The Winter Angler’s Ultimate Packing List

In what seems like the blink of an eye, snow and ice have transformed Michigan into a winter angler’s dream. Despite the cold, the fishing stays hot in Pure Michigan as ice fisherman ready their tackle boxes for this timeless Michigan fishing tradition.  

IceFishing1In celebration of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Free Fishing Weekend February 14-15, 2015, we’ve put together this handy packing list to ensure a successful day of fishing.

Don’t forget to check out the Pure Michigan store for items that will help you keep warm on and off the ice!

What to pack

Many Michiganders know how to handle the cold, but knowing how to dress for long hours on ice may not be so easy. Since you’ll be spending some quality time outdoors, consider layering up with these tips.

A hat, pair of gloves and jacket might seem obvious to pack, but there’s a lot more that can keep you comfortable when ice fishing. Consider layering with long underwear as a base under fleece and a windbreaker. Add some thermal socks and a scarf to stay toasty. Don’t forget to pick up a pair of boots specifically made for the cold, too!

One thing to avoid when layering up is cotton. No matter how cold the weather is, wearing layers causes sweating. There’s nothing worse than being damp on the ice as cotton clothes absorb and hold onto moisture.

What to bring on the ice

AugerWhen it comes to fishing, everyone has their own strategy – and that definitely applies when you’re about to head onto the frozen lake! Whether you choose to sit in a shanty or simply an overturned paint bucket, don’t forget these essentials to avoid being frosty.

Imagine you’re bundled up, bait in hand, walking out to that perfect spot on the ice. And then it hits you – your pole is sitting at home! With all the planning it takes to get ready for a day of ice fishing, sometimes even the most obvious things can be forgotten.

Remember to grab your fishing pole, bait, auger and something to sit on so you don’t freeze to the ice. If you’re heading out any other time but free fishing weekend, make sure you have your fishing license in hand, too.

The little things

OntheIceWhether you’re a perennial ice-fisher or this winter will be your first time, we’re willing to guess you’ll be spending more than just a few minutes trying to catch that prized fish. If you are committing a day, or even a few hours, to drop a line, don’t forget these small necessities to keep you safe and happy.

Remember to bring a few bottles of water to keep you hydrated (in a place they won’t freeze!), snacks to give you energy and your cell phone – in case anything goes wrong.  You’ll also want a camera ready when you reel in that monster under the ice.

When ice fishing, a few small items can make or break a trip. Remember to dress right, be safe and have fun when drilling into another Pure Michigan winter adventure. For more ice fishing tips, check out this post from the Michigan DNR.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day? Share your photos enjoying the snow and ice using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

Pure Michigan February 2015 Events Roundup

February may be the shortest month of the year, but there’s no shortage of winter fun happening around the state! From the Michigan International Auto Show in Grand Rapids to Free Fishing Weekend, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So, pull out your calendars and pack your bags, a snow day getaway awaits you in Pure Michigan. For a full list of events, visit michigan.org/events.

February 1 – 8

Au Gres Polar Splash
January 31 – February 1, Au Gres
The Au Gres Area Chamber of Commerce is helping break up those “Winter Blues” by hosting a winter festival at the Au Gres City Park. Enjoy activities such as ice skating, soup cook off, music, polar dip, fishing contest, beer tent, & poker run! This will also coincide with an exciting snowmobile drag race event at the Au Gres DNR Breakwall site along the Au Gres River!

CrossCountrySkiersMeijer State Winter Games Cross Country Nordic Ski Race
February 1, Grayling
The Meijer State Games of Michigan added the inaugural Winter Games to continue fulfilling the mission of being a grassroots organization that welcomes athletes from all ages and abilities. The Winter Games consisted of 12 different sports, including the famous nordic ski race,  in which 1,645 athletes participated. Head to Grayling for an epic winter adventure!

Meridian Winter Blast
February 6-8, Detroit
Meridian Winter Blast, produced by Jonathan Witz & Associates, features hip and cool winter events centered around Campus Martius Park. Many signature winter activities are returning with Buick sponsoring the 200 Foot Snow Slide, free ice-skating in Campus Martius Park, professional skating demonstrations, unique sculptures in the Flagstar Bank Ice Garden, the Winter Blast Off presented by GM Foundation and more.

International 500 Snowmobile Race
February 7, Sault Saint Marie
Come join Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, for the 47th Annual International I-500 Snowmobile Race and experience all the thrills of NASCAR on a one-mile oval ice track. The I-500 is the biggest event in the Upper Peninsula and in the entire snowmobile-racing world. When drivers accelerate to speeds exceeding 100 miles per hour on the straightaways, your heart will race!

