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Ice Fishing

Youth angler ice fishing

Many anglers actually prefer fishing through the ice to open-water fishing. Anglers can get just about anywhere on a lake during the ice fishing season, something they can't do without a boat during the warmer months. Virtually every fish that's available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice - some more frequently in winter. 

Safety

  • Steer clear of dark spots or places where the snow looks discolored
  • Never fish alone
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to return
  • Always test the ice with a spud (described later)
  • Take the appropriate emergency items, such as a lifejacket and ice picks
  • Take a cell phone with you in case you need to call for help
  • Dress in your warmest winter clothes; fill a thermos with hot coffee, chocolate or tea; and bring an empty bucket or old lawn chair to sit on.

Equipment

The basics: something to make a hole in the ice, something to clear the hole and keep it open and ice free, and something to fish with.   

  • Spud
  • Auger
  • Skimmer (slush scoop) 
  • Tackle

Hook-and-line/jigging

Use short, limber rods with reels or simple spring-tension spools to hold the line. Use live bait (wax worms, spikes, wigglers, minnows), artificial lures or both to catch many different species of fish. 

Begin fishing near the bottom and work your way up in the water column until you locate fish, then continue to fish at that same depth. 

Tip-ups

These are devices set on the ice above the hole that dangle the bait (most often minnows) beneath them. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases not only line, but a flag as well.

Spots to try

Upper Peninsula:

  • Keweenaw Bay (Baraga County) – brown trout, whitefish, lake trout, coho salmon
  • Little Bay De Noc (Delta County) – walleye, yellow perch
  • Munuscong Bay (Chippewa County) – yellow perch and walleye
  • Munising Bay (Alger County) – splake, whitefish, menominee (round whitefish), coho
  • Lake Gogebic (Gogebic County) - yellow perch and walleye
  • Lac Vieux Desert Flowage (Gogebic County) - bluegill, crappie, yellow perch
  • Sunday Lake (Gogebic County) - bluegill, sunfish, walleye, yellow perch
  • Teal Lake (Marquette County) - walleye, yellow perch
  • Au Train Lake (Alger County) - walleye, northern pike 
  • Muskallonge Lake (Luce County) - walleye, northern pike, yellow perch

Northwest Lower Peninsula:

  • Higgins Lake (Roscommon County) – lake trout, smelt, whitefish, northern pike
  • Houghton Lake (Roscommon County) – walleye, bluegill, crappie, sunfish
  • Mullet Lake (Cheboygan/Presque Isle counties) - walleye, yellow perch
  • Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell (Wexford County) - yellow perch, crappie, northern pike 
  • Fife Lake (Grand Traverse County) - yellow perch 

Northeast Lower Peninsula:

  • Black Lake (Cheboygan/Presque Isle counties) - walleye, yellow perch, sturgeon 
  • Burt Lake (Cheboygan County) - yellow perch, walleye 
  • Clear and Avalon lakes (Montmorency County) - splake yellow perch
  • Thumb lake (Charlevoix County) – yellow perch

Southwest Lower PeninsuIa:

  • Reeds Lake (Kent County) - northern pike, bluegill
  • Bruce's or Lloyd's bayous (Ottawa County) - northern pike, bluegill, yellow perch
  • Sessions Lake (Ionia County) - bluegill, walleye
  • Long Lake (Kalamazoo County) - northern pike
  • Corey & Harwood lakes (Cass County) - bluegill, yellow perch
  • Gun Lake (Barry County) - bluegill, northern pike, walleye

Southeast Lower Peninsula:

  • Lake St. Clair - yellow perch
  • Devils Lake (Lenawee County) - yellow perch & walleye
  • Bear Lake (Hillsdale County) - yellow perch
  • Crescent & Upper Bushman lakes (Oakland County) - bluegill
  • Cass, Union & Lakeville lakes (Oakland County) - walleye
  • Stony Creek Impoundment (Macomb/Oakland counties) - walleye & crappie
  • Lake Orion & Big Lake (Oakland County) - northern pike
  • Cass & Wolverine lakes (Oakland County) - crappie

 

How-to video