Ice Fishing Techniques in Michigan

Ice Fishing Techniques in Michigan
Michigan anglers frequent the frozen lakes and rivers during winter in search for game fish such as walleye, northern pike, steelhead and crappie. As soon as the initial seal of hard ice is present, ice anglers can be seen setting up ice shanties, drilling holes and fishing from sunrise to sunset. Popular ice-fishing grounds include Hamlin Lake, Mud Lake, Lake Cadillac and Portage Lake.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Fishing rod and reel
  • Lures including jigs, baits, worms
  • Slip-bobber
  • Tip-up
Step 1
Go to your fishing ground and locate dropoffs based on your memory of their location from before the lake froze over. Ask other ice anglers, local bait and tackle shops or guides if you do not know this information. Dropoffs are ideal places to look for bluegills. Use lures such as spikes and wax worms on a small jig and go at sunrise or sunset when bluegill are most active. Target bluegills using 4-foot rods with K&E jigs during the early winter season, especially on lakes that freeze over early, like Cadillac Lake and Lake Mitchell.
Step 2
Use large jigs for crappies during the early season right after the ice forms. As the ice thickens, switch to smaller jigs like wax worms, wigglers and spikes, because more anglers fish as the season progresses causing fish to become more finicky. Other effective lures for crappie ice fishing are demon glows and minnows, especially in Turtle Bay.
Step 3
Use tip-ups with dead smelt or suckers and jumbo golden shiners when ice fishing for northern pike. Visit Muskegon Lake in Muskegon County for productive ice fishing, as pike are known to measure 24 to 36 inches and can reach up to 20 lbs. in the lake. A tip-up is a tool used by ice anglers to see when a fish bites the line. It is a spool on a stick holding a baited fishing line hanging through an ice hole. As soon as the fish takes the bait, the pull on the fishing line releases a signal, typically a red flag.
Step 4
Search for dropoffs, humps and bottom structures when ice fishing for walleyes. Effective presentations include jigging Rapalas or a minnow and rigging a slip-bobber. Anglers find that the slip-bobber works well on super-sensitive walleyes during winter, according to the Michigan Sportsman. Another effective walleye ice fishing technique is to use a leadhead jig and minnow using a tip-up.
Step 5
Cast for steelhead in shallow water grounds near the mouths of river such as the Pere Marquette River. Place tip-ups along the dropoffs and use baits such as wigglers and spawn bags with floaters inside.

Article Written By Rona Aquino

Rona Aquino began writing professionally in 2008. As an avid marathon runner and outdoor enthusiast, she writes on topics of running, fitness and outdoor recreation for various publications. Aquino holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications and English from the University of Maryland College Park.

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