to include 52 various species for which anglers may compete for honors. At the end of each calendar year, recognition certificates are also awarded to anglers entering the top five fish in each category.

The 2013 Master Angler application is already available, and can be obtained at

The deadline for submitting an entry is January 10, 2014. Be sure to include a photo of your fish if it has not already been identified by a DNR fisheries biologist.

January 10, 2013: Bigger baits may attract bigger fish
What might seem like a common sense idea is not always used by anglers during winter fishing. What idea is that? Using bigger baits to attract bigger fish through the ice!

While many argue fish are lethargic and unmotivated during the colder months and require a smaller bait to encourage them to bite, as a consequence you'll often end up with very small fish on the end of your line.

By increasing the size of your bait ? not significantly, just by a couple of sizes ? you'll encourage bigger fish to come in for a closer look while scaring off smaller fish.

Want more information on ice fishing? Visit

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

December 20, 2012: Ice fishing tips you can use (later) this winter
Although it seems unlikely we'll have ice, let alone snow, for the holidays?we wanted to offer you some ice fishing tips you can hopefully use this winter.

1. When choosing an auger, consider a hand or battery-powered option. They're usually easier to haul than the gas-powered version and work just as well. Just remember to keep the blades sharp!
2. Headed out to water more than six feet deep? Don't forget your slip bobber and a bobber stop! Just remember if it's freezing out, most slip bobbers won't work so you may need to fashion something else to work.
3. Regardless of the technique you prefer, consider using more than one to see better success out on the ice.

Want more information on ice fishing? Visit

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

December 13, 2012: Are you ready (and prepared) to go ice fishing?
Several parts of Michigan should hopefully have ice in the coming weeks, thus providing anglers with an opportunity to go fishing during the colder months. Will you be joining them? Then it's time to get prepared to head out safely on the ice!

You'll need some special equipment if you head out ice fishing. Take stock of your spud/auger, skimmer, shelter and apparel to have an enjoyable experience out on the water.

Pick your preferred ice fishing technique and the species you wish to target and brush up on your skills. That could be hook-and-line fishing for bluegill, sunfish, perch or crappie; using tip-ups for northern pike, walleye or trout; or spearing for northern pike, muskellunge or sturgeon.

You should always stay safe when heading on the ice. These five tips can help: 1) Never fish alone; 2) Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return; 3) Always test the ice with a spud; 40 Take the appropriate emergency items, such as a lifejacket and ice picks; and 5) Take a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help. Keep it in a plastic, sealable bag to make sure it doesn't get wet.

Want more information on ice fishing? Visit

December 6, 2012: Targeting Northern Pike at First Ice
Many anglers will agree that the first ice of the winter season often produces some of the best northern pike fishing you can find.

There could be a couple of reasons why this is so, perhaps it's because there are plenty of baitfish for them to target thanks to a decrease in weed cover or perhaps it's because first ice is often clear and allows the sight-feeding fish to target their prey more easily because of the penetration of sunlight. Regardless, the coming weeks (weather permitting) are a great time to target this species.

You'll want to use a tip-up for this type of fishing, with a minnow or small panfish on the end of your line. Keep in mind you can catch small panfish in the lake you're fishing and legally use them as bait in the same water body.

Target similar areas that you may have fished for northern pike when there was still open water and you might see some success!

Click here for more information on northern pike fishing in Michigan.

This tip is adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

February 23, 2012: Catch More Bluegills by Eliminating Jig Spin
For those anglers who do get an opportunity to head out on the ice this winter, a tip to enhance your bluegill fishing success is to eliminate jig spin. It is difficult for bluegills to eat a jig when it's spinning at the end of a line - try these three simple activities to help combat this problem.

Stretching out the line is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent jig spin. If you are using a spinning reel just get into the habit of stretching out the first couple of feet of line every time you bring the jig up.
Balancing your line and the jig is another easy thing you can do. When you have balance your line will hang straight because of the weight of the jig.
Sometimes switching up your equipment can also help to eliminate jig spin. Small plastic reels have been shown to produce less spin and may be something you want to consider.

For even more information on fishing for bluegills, visit,1607,7-153-10364_53405-216544--,00.html.

February 9, 2012: Fishing for Walleye, Northern Pike and Panfish This Time of Year
Although many bodies of water aren't producing the type of ice many winter anglers would like to see there are still numerous tactics they can implement to experience great walleye, northern pike and panfish fishing when they do get out there.

When fishing for walleye, one thing to think about is to look for the right areas within a lake where you can find decent sized fish. Suggested locations include turns, big changes in depth, humps or other places walleyes like to sit tight. Also remember the critical periods of time when walleye are best fished: early and late in the day. For more information on fishing for walleye in Michigan, visit,1607,7-153-10364_53405-216550--,00.html.

When fishing for northern pike, something to remember is that most of these fish are hiding out in weedy areas where they can take cover yet still find ample food sources. Often times these spots will consist of bays with access to deep water. For more information on northern pike fishing, visit,1607,7-153-10364_53405-214036--,00.html.

