Guide To Ice Fishing Lakes In Michigan
Favorite fish species at top ice fishing lakes in the state.
The best ice fishing lakes in MI include Pere Marquette Lake, Brevoort Lake and Intermediate Lake. The most popular species are walleye, yellow perch and northern pike. See a list of lakes and species below.
Ice fishing is as basic as fishing gets. During winter, it is popular here in the state. Aside from the tools one uses to create a hole in the ice, all other gear is very basic. A simple rod, reel, line and hook or lure is all you need. Lures, live bait and prepared bait are options, depending on the fish species in the lake or pond.
Michigan's winter season brings with it the excitement of ice fishing, a beloved pastime for many anglers. Ice fishing in Michigan offers the opportunity to target a variety of fish species, with some of the most popular catches including panfish such as bluegill, perch, and crappie, as well as walleye, northern pike, and even trout in certain lakes. Anglers can enjoy the thrill of catching fish through the ice and the camaraderie of sharing the frozen lakes with fellow enthusiasts.
Various methods are employed for ice fishing in Michigan. Traditional methods include using tip-ups or traps, which are set with baited hooks and placed in strategic locations under the ice. Anglers monitor these devices for any signs of activity, such as the flag of a tip-up being tripped, indicating a fish has taken the bait. Additionally, ice fishing rods or jigging rods can be used to actively target fish by jigging or imparting motion to the bait to entice strikes.
Safety is paramount when engaging in ice fishing. It is essential to ensure that the ice is thick enough to support the weight of anglers and their equipment. Ice thickness should be at least four inches for walking and six to eight inches for small vehicles. It is always recommended to check local ice conditions and consult with experienced ice anglers or fishing guides who are knowledgeable about the specific lakes and their ice conditions. Wearing appropriate clothing, including warm layers, insulated boots, and thermal gear, is crucial to protect against the cold temperatures.
Ice fishing shelters or ice shanties are commonly used to provide protection from the elements. These portable structures can be set up on the ice, allowing anglers to stay warm and comfortable during their fishing expedition. Many anglers also utilize ice augers to drill holes in the ice, providing access to the water below for fishing.
Participating in ice fishing in Michigan requires adherence to fishing regulations, including possession limits, size limits, and licensing requirements. It is essential to stay informed about the specific regulations for the lakes and fish species being targeted.
Michigan's winter season transforms its lakes into a playground for ice fishing enthusiasts. With a variety of fish species to target, different methods to employ, and a focus on safety, ice fishing in Michigan offers a unique and exhilarating fishing experience. So bundle up, gather your gear, and head out onto the frozen lakes to enjoy the excitement and rewards of ice fishing in the Great Lakes State.
Top Ice Fishing Lakes & Species
There are numerous places to go ice fishing in the state. Here are a list of some of the proven, best destinations.
Pere Marquette Lake
Click the images for species details.
This is a great way to get the kids to go outdoors in winter, connect with nature and learn to fish. The first consideration when attempting to go ice fishing, is safety. Make sure the ice is safe, and that you are prepared should an accident occur. Dress to stay warm - it's better to remove extra jackets than be cold and miserable. Be aware that the ice can be slippery, and falls can be dangerous.
Ice Fishing Tips & Techniques Video
Click here for ice fishing basics, including details on finding the best place to fish, tips for cutting a hole, basic tackle, bait, lures, depths to fish, safety, shanty's, tents and huts.
Best ice fishing method for crappie, bluegill, perch and sunfish
Horizontal jigs and spoon-type baits are the go-to baits for crappie, either tipped with a minnow, wax worm or prepared baits often triggers more bites. Jigs work better close to the bottom, spoons tend to work better higher in the water column. If options allow, 15 to 30 feet is the most common depth. Adjust as necessary. See additional info on ice fishing for crappie, perch and sunfish.
Best ice fishing method for walleye
Four basic lures are all you need. Ice jigs are minnow shaped with a tail that causes them to fall in a circular patter. Drop them to the desired depth (often to the bottom), then lift the bait a few feet to let it fall on slack line. Spoons: Metal slabs in chrome or a wide array of colors are used to jig up-and-down mimicking a dying baitfish. Lipless crankbaits: Fish like a spoon. Jigs: Use slightly larger jigs than for crappie, preferably with a flashing blade attached. Tip with live bait and let it sit, up a ways from the bottom typically 1 to 3 feet. A general tip is to always keep your bait off the bottom, one to 5 feet is an ideal place to start. Additional information about ice fishing for walleye.
Best ice fishing method for trout
Trout focus on small forage fish in winter, so baits that flash silver - jigs or spoons, do well in attracting trout. Dual rods, where legal, are very effective. One rod with a jig/live bait set up on a tip-up, the second with a spoon fished up and down pretty aggressively. See more detail about ice fishing for trout.
Best ice fishing method for pike and musky
Live bait, shiners and sunfish, are a great way to attract these big fellahs, assuming local law allows their use. Heavier line, steel leaders, bigger hooks and stronger tip-ups are in order. See more information on ice fishing for pike and musky.
Click here for a Michigan Fishing License.
States with notable ice fishing.