Little Bay de Noc - it's about more than just walleye

aerial shot of Little Bay de NocLittle Bay de Noc's fishery is gaining quite a reputation, even on a national scale. While initially thought of as strictly a walleye mecca, it's hosting of the Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship in September 2014 has caused the conversation to start to change.

According to DNR fisheries research biologist Troy Zorn there are lots of different species to fish for on Little Bay de Noc, and he's got data to back up that claim.

"We conduct an annual fish community survey," he explained. "Perch are pretty good, walleye are pretty good, northern pike are pretty good, smallmouth bass are pretty good…you get the idea."

Most news surrounding Little Bay de Noc has always been about walleye - in fact in 2012 the DNR released a walleye management plan for the water, and in 2013, the department shared information about a long-term study to determine the contributions of hatchery-reared walleyes versus naturally-reproducing fish.

But following those management directions and the stocking evaluation the dialogue has shifted to recognize the fishery's diversity and what that means for anglers.

"We're still involved with local clubs to stock walleye, but there's so much more to Little Bay de Noc than that," said Zorn.

One of those things - as evidenced by the previously mentioned Bassmaster tournament - is smallmouth bass. According to Darren Kramer, manager of the Northern Lake Michigan Unit for the DNR, gravel shoals off the mouth of various rivers that enter the north end of Little Bay de Noc (Days, Tacoosh, Rapid, Whitefish), allow anglers to concentrate on smallmouth bass, especially early in the fishing season. Meanwhile, deeper 12 to 18-foot flats (near Kipling, Hunter's and Saunders points) attract fish later in the summer.

Greg Sanville, a DNR creel clerk who surveys Little Bay de Noc, knows first-hand how much bass anglers have enjoyed fishing the area.

"The Ford River area is highly fished and the hottest spot on the bay in spring and early summer," he said. "Typically this is a spawning area and fish are being caught many miles up the river as well."

Other opportunities are coming courtesy of stocking as the DNR started stocking muskellunge in Little Bay de Noc with 5,000 fish in October 2014 that average a little over eight inches each. Troy Zorn estimates those fish would be approaching 20 inches now - and well on their way to providing great angling opportunities.

Zorn also shares that, based on recent survey data, northern pike fishing was especially hot in 2015, and yellow perch populations were holding on pretty well also.

"Anglers are also starting to see lake sturgeon that are being stocked by the department," Zorn said. "There were more than 1,000 lake sturgeon stocked in the Whitefish River, which empties directly into the northern end of Little Bay de Noc, in 2015."

With all of these opportunities available anglers should consider planning a trip to the U.P. to experience yet another destination that provides access to Michigan's world-class fisheries.