It’s November 20th, and we already have ice forming in northern Michigan! The past few cold, wintry days have seen some ice being produced on some of the smaller bodies of water. While there is no safe ice to venture out onto yet, it’s beginning to look like we will have some early ice to play on shortly.
Of course, this weekend will be warmer with rain in the forecast, so that may melt some of the ice. But if there’s ice already forming on lakes like Little Glen Lake in Empire, that means that the water temps are cold enough to freeze again quickly even if the rain melts it away.
The recent deluge of snow has significantly cooled water temps on all of the northern Michigan bodies of water, and here at Sport Fish Michigan, we are counting the days until we can safely get out for some much anticipated ice fishing!
Ice fishing continues to be an intriguing prospect in northern Michigan, despite the late date on the calendar. Here is our latest Michigan Ice Fishing Report:
For those still seeking the thrill of late season ice, opportunities are still strong. Grand Traverse Bays are still boasting thick ice in the 15-16 inch range, but with the cold temps at night the past few days, more ice is not only possible, but probable. This means that anglers seeking to fish for lake trout or whitefish will still have their opportunities to land these excellent tasting fish. Depending on the fish’s moods, they can be found anywhere from 85 feet all the way down to 150 feet for the whitefish. The standard jigging baits work well for the lakers like Krocodile spoons, Sandkickers or Jonah Jigs. The same lineup for lakers will also take their share of whitefish, although they tend to prefer slightly smaller spoons. Swedish Pimples are another dynamite option for these fish, and bites are unmistakeable when they are on the bite.
Inland lake anglers are still taking plenty of perch and smelt. Walleyes on the Great Lakes remain open, so they are still able to be targeted. Only inland lakes and rivers are closed for walleye fishing.
The yellow perch have been above average in size on select inland lakes, and they have been willing participants for many who have located the schools of these tasty favorites. Smelt have been biting just at sunset and dusk, into the first hour of darkness. While smelt themselves aren’t a huge species of fish, they are loads of fun through the ice, and are just as good on a plate!
Ice Fishing –
Captain Ben Wolfe of Sport Fish Michigan
Ice Fishing Report: Current ice conditions are still safe for the most part, with many vehicles being driven out onto the ice still. This past weekend saw dozens of pickups, SUVs and even a convertible out on Grand Traverse Bays, where ice was about 16 inches thick. While the ice is still mostly safe, the warm temperatures early in the week made for some softer, slushy conditions, but there was still over a foot of drill-able ice on the Bays. The current cold snap should have the slush freeze back over, as there is little to no snow on top of the Bays. Where there is snow covering the ice, expect slushy traction. With high winds expected, as always, caution should be taken when traveling or fishing near any pressure cracks. Inland lake ice is thicker than is the ice on the Bays, but this recent sunny, warm weather has the snow atop the ice somewhat slushy. The mid-week cold temps may not freeze the slush where there is snow insulating it from above. Snowmobiles and ATVs are the normal vehicles seen out on the inland lakes, but this slush could change that quickly. As always, a conservative approach should be taken when venturing out onto the ice.
Fishing has been very good as of late. The whitefish bite out on Grand Traverse Bay has been a little hit or miss, but when they can be found, the bite can last most of the day. Lake trout and burbot action has been hot through the ice as of late. Burbot are spawning, and it has been fun cashing in on the hot bite for this excellent eating fish. Rumors are being heard that there has been a good yellow perch bite in parts of the bay, with big perch being caught. Anglers scoring these jumbos are pretty tight-lipped about the exact locations, but the normal spots are likely the best bets. This past weekend was windy, but with a shanty to help break up the wind, the fishing was excellent for many anglers, with almost anything dropped below the ice.
Fishing has been good on several of the inland lakes for late-ice walleyes. The typical tip-up and jigging setups have been the the keys to these table-side favorites. Yellow perch have been a bit tougher to come by in good numbers, but every day is different, and as the schools move through the break lines, it’s possible to score well with a variety of baits. Whitefish and lake trout have been a bit more stingy as of late, but action is expected to heat up again before ice-out. Smelt on several of the inland lakes known for their smelt fishing like Crystal Lake has been good. Anglers have been able to catch quite a few of these fan favorites.