Benzie, Grand Traverse, Antrim, Leelanau, and Manistee Counties
Most of the species we are targeting in Northern Michigan have been cooperating very well. The recent full moon had a slight impact on the walleye and perch bite, but we were still able to capitalize on some small feeding windows. We are seeing a warm up in the forecast for next week, which has us concerned about what the end of the month will bring for ice conditions. The majority of the lakes listed below remain at the same thickness stated in the previous ice report. Snow coverage has been very limited, and at this current time, the ice is in great shape. With the warming trend forecasted we feel the ice could deteriorate quickly. We ask that all anglers remain cautious for the rest of the season: warm weather and sun, accompanied by rain, make for very unsafe ice conditions.
Crystal Lake in Benzie County has formed 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% unsafe ice, anglers should be very cautious fishing the east end because conditions 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 of water. 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 10-11 inches of ice on the south portion of the lake only. 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 minnows presentations. Perch have been found in 15-25 feet depending on the bottom make-up. The shallower weed clumps have produced nice quality, however the deeper, softer, weed covered depths are producing numbers of fish. The northern portion of the lake has 5-6 inches of ice. Anglers have had some luck finding walleye on the drop-offs and perch have been found in 25-35 feet of water.
Skegemog Lake in Antrim County has 12 inches of ice coverage off of 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 of 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 12 inches of ice. The walleye action has been in a bit of lull this past week. 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 12-13 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!