Michigan's annual "Winter Free Fishing Weekend" will be held Saturday and Sunday. No fishing license is required, but the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said all regulations still apply.
Novice anglers are encouraged to take someone new out and introduce them to the sport of ice fishing, the DNR said Wednesday. Ice conditions will be variable and generally not safe throughout central and southern Michigan, so those looking to introduce someone to ice fishing may want to travel north to where ice conditions are better.
Keweenaw Bay: Has no ice so most anglers are casting off Sand Point. A couple coho were caught. Warmer weather is bringing out small boats with electric motors. Anglers had limited success for coho and pike. Bigger boats were launching from the south side launch at the Baraga Marina and catching lake trout near Carla's Restaurant and Old Mission, but the launch ramps iced up.
Little Bay De Noc: Ice conditions improved in the northern bay but high winds blew the ice out from Aronson Island to the south. Aronson Island is off Escanaba. It does not look like Sand Point will be iced over this year as it has open water again. There was little or no snow cover on the bay. The better walleye fishing was south of the Narrows between Gladstone and the Escanaba River in 22 to 35 feet of water in the late evening. Many have switched over to tip-ups w/sucker minnows while others are doing well jigging rapalas. Jumbo perch were caught around Butler Island when jigging minnows or wigglers in waters up to 23 feet deep. Whitefish were caught out from the Terrace Bay Inn when jigging minnows or spawn in 30 to 45 feet of water.
Munising: Ice reports in the bay have been inconsistent which limits fishing opportunities. The only fishing that was reported was along the east shoreline between the City Pier and the hospital in Munising. The bite was slow but anglers did catch small whitefish and a few splake.
Big Manistique Lake: Has ice fishing but catch rates have not been consistent. Yellow perch were caught in 4 to 10 feet of water in the evening. For walleye and pike, try tip-ups with minnows. Not much snow on the ice so navigation was easy. Smaller lakes in the area are producing some panfish.
Munuscong: Anglers fishing Munuscong and Raber Bay continue to target perch and walleye when jigging or using tip-ups in 3 feet of water. Catch rates were slow but those putting in the effort will catch some fish. There is ice however be careful around the points.
Cedarville and Hessel: Anglers in Musky Bay are harvesting some really nice 12 to 15 inch perch in 10 to 14 feet of water when using wigglers, minnows or spikes. Patience and persistence is the key as you may have to move around to get the fish to bite.
NORTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA
Grand Lake: Has pretty good ice and fair to good fishing reports.
Long Lake: Has ice fishing opportunities. Most are targeting perch. Try minnows, wax worms or spikes.
Thunder Bay River: Anglers are catching steelhead below the dam. Walleye, pike and brown trout are also possibilities this time of year.
Hubbard Lake: Has ice however anglers need to use extreme caution. The lake has areas that are very hazardous for those on snowmobiles. Watch for trouble spots.
Au Sable River: Should remain good for steelhead fishing for the upcoming weekend. The ramps will be hard to use unless they clear off. Fishing pressure is rather low but then again our rivers are not usually fishable in mid-February!
Higgins Lake: Ice fishing is in full swing. Perch can be found on the north end of the Sunken Island and on the south end of the lake off Kelly Beach and the State Park. Smelt are being caught in 40 to 50 feet of water off the North State Park, Big Creek and the launch on the west side of the lake. Big pike ranging 40 to 46 inches have been caught along the drop-offs. Lake trout were caught on Swedish Pimples in 85 to 120 feet of water. Whitefish were also caught. Look for rainbow trout near the Conference Center and Big Creek.
Houghton Lake: Has ice fishing. Good numbers of walleye have been caught in the East Bay and the Middle Grounds. Some big perch were caught on small perch minnows. Pike are hitting on tip-ups with minnows however many were running on the small side.
Tawas Bay: Anglers were ice fishing back in the "armpit" off Jerry's Marina. Some perch were caught, but walleye fishing and pike spearing were slow. There is no ice out near Tawas Point.
Au Gres: The ice that was south of the river mouth blew out so that ends ice fishing. There was some shore ice at Palmer Road but the quality was poor. A few anglers walking out and fishing in shallow water only did catch a few perch.
Au Gres River: Anglers are still fishing the lower river and catching lots of sub-legal walleye and a few perch.
NORTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA
Torch Lake: Has open water fishing only.
Traverse City: Has open water on both the East Bay and the West Bay.
Lake Cadillac: Ice is holding up well and the bitter cold from last weekend helped with the freezing process. Catch rates were decent for panfish including bluegill, perch, rock bass, and pumpkinseed. Pike were caught on tip-ups.
Lake Mitchell: Has ice and is producing bluegill and crappie. Try minnows, wax worms or spikes. For pike, its tip-ups with large minnows such as sucker minnows.
