Benzie, Grand Traverse, Wexford County, Antrim, and Manistee Counties
After a week of inconsistent temperatures, we wished for colder weather, and our wish came true! This past week in northern Michigan was by far the coldest we have experienced this year. Cold temperatures and heavy winds have added multiple inches of ice to all bodies of water. After accumulating a large amount of snowfall in the past week, walking conditions on most lakes have gradually become more difficult. Some lakes listed below have 3-6 inches of snow with 1-2 inches of slush, we would like to prepare all anglers for these conditions. Despite lots of good ice on most of our lakes, caution should still be taken when venturing out with a 4-wheeler, snowmobile or larger vehicle. There are still the occasional reports of people finding weaker ice, especially towards the southern part of the state. In fact, an airplane went through the ice just a couple of days ago in Lowell out on Murray Lake. But our guess is that very few ice anglers are taking their airplanes out to go fish, so this is likely just an isolated incident!
Crystal Lake in Benzie County has formed 1-2 inches of ice coverage on the very east end of the lake. We are keeping our fingers crossed that this lake will continue to build ice in hopes to take advantage of some excellent perch, lake trout, and white fish opportunities. There is currently NO safe fishable ice on Crystal Lake. Heavy winds have what little ice there is shifting with the waves.
Long Lake in Benzie County has formed 8-10 inches of ice. The pike have been found in 7-10ft of water on top of, and adjacent to, weed beds and flats. Perch and pike have been found in 10-13 feet of water. Tip-ups with golden minnows set 1-3 feet off bottom have been most productive for pike. Perch minnows and small tungsten jigs have taken fair catches of perch.
Bass and Otter Lakes in Benzie County both have formed 6-8 inches of ice. Pike fishing in Bass Lake has been producing a lot of action on undersized fish in the 18-22inch range. Blue gill and crappie have been found in 15-18ft of water at first and last light in both lakes. Perch fishing in Otter Lake has been slow, some fish have been found in 20-23 feet of water.
Green Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 5-6 inches of ice. Smelt have been found fishing off of the south state park access in 30-40 feet of water. Anglers targeting pike have had success in 10-15 feet in weed-covered flats and along steep breaks. Perch have been found in 35-45 feet of water.
Long Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 5-6 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. The hottest depth for walleye seems to be 20-30 feet depending on the time of day. Large perch have been found in 30-40 feet of water. Anglers have not found large numbers of perch. However, the perch being caught have been very nice in size.
Skegemog Lake in Antrim County has 8-9 inches of ice coverage off of the south shore access site. 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 4-6 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.
Bear Lake in Manistee County has formed 8-9 inches of ice. Anglers have been targeting walleye and pike off of 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 9-10 inches of ice. Crappie and bluegill have been on the move in both lakes, transitioning from 8-10 foot weed flats to 16-20 foot holes and drop-offs throughout the day. 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!