SFM Ice Fishing Report 01.17.17

Benzie, Grand Traverse, Wexford County, Antrim, Leelanau, and Manistee Counties

As we enter mid-January in northern Michigan we are faced with an aggressive warming trend that is threatening ice conditions. To a lot of people in the region this is great news, but for ice fisherman it is depressing! Looking at the 10-12 day forecast, it looks like most lakes will face very slushy and wet conditions, which will indeed lead to potentially unsafe ice conditions. As we all know, the weather forecast can change from day to day, so lets keep our fingers crossed for colder temperatures. We ask that all anglers read the current ice report and understand that it is regarding “current” conditions, as we expect things to deteriorate over the next week. Things will be changing every day, and so what may have been safe a day or two ago may not be on following days. Please be safe and use your best judgment when venturing out on the ice.

Crystal Lake in Benzie County has formed 4-5 inches of ice coverage on the very east end of the lake. Anglers have had nice catches of perch in 25 feet of water fishing off the Beulah access. The remainder of the lake is virtually open water. The only fishable water is right off of the town of Beulah. We feel that this will change with the forecast and create unsafe conditions in the very near future.

Long Lake in Benzie County has formed 10-11 inches of ice. The pike have been found in 7-10 feet 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 of 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 9-10 inches of ice. Pike fishing in Bass Lake is still producing a lot of action on undersized fish in the 18-22 inch range. Blue gill and crappie have been found in 15-18 feet 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 8-9 inches of ice. Smelt fishing has been slow on both ends of the lake. Marking fish has been fairly easy however finding active schools has been difficult for most. 60 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. Perch have been found in 35-45 feet of water.

Long Lake in Grand Traverse County has formed 7-9 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 30-35ft. 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 8-9 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 numbers of fish.

Skegemog Lake in Antrim County has 9-11 inches of ice coverage off the south shore Baggs Road 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. Anglers targeting pike and musky have been reporting slower action. A word of caution to anglers venturing close to the Skegemog and Elk Lake channel—a snowmobile went through just 2 days ago, and while the person was safely rescued, it goes to show that ice near any current can be weaker—such as was the case here. The further to the west anglers venture, be prepared for thinner and thinner ice.

Portage Lake in Manistee County is has formed 8-10 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 16-25 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 9-11 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 10-12 inches of ice. Blue gill and crappie have been slow in action and small in size during the middle of the day. However, crappie and bluegill have been on the move in both lakes during early morning and late evening. 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!