Bundle Up and Fish For Free This Weekend in Pure Michigan

Michigan offers wonderful outdoor opportunities throughout the year, including world-class fishing. While some anglers head for the indoors when the temperatures dip, others look forward to winter’s most popular angling activity – ice fishing.

 Need an incentive to head outdoors? How about fishing for free? February 13 and 14 is the 2016 Winter Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan, which means residents and visitors alike can fish without a license (all other fishing regulations still apply). Experience the state’s fisheries in winter, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR

Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR

If you’ve never been ice fishing there are a few things to think about so you’re prepared to have a fun and safe experience. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources often recommends anglers follow these six simple rules:

  1. Never fish alone.
  2. Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  3. Always test the ice with a spud (a long shank with a chisel-like end).
  4. Take the appropriate emergency items, such as ice picks and a life jacket.
  5. Take a cell phone (enclosed in a plastic bag) in case you need to call for help.
  6. Lakes tend to be a safer choice during the early winter as streams or rivers have flow which makes them less safe at times.
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Photo Courtesy of the Michigan DNR

After you round up your gear you’ll want to think about which species to fish for and which areas you might find them in. Check out these location suggestions!

Southwest Lower Peninsula

Coldwater-Marble Chain of Lakes (Branch County): This is one of the most popular ice fishing destinations in southwest Michigan. The chain consists of several interconnected lakes with a combined area of around 2,700 acres. These lakes produce a variety of game species; including bluegill, pumpkinseed, yellow perch, black crappie and redear sunfish.

Northeast Lower Peninsula

Fletcher Floodwaters (Alpena/Montmorency counties): This 8,000 plus acre shallow impoundment often freezes fairly early in the winter and is an extremely popular winter fishing location. Anglers can target northern pike, yellow perch, bluegill, pumpkinseed and black crappie.

Southeast Lower Peninsula

Saginaw Bay: Anglers should fish early and late ice near shore for yellow perch and deeper areas for walleye at this popular destination. The best walleye fishing is miles offshore.

Lake St. Clair: This lake provides ample access with opportunities to catch many different species, including yellow perch, walleye, northern pike, bluegill and pumpkinseed.

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @xmissqueenx.

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @xmissqueenx.

Northwest Lower Peninsula

Higgins Lake (Roscommon County): This is a 9,900 acres ice fishing bonanza and offers excellent fishing opportunities for yellow perch, northern pike, lake trout, herring, whitefish, rainbow trout and smelt.

Eastern Upper Peninsula

Munising Bay (Alger County): When ice is established in Munising Bay, the fishery is comprised of splake, coho salmon, lake whitefish and cisco. Also available are smelt, yellow perch, lake trout and burbot.

Southern Upper Peninsula

Big Manistique Lake (Luce/Mackinac counties): This 10,000 acre lake has a maximum depth of about 20 feet. The primary winter sport fisheries revolve around walleye, yellow perch and northern pike.

Western Upper Peninsula

Lake Gogebic (Gogebic County): This 13,000 acre inland lake offers anglers good opportunities for walleye, northern pike, black crappie and yellow perch.

Don’t miss your chance to experience Michigan’s outstanding winter fishing opportunities and to get your family outdoors. Start planning your next fishing trip at michigan.gov/fishing

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Elyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Elyse works specifically with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources.

Experience a Fall Fishing Adventure in Manistee County!

Fishing is a great way to spend time with family, friends or business acquaintances; the thrill of hearing the cry “FISH ON” provides a lifetime of memories. Whether it’s a line ripping salmon or a sky-rocketing steelhead jumping 6 feet in the air, you’re sure to catch on to the love of fishing while visiting Manistee County.

The Big Manistee River. Photo courtesy of 22North Photography, Brian Edward

The Big Manistee River. Photo courtesy of 22North Photography, Brian Edward

The Manistee River, which runs approximately 232 miles through the Northern Lower Peninsula, passes through several villages before reaching Lake Michigan at the City of Manistee. The river’s rocky bottom, fast moving cool water and vigorous currents with calm pools makes it a perfect habitat to hold and reproduce an abundance of fish. You can expect to catch steelhead as well as Chinook salmon and coho salmon on your fall fishing adventure.

Steelhead (Rainbow) Trout
Also known as rainbow trout, steelhead, are genetically the same as stream trout but can grow to a larger size if they live in Lake Michigan. One of the most exciting fish to catch, they can certainly be a challenge to get into the boat. Almost like acrobats of the lake, steelhead are known for high flying jumps with lots of twists and backflips.

Chinook (King) Salmon
Chinook Salmon are also called King Salmon or Kings. This species will make up the bulk of your catch most of the year. Chinook average from 2-20 pounds, with 6-15 pounds being the most common. No other Lake Michigan sport fish pulls like a king salmon. A king typically matures in four years, and then returns to the river where it was born and prepares to spawn. Some of the largest kings are as much as 4 year old.