ManVsMountainMan vs. Mountain
February 7, Mt. Pleasant

A unique winter 5K obstacle course that challenges participants to brave Michigan’s brutal elements and go beyond the average obstacle course. Run, climb and jump your way through obstacles that are strategically placed along the course. The challenge begins in front of Nelson Park and will take you through Mt. Pleasant’s beautiful park system.

Tahquamenon Falls State Park – Guided Snowshoe Hike
February 7, Paradise
Discover how easy snowshoeing really is during this guided hike through the snow-covered woods of Tahquamenon. This fun, inexpensive winter sport can keep you healthy and happy through the cold winter months. A limited number of snowshoes are available to borrow at no charge.

February 9 – 15

Frostbite Winter Festival
February 12-15, Harrison
This four day event features the unique and popular golf tournament on the ice of Budd Lake, an ice fishing tournament with cash prizes, an arts & crafts fair, children’s carnival, Snowmobile Radar Run, Polar Dip, silent auction, bar tour, scavenger hunt and a whole lot more! Set in beautiful Harrison, this event has something for everyone – whether you love the Michigan outdoors or prefer to play indoors.

UP200UP200 Sled Dog Race 2015
February 12 -16, Marquette
The UP 200 is one of America’s premier 12-dog, mid-distance sled dog races and also a pre-qualifier for the Iditarod. Mushers say this is one of their favorite races, not only because of the challenging race, but because of the cheering crowds and warm welcome they receive here in the Upper Peninsula. The UP 200 trail covers 240 miles of challenging terrain through the areas of Marquette, Grand Marais, Wetmore, and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and finishes at Mattson Lower Harbor Park in Marquette. Come join in the excitement for the start of the race located in downtown Marquette! If you’re looking for more Dogsled action, check out the Midnight Run!

Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship
February 13-15, Saint Ignace
The Labatt Blue UP Pond Hockey Championship drew a record 191 teams from 11 states to St. Ignace in 2014. Come and play in one of the few pond hockey tournaments where the ‘pond’ is actually one of the five Great Lakes – Lake Huron! This is a USA Hockey sanctioned tournament, and welcomes players over the age of 21 to participate.

Ice Fishing Tournament
February 14, Mayville
On February 14, 2015, The Fowler Center will be having its 20th annual Ice Fishing Tournament, hosted by Rob and Susie Trott of Great Lakes Outdoors. Come fish for the chance to catch the grand prize pike. Cost is $20 per session for ages 17 and over, $5 per session for those under 17.

Romancing the Riesling
February 14, Traverse City
We’ve long had a romance with the Riesling grape, and Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula (WOMP) will be pairing this beautiful wine with a complementary dish that will possibly even make you fall in love a little bit more. Head to Traverse City to keep up that love affair with your favorite wine!

February 16 – 22

Grand Rapids Boat Show
February 18-22, Grand Rapids
A West Michigan tradition! Exhibits include boats up to 50 feet, fishing boats, ski boats, pontoons, kayaks and motor yachts. Also, boating accessories and services like marina slips and ski gear abound. It is one of the finest water sports expos in the country featuring the Key West Crab Shack, an antique and classic boat display and the Tuber’s Truckload sale.

Meijer State Games of Michigan – Winter Games
February 20-22, Cannonsburg
The Meijer State Games of Michigan is a multi-sport, Olympic-style event that welcomes athletes regardless of age or ability. The Games embody the values of participation, sportsmanship and healthy living among residents of the state of Michigan. The philosophy of the Meijer State Games of Michigan is that everyone participates regardless of age or ability; everyone is welcome and everyone plays. Opening Ceremonies for all participants will be held Friday, February 20, 2015 at Cannonsburg Ski Area.

Kalamazoo Reptile & Exotic Animal Show
February 21, Kalamazoo
Head to Kalamazoo to meet your new slithering best friend! Buy sell or trade a variety of reptiles, amphibians, small mammals and other exotic pets. Snakes, lizards and many more exotic animals will be on display and ready to warm your heart during the winter season.

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park – Guided Snowshoe Hike
February 21, Ontonagon
Snowshoers on this hike can ride the ski lift up the hill then snowshoe down the east side of the ski area. With a stop at East Vista for the view then bust through fresh snow on the way back down. Bring a camera on this picturesque hike. All experience levels welcome. Snowshoes can be borrowed from the park if needed, just arrive a few minutes early. The hikes is 2 hours and of moderate difficulty.

Michigan Historical Museum – Picture-Perfect Photography Hunt
February 21, Lansing
Bring your camera or smartphone and find your artistic voice in the museum galleries! Take a selfie and then post it to the Michigan Historical Museum page on Facebook. Usually, flash is not allowed in the exhibits, so look for the special “flash allowed” signs. This activity is included with museum admission.

