Benzie, Grand Traverse, Wexford County, Antrim, and Manistee Counties
Happy New Year! We at Sport Fish Michigan are very excited for the 2017 ice season. We were concerned about this past week’s warming trend and the impact it would have on most of the area’s inland lakes. But the lakes actually formed better conditions due to the thaw. Snow cover gradually disappeared and refroze making for really nice walking conditions and thicker ice. With high winds and limited amounts of snowfall, most of the lakes listed in this report have virtually no snow coverage at this time.
Long Lake in Benzie County has formed 5-7 inches of ice. With high winds this past week the ice in some areas is thicker than others. The pike have been found in 7-10ft of water on top of, and adjacent to, weed beds and flats. Spearing has been slow, however, tip-up action has been fair with presenting golden minnows and smaller suckers 1-2ft off bottom.
Bass and Otter Lake in Benzie County both have formed 3-4 inches of ice. The safest most consistent ice conditions can be found closer to the access sites on each lake. 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.
Green Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 3-4 inches of ice. Anglers have been fishing off the south launch where ice conditions seem to be the best. Anglers should use extreme caution when venturing out on Green at this point in time. We are hoping for cooler weather in the next week or so to continue to build ice on this body of water. First ice for smelt, perch, and large pike can be productive on this particular body of water.
Long Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 3-4 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 until after this upcoming cold front adds a few inches of good ice. Anglers have had success finding active walleye both jigging and fishing tip-ups along steep breaks and adjacent to weed beds. The hottest depth seems to be 16-22ft depending on the time of day.
Skegemog Lake in Antrim County has 4-5 inches of ice coverage off of the south shore access site. This is another lake we are very happy to see freeze so early in the season. Skegemog is an excellent lake to target first ice perch feeding in the shallow weed flats. Anglers using blues, tungsten jigs and wax worms will have great success. 11-16ft of water seems to produce active fish on a consistent basis.
Portage Lake in Manistee County is has formed 3-3.5 inches of ice coverage. Anglers have been fishing mostly off of the north access sights for perch, pike and walleye. Most perch have been found feeding on top of weed covered areas in 16-25ft. Anglers pursuing large perch in smaller schools have been targeting the 35-40ft of water. This is also a great depth to jig and set tip-ups for walleye.
Bear Lake in Manistee County has formed 3.5-4.5 inches of ice. Anglers have been targeting walleye and pike off of south west and north access sites. The more aggressive fish have been feeding along weed covered drop offs and contour changes in depths ranging from 12-18ft. 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 7-8 inches of ice. Crappie and bluegill have been on the move in both lakes, transitioning from 8-10ft weed flats to 12-18ft holes and drop offs throughout the day.
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!