Benzie, Grand Traverse, Manistee, and Wexford County
February is here, and it has brought some very cold weather! Sport Fish Michigan has been diligently hitting the hard water and has had some great success. The recent cold front has put a stop to most of the slushy conditions that the end of January presented. Most of the lakes we have been fishing in the past month have formed some excellent ice and great fishing conditions. Clients have had the opportunity to capitalize on hungry fish and nice weather!
Long Lake in Benzie County is still in excellent shape. The snow cover is virtually non-existent due the heavy west winds coming from Lake Michigan. The Pike have been extremely active. The best bite has been from daylight until around 10:00 a.m, and picks back up from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Golden Minnows on tip-ups with the occasional artificial decoy under the spear have been the best bet.
Upper Herring Lake has hit a bit of a mid-winter lull. The Walleye have taken a more non-aggressive stance, biting strictly in the morning at first light, and in the evening within the last hour of daylight. Most fish have been on the jigging rod, tip-ups have not producing very much action. Smaller blues on tip-ups have been icing some nice jumbo Perch, but not very many. We look forward to seeing what will happen with the Perch as the month of March approaches.
Ellis Lake, Lake Dubonnet, Spider, and Arbutus Lake have locked up tightly with the recent cold snap. Most of the snowfall on these lakes has frozen into one solid block of ice depending on the area of each lake you are fishing. Crappie and Bluegills seem to feeding at the brighter, higher-pressure times of the day due to the large amount of snow cover. Pike have been active in the shallow flats and weedy contour lines, mostly keying in on Sucker Minnows.
Long Lake in Grand Traverse County is being fished in most regions. Due to the inconsistent ice for most of the winter, we encourage all anglers use their best judgment when venturing out on this body of water. The anglers that have had recent success have been targeting Perch and Walleye. The Walleye have been found in 16-25 feet at low-light times of the day. Most of the Perch and Walleye being caught during the day have been found in 25-35 feet of water. Blue Minnows on Perch Riggs and Jigging Rapalas have been the most effective tactic. Anglers have been tipping the jigs with minnow heads to entice the bite.
Skegemog Lake has been consistent all winter. The Perch bite has picked up dramatically in the past week. More mature fish are starting to show pre-spawn feeding patterns. Most anglers have reported bigger fish and consistent numbers of females. The best fishing is yet to come! The guides at SFM are very excited to capitalize on these hungry jumbos during the month of March!
Portage Lake in Manistee County is still producing great catches of fish. Perch have been ranging in size depending on the school and lake location. Bigger, mature Perch have been actively feeding in 17-25 feet of water. These fish are finicky and have been caught on small and large presentations. Big Blues on tip-ups with size 12 treble hooks and light fluorocarbon leader has been effective. While other anglers have had equal success enticing bites with small tungsten jigs. Electronics have been key while jigging the mature fish; most attacks are taking place 2-4 feet suspended off of bottom.
Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac have been hit or miss. Lake Mitchell seems to be consistently out-fishing Cadillac. Anglers finding subtle depth changes and small depressions have been doing well on pan fish. Small tungsten jigs with 1-2 lb. test tipped with spikes and wax worms have worked best. The best depth range for hungry active fish on Mitchell has been 10-11 feet of water. Pike have been few and far between. Most active Pike being found have been on the move between 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. in the shallow flats with weed cover. Larger sucker minnows on tip-ups have been effective on opportunistic fish.
We at Sport Fish Michigan look forward to many safe and successful days during this 2016 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 – we look forward to fishing with you!