This coming weekend is Michigan’s Winter Free Fishing Weekend! On Saturday February 16th and Sunday February 17th, both resident and non-residents can fish for free as no fishing license will be required however all regulations still apply. Special events will be held statewide and will be subject to weather conditions. For a list of registered events, click here: www.michigan.gov/freefishing.
NORTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA
Burt Lake: Had some very good walleye fishing however the bite did slow.
Black Lake: Anglers were catching medium-size walleye and perch.
Grand Lake: Was producing a few walleye and perch.
Long Lake: Anglers were still catching walleye, pike, perch and panfish.
Fletchers Pond: Was producing decent pike catches.
Otsego Lake: Those targeting lake sturgeon had success with minnows in 5 to 8 feet although most of the fish caught were 46 to 48 inches and had to be released.
Higgins Lake: Had about 4 inches of snow on top making travel easier. Perch were caught around the islands however be ready to sort through the small ones. Lake trout were still hitting in 80 to 100 feet when jigging or using tip-ups with minnows. Rainbow trout were in the shallows near the Conference Center and Big Creek. Whitefish were starting to hit near the bottom in 100 to 110 feet. Use a single hook tipped with an egg, wax worm or wiggler. A few smelt were caught just off the bottom in 40 to 60 feet in the evening. The action was better off Big Creek and the North State Park. Try Hali jigs with wax worms or spikes. Large pike were taken on tip-ups or spearing.
Houghton Lake: Still has the large pressure crack that runs from the West DNR launch to Johnsons Point. Anglers cannot cross the pressure crack to get to the Middle Grounds safely and will have to use other areas. Travel on the ice will be easier with the snow however watch for drifts. The bluegill and crappie bite were still light so watch your line for better success. A couple walleye were found in 8 to 12 feet. Bass and pike were hitting hard however all bass must be released immediately.
Tawas: Those fishing the inner bay off Jerry’s Marina caught walleye in 20 to 22 feet near the artificial reef. They also took a few lake trout and a pike or two.
Au Gres: Fishing is now concentrated on either side of the breakwall, with some walleye taken and a few pike speared south of the wall. Some nice perch were taken north of the breakwall. Lots of fishing activity off the end of Hale Road in Wigwam Bay with good catches of walleye and perch in 6 to 17 feet.
NORTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA
Harbor Springs: Some nice catches of perch were taken in Little Traverse Bay.
Walloon Lake: Was producing some decent catches of walleye.
Lake Charlevoix: Anglers were still getting a few lake herring.
South Lake Leelanau: Anglers are seeing walleye on the south end of the lake.
Traverse City: Ice fishing has been slow in the West Bay with only a few perch caught in Suttons Bay and south of Northport.
Big Glen Lake: Is producing lake trout.
Long Lake: In Benzie County is producing pike and perch.
Crystal Lake: Is producing pike and burbot. Lake trout were also caught on smelt however smelt were not being caught in large numbers.
Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell: Anglers continue to catch pike, walleye, crappie, perch and bluegills.
Keweenaw Bay: Has a lot of snow on the ice so travel conditions are very difficult because of the deep slush. Foot travel will also be difficult so angler may want snow shoes. Anglers need to use extreme caution when traveling on the stack ice around the Pump House and watch for stacked ice north of Sand Point which can be hard to see in windy conditions. Slush was also making travel difficult including the area of smelt village near the Baraga Marina. Ice conditions can change rapidly so be sure to check the ice before venturing out. Lake trout were caught when jigging 1-ounce spoons or jigs with cut bait in 170 feet or more. The whitefish action was spotty in 50 to 90 feet with a single salmon egg or spoons. Coho fishing was slow and the splake bite slowed with only a few taken in 30 to 60 feet on spoons, jigging raps or tip-ups. A couple brown trout were caught randomly at different depths ranging 12 to 90 feet. In the deeper water, the fish were in the upper 3rd of the water column. Anglers are seeing good numbers of smelt however the bite was spotty in 30 to 90 feet in the morning or just before and after dark.
Little Bay De Noc: Heavy snowfall is making travel on the ice much more difficult for many. Snowmobiles were the best means of travel. The weight of the snow has opened some of the ice off Saunders Point so extreme caution needs to be used in this area. Overall fishing was slow. Anglers were marking good numbers of fish but only a few were caught. The better perch fishing was near Kipling with minnows or wigglers in 29 to 35 feet. Best walleye catches were taken in the Gladstone area with rapalas or minnows in 28 to 35 feet however most the fish were undersize. Several large pike were caught near the Escanaba Power Plant when using tip-ups with minnows in about 30 feet.
Munising: Ice conditions have remained about the same except now there are areas of slush. Some areas have 6 inches or more of snow cover so travel will be difficult.
Trout Bay was marginal for fishing. With the heavy snow, be safe. Those venturing out caught coho and burbot. In general, fishing continues to be slow. A few whitefish over 14 inches were caught but the majority were small. Try 50 to 70 feet with a single egg or mousies. Lake trout anglers fishing out towards the White Rocks and Wood Island Reef had some nice catches when jigging in 120 to 160 feet. Anglers report the lake trout are full of smelt but no one seems to be catching smelt yet. A couple legal size splake were also caught.
Cedarville and Hessel: Ice fishing is on however travel by ORV is difficult due to slush and deep snow. Those fishing Musky Bay caught 7 to 10-inch perch with minnows, wigglers and spikes. In Hessel Bay, anglers caught perch when jigging minnows and wigglers in 12 to 15 feet. Those fishing deeper water had not seen any schools of perch come in yet.