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.

Winter Fishing in Michigan: Tips from a 17 Year Old Angler

Today, seventeen year-old angler and founder of XXL Chrome Chasing, Kyle McClelland, gives us some tried and tested tips for steelheading and ice fishing in Pure Michigan this winter. 

Photo courtesy of XXL Chrome Chasing

Michigan is a prime destination for fishermen all year round. From the Great Lakes to inland lakes, there are countless fishing opportunities to be had across the state. Although the weather can be harsh during the deep winter months, don’t be discouraged from venturing out on the water!

During the winter season, my favorite style of fishing is steelheading on the Great Lakes tributaries. With colors akin to autumn in Northern Michigan and a hint of chrome, steelhead can be found throughout many of the Great Lakes tributaries across Michigan. Known for their acrobatic jumps and bruising battles, steelhead are a very popular fish targeted by many anglers in the Great Lakes region.

The elusive fish enters the Great Lakes tributaries during the fall months to feed on the spawning salmon eggs. In the early winter months, steelhead will generally hold in the bigger river systems throughout the winter, such as the Big Manistee, Betsie, Muskegon, and the Grand.

Photo courtesy of XXL Chrome Chasing

Along with steelheading, ice fishing is another great and very popular style of winter fishing across Michigan. One thing us Michigan anglers can be thankful for is the number of species that can be targeted through the ice! Whether you like to set tip ups for walleye, spear northern pike, or jig for panfish, the opportunities are endless. There is bound to be one that will fit your desire.

Make sure you use extra caution before you head out on the ice. Always check ice conditions before you head out, bring a partner with you and make sure you have the proper safety gear. I generally like 3-4″ for walking, 6-8″ for driving an ATV and 12-14″ for driving a vehicle. Driving a vehicle on the ice isn’t recommend, but here in Michigan many ice fishing anglers do it.

With all these fishing opportunities here in Michigan, XXL Chrome Chasing is committed to getting the “next generation” more involved in the outdoors. If you have an interest in the outdoors, there are many ways to learn.  I suggest joining a fishing forum. There are many across Michigan, and they all consist of great information and members that are willing to help you learn and/or get started.

Some include upangler.com, glangler.com, Lake Michigan Angler and many more! You can also check out our XXL Chrome Chasing Facebook page. If you have any questions, you can message us at any time.

If you see a young outdoorsman on the water or in the woods, we encourage you to give them a helping hand. Growing up, countless people helped me to become a more successful angler and I’m very thankful for it, so I like to return the favor.

There really isn’t a better state to live in if you’re an angler! Make sure to dress appropriately and get out there and take advantage of the great fishing we’re blessed with here in Michigan.

If you have any questions related to fishing in Michigan, check out our Facebook page and get in contact with us. Feel free to post pictures and share stories about your fishing experiences in Michigan!

Kyle McClelland is a 17 year old fisherman from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Kyle and now lives in Fife Lake, MI outside of Traverse City. Kyle’s passion for fishing started during his earliest elementary school days. Now, his life revolves around fishing, on and off the water! 

Gear Up for Free Fishing Weekend in Pure Michigan

It’s the perfect weather for some ice fishing in Pure Michigan! Today, Elyse Walter from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us how to take advantage of winter fishing opportunities during Free Fishing Weekend February 15 – 16, 2014.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

There are many great things about Michigan, but one of the best is the fact that you can go fishing 12 months out of the year. With a vast amount of water and a multitude of species, there’s never a dull moment for this popular outdoor activity – even when the temperatures dip.

In fact, Michigan’s ice fishing is well known and often something many anglers look forward to each year. Many claim the state’s winter months produce even better fishing than spring and summer – just ask Dale Blakley from Niles who caught the new state record flathead catfish (52 pounds) on January 12 in Barron Lake in Cass County!

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

So while many flock to the lakes once conditions are right, there are other anglers that have never set foot on the ice. It’s quite simple to go ice fishing, with a few pieces of appropriate equipment (including safety items) and lots of warm clothing you can soon be on your way. You’ll have lots of species you can target, including bluegill, crappie, smelt, walleye, yellow perch and northern pike, and lots of ways in doing so, including tip-ups, hook-and-line and spearing.

Need further incentive to drop a line this winter? Try it for free as part of the 2014 Winter Free Fishing Weekend, coming Saturday, February 15 and Sunday, February 16. This annual weekend provides two days where no fishing license is required for residents or non-residents – although all regulations still apply.

The Department of Natural Resources coordinates the Winter Free Fishing Weekend each year (and has since 1994) as an opportunity to showcase the great angling opportunities available in Michigan and allowing people to try the experience for free.

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Dept. of Natural Resources

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 2014 Winter Free Fishing Weekend event list is available online highlighting activities (such as youth fishing tournaments) in many parts of the state, including the counties of Alpena, Arenac, Cheboygan, Clinton, Gogebic, Keweenaw, Macomb, Montcalm, Otsego, Roscommon, Tuscola, Washtenaw and Wayne.

Don’t miss your chance to experience the vast array of Michigan’s winter fishing opportunities. Start planning your next fishing trip at www.michigan.gov/fishing!

Have you been ice fishing in Michigan?  Where do you like to fish? 

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