Lake Missaukee: Has ice and is usually a good spot for bluegills, pumpkinseed, black crappie, rock bass and even a few perch.
Manistee River: Continues to produce good steelhead fishing below Tippy Dam. Those drift fishing are casting flies or yarn.
Hamlin Lake: Those heading out to Indian Pete's Bayou off Barnhart Road near to use extreme caution. There is a large pressure crack about 150 yards out which is nearly two feet wide and a few people have fell through the ice. There was a plank crossing the crack however blowing snow covered it up so it was not visible. The Big Sable River runs through the area so ice thickness is not consistent.
Pere Marquette River: Water levels were up a bit however anglers are still catching some nice steelhead when fly fishing.
SOUTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA
Lake Erie: Has open water fishing only. Walleye were caught on crank baits in Brest Bay. At the Metro Park Marina, anglers are punching holes in the thin ice and catching perch, bluegills and even a few pike on shiner minnows, wax worms or spikes. There are two docks in at the boat launch.
Huron River: Steelhead are still being caught by shore anglers and those wading. Try a small white jig with a wax worm or yarn.
Detroit River: Boat anglers are catching perch in the marinas and yacht clubs along the south end of Grosse Ile. Try perch rigs with shiner minnows. Small boats are catching fish in the canals around Gibraltar. Perch and bluegills were caught off the south Gibraltar Road Bridge, but anglers will need to park on King Bridge Drive so the roadway will not be blocked.
Lake St. Clair: Had no safe ice and with warmer temperatures this week, it does not look like things will change much by the weekend. Open water fishing will be a bit harder because of skim ice and flow ice.
Lexington: Had a mix of open water fishing and ice fishing as a sheet of ice was still hanging around the boat launch but anglers need to use extreme caution. Shore and pier anglers were getting a few trout and perch.
Port Sanilac: There is no fishable ice in the harbor but shore and pier anglers are catching steelhead when the floating ice leaves enough open water to fish in.
Harbor Beach: Had a few anglers sorting through perch caught in the City Harbor and the Marina. Though a few anglers are still out there, ice conditions were poor. The Edison Plant was still off-line so there was little activity as the discharge channel is often iced over, but the ice is not safe.
Saginaw Bay: A lot of the ice blew out up near Pinconning late last week, but there are a couple anglers walking off Cody-Estey Road and catching perch in 2 to 3 feet of water. A few perch in the 8 to 10 inch range were caught inside the Linwood Marina. Ice conditions off Vanderbilt Park were not safe because the thickness varies. At Sebewaing, perch fishing was in the marina as the river had skim ice. Not much activity from Sebewaing to Bay Port due to poor ice conditions. Anglers were ice fishing in the marina basins at Caseville but catch rates for perch, pike and walleye were hit-or-miss. At Port Austin, a few anglers looking for pike put their ice shanties back out in the harbor as Bird Creek had started to ice back up.
Saginaw River: Floating ice throughout the river system is a big problem for boat anglers right now. Walleye were caught from the south end of Bay City to the Zilwaukee Bridge. In Bay City, boats could launch at the Independence Bridge, but ice conditions at the mouth will make launching and navigating difficult. Anglers might want to bring a spud and salt. The spud will help to get the boat in and out and the salt will melt the ice on the ramp so you don't launch your truck right along with your boat!
Tittabawassee River: Fishing is at a standstill right now due to the large amount of floating ice. Warmer temperatures later this week may improve river fishing prospects.
SOUTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA
Anglers are getting out on some lakes but the ice is still questionable so anglers are encouraged to use extreme caution. The bigger and deeper lakes still have unsafe ice or open water. Bluegill fishing was fair to good on most lakes in the morning or evening when using tear drops with wax worms or spikes. Pike are hitting on tip-ups.
St. Joseph: Still has some anglers fishing off the piers when the weather permits. Be sure to use caution and watch for ice build-up along the piers.
St. Joseph River: Steelhead fishing continues to be good between Berrien Springs and the St. Joe/Benton Harbor area.
Kalamazoo River: Has good steelhead fishing between the Allegan Dam and New Richmond.
Grand River at Grand Rapids: Has very good steelhead fishing. Catch rates were good at the dam when using jigs and wax worms. For the jigs, try a white or pink head with a chartreuse body. Steelhead were caught off the east wall. Boat and shore anglers are bouncing pink or chartreuse spawn bags or trolling rapalas and Hot-n-Tots downriver for walleye and steelhead. Walleye have been caught off the Fulton Street Bridge and the Wealthy Street Bridge. No safe ice in this area of the state.
Grand River at Lansing: Has open water fishing for steelhead and pike.
Lake Lansing: Had a few anglers fishing in shallow waters only.
Muskegon River: Steelhead anglers did better on the cloudy days. Try flies, spawn and yarn. Walleye can still be found in Hardy Pond.