February 23 – 28

Outdoorama
February 26-March 1
Whether it’s hunting, fishing, boating, canoeing, hiking, camping, mushroom hunting or bird watching – this is one of the year’s best shows. The Outfitter’s Expo area along with major feature attractions like Big Buck Night, Entertaining Dog Acts and the Trout Pond provide the best place to book the trip of a lifetime or entertain the family. In addition, there will be a huge display of boats, docks and lifts and marine accessories.

Tony-N-Tina’s Wedding
February 27, Warren
At Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding, audience members play the roles of Tony n’ Tina’s family and friends. Allow yourself to be caught up in the activities! This incredible evening of entertainment will be something you and your friends will be talking about for many years. $63 advance tickets include: show ticket, champagne toast, Andiamo gourmet Italian dinner, a piece of wedding cake, and entertainment.

timthumbWinter Beer Festival
February 27-28, Grand Rapids
Winter Beer Festival is an outdoor celebration of Michigan beer, featuring over 600 beers from more than 70 breweries. Dress for winter weather and let the hearty winter brews warm your soul. Snow, rain, or shine.

Big M Moonlight Ski
February 28, Manistee
The Big M Moonlight ski and snowshoe is a tradition that will get you out of your house on a beautiful winter’s night and ski the freshly groomed trails of Big M! Portions of trails are lit up by candle light making this a memorable trek for any cross country ski enthusiast. During the event, event organizers open up the warming lodge and offer warm desserts and drinks to warm up after an evening of great skiing.

Polar Plunge
February 28, Chippewa Lake
Get in touch with your inner Michigander and take a dive into frozen Chippewa Lake! A polar plunge is an experience unlike any other! The Chippewa Lake – Mecosta/Osceola County Polar Plunge takes place February 28, 2015, at Chippewa Lake. The parade of costumes will start at 12:30pm. The After Splash Bash will take place immediately following the plunge at the Chippewa Township Community Building.

What’s your favorite way to spend a snow day in Pure Michigan? Share your photos enjoying winter fun using #PureMichiganSnowDay on Twitter and Instagram or visit michigan.org/snowday.

Ice Fishing 101: Six Simple Rules for Ice Fishing in Michigan

Michigan is a winter wonderland – especially for ice fishing! Today, guest bloggers Elyse Walter and Christian LeSage from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources give us six simple rules for a fun and safe ice fishing experience in Pure Michigan. 

Ice-fishing-in-MichiganMichigan offers some 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.

Many anglers and families look forward to the opportunities ice fishing provides them during these colder months, with some proclaiming this the best time to go fishing! Ice fishing is generally a more social event and many anglers welcome sharing a conversation about how they’re doing and what has worked for them. Others prefer the solitude that this wintery sport offers as they battle the elements in their quest to catch fish. Some of the benefits of ice fishing include the fact you can get to just about anywhere on a lake during the season and there are a multitude of species available to target.

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. We often recommend following 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) with you 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.

After you round up your gear (check out this list in our “Ice Fishing, the Coolest Sport Around” article) you’ll want to think about which species to fish for. Maybe you’d like to look for panfish while hook-and-line fishing, such as bluegill, yellow perch or crappie. Use a tip-up to target larger game fish, like northern pike, walleye and numerous trout species. Or – an opportunity unique to Michigan – consider going spearing for some monster fish like northern pike or muskellunge. Please note there are many restrictions associated with spear fishing (for instance, muskellunge harvest is limited to one per angler per season and a harvest tag is required), anglers should read the 2014 Michigan Fishing Guide for more information.

No matter what type of ice fishing method you choose remember this simple tip: success is most often seen around dawn until mid-morning or from late afternoon until sundown.

Need additional incentive to drop a line this winter? Try it for free as part of the 2015 Winter Free Fishing Weekend, coming Saturday, February 14 and Sunday, February 15. This annual weekend provides two days where no fishing license is required for residents or non-residents – although all fishing regulations still apply.

The Department of Natural Resources has coordinated the Winter Free Fishing Weekend every year since 1994 in an effort to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan and to allow residents and visitors alike to try the experience for free.

While many individuals and families will flock to their favorite fishing hole as part of this weekend, others will join official events coordinated throughout the state that will provide hands-on ice fishing experience. An official 2015 Winter Free Fishing Weekend event list will be available at www.michigan.gov/freefishing later this winter.

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 www.michigan.gov/fishing

ElyseWalter-ChristianLeSageElyse Walter is a communication specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Christian LeSage is a Senior Fisheries Biologist for the Department. Elyse works specifically with the DNR’s Fisheries Division to help educate and promote the state’s fishing opportunities and aquatic resources. Christian LeSage’s responsibilities include improving angling opportunities for anglers through fish stocking activities as well as development of the annual Michigan Fishing Guide. Elyse and Christian work together to promote Michigan’s awesome angling opportunities which are second to none.