Area anglers having more ice fishing success

More fish activity is showing up at local lakes. (Pioneer file)

BIG RAPIDS — The DNR reports the ice is finally starting to form in the southern portions of the state but has quite a bit to go. Elsewhere, including in northwest Michigan activity is starting to really pick up.

“They’ve been catching some walleyes out in the river,” Tanner Havens, of Frank’s Sporting Goods in Morley, said. “Sounds like they are about in 20 feet of water. The location is by Big Ben Park. They’re catching perch in 10 to 12 feet of water. I’ve heard about panfish up by Long Lake around Ludington . At Pretty Lake by Barryton, they’re catching crappies and bluegills. I’ve heard one guy at Rogers Dam in the cove catching some (crappies). I’ve heard a guy at Haymarsh getting bluegills and (crappies) as well.”

“People are out there ice fishing, depending on the lakes,” Warren Elka, of Triggertime Outfitters, in Big Rapids, said. “With the cold weather, the ice is starting to get solid.”

In northwest Michigan, the DNR said most areas still don’t have fishable ice, especially those inland waterbodies closer to the big lake as warmer temperatures have hampered things.

“It’s cold,” Bud Fitzgerald, of Tangled Tackle Co., in Manistee, said. “They’re still doing OK on Portage Lake. Manistee Lake should be fishable sometime this next week. Beach fishing and pier fishing, I think is done for awhile until it warms up. They’re still getting large numbers of fish off of Hamlin with very small pike and some nice bluegills.”

Manistee River still had a few steelhead reported, the DNR said, adding there was six inches of ice out of Wilson Hill Park but west out of the launch, there was open water as of Sunday.

“Manistee Lake should be frozen over by this weekend,” Kristen Loeffler of Don’s Sporting Goods said. “It’s supposed to get cold. Right now, guys are heading to Hamlin, Portage Lake and Chief Lake. Some guys are heading to the little lakes.”

Those targeting panfish out of Wilson Hill Park had success with limits or near limits of bluegill, and some nice size crappie, were caught. Anglers reported lots of yellow perch in the area, the DNR said.

“On Portage Lake, they’re getting some perch and some pike,” Larry Scharich, of Shipwatch Marina in Manistee said. “They’re picking up some steelhead in the river.”

Boat anglers were catching yellow perch at Pere Marquette Lake, the DNR said.

“The steelhead fishing in the river is still really slow,” Dane Bovee, of Benzie Flycast Shop in Benzonia, said. “Most of the lakes are doing really good.”

Lake Missaukee, the DNR reports, is very busy with anglers catching panfish, northern pike and walleye while lakes Cadillac and Mitchell are also very busy with anglers taking walleye, pike and panfish. Anglers were having success fishing for perch and splake at Thumb Lake, the DNR said.

Bass Lake was showing activity for northern pike, the DNR said, while the crappie productivity has looked promising with many reports coming in of fish over 10 inches.

Fishing Tip: Finding panfish through the ice

The following fishing tip is courtesy of the Michigan DNR:

Have you been attempting to target panfish during your ice fishing trips this winter, but aren’t having much luck? Consider the following things.

Are the panfish sticking to shallow or deep depths? Are they hanging out in the weeds or on the rocks? Are they suspended or are they hugging the bottom?

Due to the weather much of the state has experienced recently, panfish are likely to be in deeper water to find more oxygen. Keep that in mind when you look for them!

Also keep your presentation efforts in mind. A popular effort includes putting a jig on the bottom and using a twitch-pause-twitch routine with it.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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