Ice fishing has begun; caution still urged

MANISTEE — It appears ice fishing season has started, the DNR reports, especially in the northern areas of the state.

But the DNR reminds anglers first and last ice are the most dangerous ice, and caution needs to be used. Anglers should check the ice thickness with a spud and wear a life jacket.

“There’s nothing that’s safe,” Dan Osborn, of Osborn’s Sports Shop in Bear Lake, said. “There’s just a few trout (in the river).”

The DNR reports in northwest Michigan, ice anglers are heading out on some of the small inland lakes, including some in Charlevoix and Antrim County. Steelhead fishing is still viable in the area rivers, the DNR said.

“They’re hitting a few steelhead and there’s some in the river,” Dane Bovee of the Backfast Fly Shop in Benzonia said. “Most of the small lakes are starting to make some ice. They are starting to get on them.”

Ice anglers are starting to head out to Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell, but extreme caution needs to be used since ice thickness is spotty.

There’s also ice anglers at Lake Missaukee heading out for panfish.

“I’ve heard of some guys heading to Canfield Lake and some saying they’re heading to Bar Lake,” Kristen Loeffler of Don’s Sporting Goods, in Manistee said. “There’s some guys going in the river right now. I’ve heard there are shanties up.”

The bite was slow at the Manistee River, the DNR said, as water temperatures dropped to the mid-30s. Steelhead anglers floating spawn and beads have managed to take a few nice fish while the odd coho also was caught, the DNR added.

“There’s still steelhead to be found,” Chelsea Pete, of Dloop Outfitters in Wellston said. “Water temps are dropping; brown trout fishing is still picking up. Both the big river and little river are starting to pick up a little bit.”

The following fishing tip is from the Michigan DNR:

How to target popular fish species in the winter

Are you getting anxious for enough ice to head out fishing? Consider using the following tips when targeting four species popular with anglers in the winter.

• Walleye: Early-ice walleyes are known to be active and aggressive. Use tip-ups at varying depths around the lake (anywhere from 15 to 35 feet deep) to appeal to this species. Regardless of the depth, always set the live minnow under the tip-up to swim 12 to 15 inches off the bottom;

• Crappie: Consider using plastic bait, rather than live bait, when fishing for crappie. Focus on weed lines to find them. A lot of times crappie will hang out in the middle of the water column, half-way between the ice and bottom;

• Northern Pike: You’ll find these aggressive fish near off-shore structures and weed lines, so try these types of spots on your favorite pike lakes first; and

• Yellow Perch: Attract bigger perch by using tip-ups with minnows, that’s what they’re primarily eating this time of year. Sticking a minnow on an ice fishing rod is also very productive.


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