Benzie, Grand Traverse, Antrim, Leelanau, and Manistee Counties
As we approach mid-February, we at Sport Fish Michigan could not be more pleased with ice conditions and fish activity. Due to Northern Michigan experiencing such a variation in temperatures this winter, the fish seem to be avoiding the mid-February lull. February on any lake can be a very difficult time to find active fish. Snow coverage, limited daylight, and fishing pressure usually contribute to a slower bite. However, most species have been active and remain in a very positive mood! We are really looking forward to excellent fishing this month. Ice conditions seem to be maintaining, and snow coverage on most lakes is very limited. As we all know, a day of warm weather and rain can alter a lake’s condition: we ask that all anglers use caution and good judgment when hitting the ice this month.
Crystal Lake in Benzie County has formed 7-8 inches of ice coverage on the very east end of the lake. White fish can be found in 43-50 feet of water, but in very small schools. Anglers have had nice catches of perch in 25 feet of water fishing off the Beulah access. The remainder of the lake is all open water. The only fishable water is right off of the town of Beulah. Because Crystal Lake is 70% open water, anglers should be very cautious fishing the east end because conditions will can change with high winds.
Long Lake in Benzie County has formed 11-12 inches of ice. Pike fishing has recently improved on Long Lake. Golden Minnows on tip-ups have taken most fish. Perch and pike have been found in 6-9 feet of water. Perch minnows and small tungsten jigs have taken fair catches of perch.
Green Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 8-9 inches of ice. Smelt fishing has definitely picked up in the past week. The best times to target active fish have been from 6-9pm. 45-55 feet of water has produced the most smelt action after dark. Anglers targeting pike have had success in 10-15 feet in weed-covered flats and along steep breaks.
Long Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 9-10 inches of ice depending on what region of the lake you are on. Long Lake can be very inconsistent in ice thickness. Anglers should use extreme caution fishing Long Lake. Anglers have had success finding active walleye both jigging and fishing tip-ups along steep breaks and adjacent to weed beds in 30-35 feet. The hottest depth for both big perch and walleye seems to be 25-35 feet, depending on the time of day. Large perch have been found in 30-40 feet of water, as well. Anglers have not found large numbers of perch. However, the perch being caught have been very nice in size.
South Lake Leelanau has 7-8 inches of ice on the south portion of the lake only. The north end of the lake is not producing safe ice at this time due to inconsistent weather and winds. Anglers have found perch, pike, and walleye off all major boat ramp sites. Walleye fishing has been best in 18-25 feet, mostly on tip-ups and larger blue minnow presentations. Perch have been found in 15-25 feet depending on the bottom makeup. The shallower weed clumps have produced nice quality, however the deeper, softer weed-covered depths are producing greater numbers of fish.
Skegemog Lake in Antrim County has 10-11 inches of ice coverage off the south shore access site to the mid-central portion of the lake. Anglers using blues, tungsten jigs, and wax worms accompanied by an underwater camera have had great success. 11-16 feet of water seems to produce active fish on a consistent basis. The larger perch have been coming on orange and green tungsten jigs tipped with spikes and wax worms.
Portage Lake in Manistee County has formed 10-11 inches of ice coverage. Anglers have been fishing mostly off the north access sites for perch, pike, and walleye. Most perch have been found feeding on top of weed-covered areas in 16-25 feet. Anglers pursuing large perch in smaller schools have been targeting the 35-40 feet of water. This is also a great depth to jig and set tip-ups for walleye. Some walleye of a larger size have been found in the central portion of the lake in 28-32 feet of water at first and last light.
Bear Lake in Manistee County has formed 10-11 inches of ice. The walleye action has been in a bit of lull this past week. Anglers have been targeting walleye and pike off the southwest and north access sites. The more aggressive fish have been feeding along weed-covered drop-offs and contour changes in depths ranging from 12-18 feet. Pike and walleye seem to be on the move together, feeding in the same general areas.
Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac in Wexford County have both formed 10-12 inches of ice. Lake Cadillac has recently produced some very nice catches of crappie during daylight hours. Anglers finessing active fish with very small, dark-colored tungsten have had the most luck. Walleye have been found in 19-21 feet on Lake Mitchell. Pike have been active throughout the day. Larger pike have been coming on tip-ups using 4-5 inch sucker minnows as bait. Weed-covered flats ranging from 9-12 feet have been best for pike action.
We at Sport Fish Michigan look forward to many safe and successful days during this 2017 season. With that in mind, we encourage all anglers to take this report as reference and not as a guarantee. Ice conditions change with the weather patterns. It is always good to use your best judgment and always check the ice with a good spud and a friend! Tight lines and look forward to fishing with you!