Ice Fishing in Pure Michigan

Bob Fisher is a lifelong avid Michigan sportsman. In addition to his love of the outdoors, Bob Fisher was also co-founder and co-owner of Baldwin Bait and Tackle, located in Baldwin. He answered a few of our questions about ice fishing. You can also check out this ice fishing article on michigan.org for more.

Q: Besides the ice, how is ice fishing different from regular fishing?

A: Ice fishing offers many different positive aspects compared to “regular” or conventional open water fishing. First, everyone has access to an entire lake. With open water fishing, one needs access to a boat to access the entire lake. Once ice forms a hard surface, anyone can simply walk to any part of the lake they desire to fish. Large lakes will require an ATV or snowmobile to access far reaches, if the ice thickness is safe enough to accommodate the weight of the machines.

Ice fishing is typically inexpensive compared to other styles of fishing. While fly fishing or big lake trolling can be more expensive endeavors, with ice fishing all one needs is some basic gear that can be purchased for less than $30 all together and a bucket to sit upon.

Q: Are there different types of fish you can catch in Michigan when you are ice fishing vs. regular fishing?

A. There are numerous fish species that ice fishermen target. The list varies from large northern pike and lake trout to the tiny smelt. Typically, ice fishermen target fish for table fare. The most common fish that ice fishermen seek are pan fish such as bluegill, perch and crappie. Northern pike are often sought using tip-up’s and jigging for walleye is very common and popular. One should check the fishing regulations since several species of fish have closed seasons during certain times of the year.

Q: Is there any special equipment you need?

A: For starting out with basic ice fishing, one would need a small rod and reel, designed specifically for ice fishing. These can be very economical setups that can be purchased for less than $10 and they typically come with the fishing line already spooled on. One will also need either an ice auger to drill a hole through the ice or an ice spud to chip open an existing hole, an ice skimmer to remove ice that forms once the hole is open, some bait, some small jig “lures” and a five gallon bucket to carry your gear in and to sit upon while fishing. Warm clothing and boots are also typically needed.

If on the more serious side, some ice fishermen design elaborate ice shantys, complete with heaters, furniture, stoves to cook fish on, and even TV’s.

Q: Where are some good areas to ice fish in Michigan?

A: The beauty of ice fishing is that nearly every lake that offers good fishing in the Summer months can offer good fishing during the Winter months. A notable event is Tip Up Town USA, among the top 10 winter events in the nation, which is a large ice fishing carnival attracting 10,000′s of people to the Houghton Lake area every winter.

Q: Where can people get more information about ice fishing?

A: Local fishing stores usually offer the best local advice. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has very good information on ice fishing and also has weekly fishing reports. The Department of Natural Resources also offers a free fishing weekend, where no fishing license is required, so anyone can try their hand at ice fishing without buying a license.

Please note-while ice fishing is a fun Winter activity, one must always use caution and common sense whenever venturing out on any ice.