And lastly, when fishing for various panfish, it's important to note that these species typically live just about anywhere so you should work the entire water column when you head out. For those in shallow water, they'll typically feed for short periods of time in the very early morning and late in the day. For more information on fishing for panfish in Michigan, visit,1607,7-153-10364_53405-216544--,00.html and,1607,7-153-10364_53405-214027--,00.html.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

January 26, 2012: Four Tips for Fishing for Northern Pike in Winter
Just when it looked like the weather was going to cooperate for some long-awaited ice fishing; rain decides to grace us with its presence. But now may be the time to learn some tips and tricks for the impending ice - how about four tips for fishing for northern pike this winter?

Consider using a fluorocarbon leader that will be practically invisible to any pike, as opposed to a steel leader.
Keep your bait lively, both by using a well-aerated bait container and very sharp hooks to minimize injury.
Consider using something flashy with your bait, such as a small spinner blade, to entice pike in murky water.
Don't be afraid to keep some slush around your hole in the ice to prevent pike from being spooked by your opening.

Want more information on fishing for northern pike? Visit,1607,7-153-10364_53405-214036--,00.html to get started.

January 19, 2012: Book a Camping Trip; Enjoy Some Fishing
There are many locations where you can participate in outdoor recreational opportunities within the state of Michigan, including at state parks or recreation areas. Many of these locations feature great fishing.

To find parks, recreation areas and state forest campgrounds that have fishing available, please visit and then click on "Camping & Recreation." Then click on "Search for your ideal State Park or Forest Campground" and search by activity.

Many state parks and recreation areas also have great camping available. And now may be the time to schedule your summer camping and/or fishing trip by reserving a spot through the Department of Natural Resources' reservation system. Visit to make a reservation up to six months in advance.

January 12, 2012: Utilize Spoons to Catch Panfish this Winter
Many of you are probably counting down the days (weeks?) until there is good ice to fish on, and this week's tip will require you to wait a little longer.

Many ice anglers utilize small lures and bait when targeting panfish in the winter. But according to Michigan Outdoor News, spoons can be fantastic tackle for attracting bluegills, sunfish, crappies and perch. The key is to utilizing a variety of spoons to appeal to even the most lethargic fish.

Start your spoon-driven efforts by figuring out what excites your targeted panfish - both in relation to speed of the fall and the action. That could include single, treble, stamped, solid or flutter spoons. Then, as the biting slows, rotate through your unused spoons until all options have been utilized.

For more information on fishing for panfish in Michigan, visit the websites listed below.


January 5, 2012: Try Your Hand at Spear Fishing this Winter
As many anglers continue to await the arrival of ice so they can pursue their love of winter fishing - many other anglers are unaware of the unique fishing experiences that are available during Michigan's winter months.

Starting December 1 the spear fishing season for Northern Pike and Muskellunge began on all waters through the ice except designated trout lakes and designated trout streams and other specific waters. No muskellunge spearing is allowed on Lake St. Clair, Lake Erie, the Detroit River or the St. Clair River as well. Many anglers will try their hand at this historical method of fishing until the season concludes on March 15.

Spear fishing is often much different from general ice fishing. Anglers will cut larger holes in the ice and fish from tents or small shelters commonly called shanties. The shanty blocks the light, allowing anglers to see down into the water in order to spear the fish.

It's important to note that other species are also allowed to be speared throughout the state - visit the Michigan Fishing Guide for a complete list of opportunities.

Anglers who spear fish generally dangle decoys or large live baits (such as suckers) in the water to attract their target fish. They utilize spears that typically have a substantial weight to them and have seven to nine tines on the end of a seven-foot handle.

For additional information on ice fishing in Michigan, including spearing, please check out this detailed article; Ice Fishing - The Coolest Sport Around.

December 15, 2011: Are you ready to do some ice fishing?
Ice is finally starting to form on some inland bodies of water throughout Michigan, which means it won't be long before there will be plenty of opportunities to go ice fishing across the state!

Now is the time to start preparing for this unique outdoor activity - including making sure your equipment is ready to be used and making sure you are ready to take the necessary safety precautions before heading out on the ice.

Here are a few simple equipment preparation tips to follow this ice fishing season: 1. If you utilize any motor or battery-operated equipment, test it out now to determine if it's working properly. 2. Open up your ice fishing shanty to make sure it's clean and ready to provide you with shelter on the ice. 3. Check your tackle box to remove any old equipment and take stock of what new items you might need.

Here are six simple safety tips to follow while ice fishing: 1. Never fish alone. 2. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return. 3. For your first trip out, always test the ice with a spud. 4. Wear a lifejacket. 5. Take a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help. 6. Bring ice picks and a 20-foot length of throw rope with you in case you fall through the ice.

For more information on ice fishing in Michigan, visit

December 1, 2011: Have You Fished for a Muskellunge
As we've been sharing in many tips this fall, the autumn season is a great time to fish for specific species - including muskellunge.

Many lakes you might visit to pursue muskies are fairly empty - leaving you plenty of opportunities to fish for this unique species. It's recommended that you use large crankbaits - larger than eight inches - and large jerkbaits - larger than 10 inches.

You can fish for muskellunge in most waters right now, but keep in mind the season on the most popular spots of Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River and the Detroit River will close on Thursday, December 15.

For more information on muskellunge, visit /dnr/0,1607,7-153-10364_53405-214034--,00.html.

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