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Coho Salmon
Sometimes  referred  to as silver salmon, or just cohos, Coho salmon are similar in appearance to kings, but quite different when it comes to the fight. Cohos like to roll, jump and do whatever they can to get off the hook. Their average size is smaller than kings, typically between 1-6 pounds, but they can sometimes get much larger. Coho tend to travel in schools, so where you find one, there are usually many more.

Visitors to Manistee County can also book a fall fishing trip through several available charter companies, such as:

Tilmann Outfitters:
For river fishing, the Big Manistee is world renowned for its fresh, record setting Salmon, Steelhead and Brown Trout. Cruise down the Big Manistee with Captain Michael on either his roomy 18′ Sea Arc. We can fish the Big Manistee near the shoreline or in the deep holes for giant Salmon and Steelhead, or the near-shore coastal waters at the mouth of Lake Michigan. Also, we can simply spend some time exploring some of Manistee’s unspoiled wilderness areas and abundant wildlife along the river.

River Haven Guide Service:
Fall Steelhead is possibly the most exciting fishing experience on the Manistee River. These fish usually start to show up around the first week of October. Feeding on the eggs of the recent salmon run, they are very chrome in color, hungry, aggressive and put up a fight.

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

Photo courtesy of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau

First Class Charters:
Ideal for families or corporate groups, the charter is led by an experienced U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain with 25 years of experience. This charter is great for fishing Salmon, Steelhead, Brown Trout and Lake Trout. The tour is docked 10 minutes from Lake Michigan on the Manistee River Channel.

Schmidt Outfitters:
Schmidt Outfitters is a fly fishing outfitter that was established in 1976 in Wellston. They provide destination guide services on some of Michigan’s most famous trout, steelhead and salmon waters like the Manistee River, Bear Creek and Pine River. With professional fly fishing guides, a fully stocked fly shop, fly fishing schools, casting pond, it’s no wonder that anglers from around the world visit our waters and enjoy our services. You will, too.

For more information about fishing in the Manistee area, go to www.visitmanisteecounty.com

KathrynAbout the author: Growing up in Manistee, Kathryn Kenny spent her childhood fishing on the Manistee River systems and the Big Lake with her two older brothers; a family tradition that has been passed down to her daughters. Kathryn is the executive director of the Manistee County Visitors Bureau.

Why Smallmouth Bass Fishing is Perfect in Traverse City

If you’re looking for a Pure Michigan destination with bountiful fishing to enjoy this fall, look no further than Traverse City. The Traverse City area, in Michigan’s Northern Lower Peninsula, is a perfect location to drop in a line while enjoying the beautiful changing colors and cool, crisp weather. Read more as guest blogger Captain Chris Noffsinger shares the many fishing opportunities and other things to enjoy when visiting Traverse City this season.

There are many places to fish for smallmouth bass in the great State of Michigan, but one of the very best is the Traverse City area. Not only is Traverse City’s smallmouth fishing world class, but the opportunities for recreation, dining, wineries and craft beer nearby are almost endless. From kids to adults, there is something for everyone here.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Starting off the day with a beautiful sunrise overlooking the calm waters of East or West Grand Traverse Bay is a breathtaking experience in itself. But the thought of a trophy smallmouth breaking the calm by leaping into the air and back into the water is what every smallmouth fisherman dreams of. I have been fortunate to experience this firsthand on Grand Traverse Bay and on the surrounding inland lakes.

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

Traverse City is uniquely intriguing to any angler in search of trophy smallmouth. We have caught smallmouth in the 4-7 pound class every year in the Traverse City region.  They are plentiful and very willing to bite.

The waters here are extremely clear, with visibility reaching depths of 30 feet in some locations. Smallmouth live in most of the inland lakes that surround Traverse City, and the clarity of that water gives you an unparalleled ability and opportunity to sight these trophy bronzebacks. Watching a 4-7 pound smallmouth swim from over 100 feet away to strike is amazing to say the least. This happens every spring and fall, and it never gets old.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

As fall approaches, some of the best bass fishing of the season takes place. Fall colors begin to transform the lush green forest that stood tall all summer long. The reflections of colors on a calm lake in the fall are an unforgettable sight, and as the leaves fall from the trees, the smallmouth sense that winter is coming. This triggers a feeding frenzy that smallmouth fisherman like me look forward to every year.

One of the most notable bass anglers in the world, Kevin VanDam, will visit also visit the Traverse City area this fall to take part in this amazing autumn fishery while filming an episode for “iFISHIGAN.” He will have a special guest this year, Gov. Rick Snyder, who will be joining Kevin on a fishing trip that most anglers only dream of – fishing with one of the most notable bass in the world’s best smallmouth fishing waters.  Catch the action of “iFISHIGAN” on the World Fishing Network when the second season starts in January 2016.

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

Photo courtesy of Captain Chris Noffsinger

I look forward to smallmouth fishing in this area every year and hopefully I will be able to for many years to come. The Traverse City area is a truly special, world-class, Pure Michigan fishery.

What is your favorite Michigan fishing destination?

fishingAbout the author: Captain Chris Noffsinger has more than 20 years of experience on the water. His knowledge of both inland and Great Lakes fishing is extensive and is used daily to charter tours for Northern Adventures Fishing.