Ice Fishing on Little Bay de Noc

Ever wonder what goes on out on the frozen lakes of Michigan? Tina Lassen, Michigan Travel Ideas freelance writer checks out the busy ice fishing scene near Escanaba.

Like anyone from the Upper Midwest, I’m no stranger to ice fishing. Every winter I see people sitting on upturned buckets next to holes drilled in the lake ice. But on Little Bay de Noc—a renowned walleye hotspot in the northwest corner of Lake Michigan—ice fishing seems like more than a simple weekend pastime. Anglers come from all over to try their luck landing the “hawgs” (fat trophy walleye) that live here.

“We often see some good walleye action first thing in the morning,” says Mark Peloza, as he steers his Jeep over a frozen berm and onto the 15-inch-thick lake ice. Peloza’s Hawg Heaven Guide Service offers shanty rentals as well as fishing expertise.

An ice shanty provides shelter and includes a propane heater for warmth and fish-finding electronics

An ice shanty provides shelter and includes a propane heater for warmth and fish-finding electronics

Peloza’s shanties are simple, yet well-designed shelters, warmed with propane heaters, outfitted with windows, fish-finding electronics and bench seats. I listen in as Peloza offers four guests from Wisconsin suggestions on what depth to fish and lures to consider.

I pick up a lot of good advice, but to me the real sport seems to be the camaraderie among this village of shanties. Complete strangers teach me how to jig a hand line and offer up slices of deer sausage.

Insider Tips:

1. If you’re renting a shanty, you’ll stay warmer than you might expect. But the “floor” is still lake ice, so warm boots (and thick socks!) are a must.

2. Buy local! The hot lure that had everyone talking was the Red Grape Shiver Minnow—made by Moonshine Lures in nearby Perkins. Most area tackle shops carry it.

3. Little Bay de Noc is famous for its walleye fishery, but don’t discount other species. Yellow perch also are plentiful here—and delicious. They require less finesse to catch than walleye, so are a good challenge for newcomers and kids.

4. Never venture out onto the ice without assessing its safety. Contact the Delta County Sheriff Marine Patrol Office at 906/786-3633 with any questions. Local fishing guides and bait shops like Bay View Bait & Tackle also are good sources of local information.

Trip Planner

A guided ice-fishing trip with Mark Peloza’s Hawg Heaven Guide Service is $250/day for two; $50 each additional person. Fish shack rental only is $125/day.

Walleye season ends March 31. For information on fishing licenses, regulations and seasons, contact the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

The Terrace Bay Resort caters to anglers with fish-cleaning facilities and a prime location just south of Gladstone. It has an early ‘60s feel and a colorful history as a 1930s dance hall. Facilities include spacious rooms, an indoor pool and sauna. In the off-chance you strike out on the ice, its Surf Room restaurant serves outstanding lake perch and walleye. Doubles begin at $54. Call 906/786-7554 for information on rates and availability.

Tina LassenFreelance writer Tina Lassen has spent more than 25 years exploring and writing about Michigan’s outdoor adventures. She is a frequent contributor to Midwest Living Magazine, and has written extensively about Michigan in guidebooks like National Geographic’s Guide to America’s Outdoors: Great Lakes.