Michigan is widely recognized for its outstanding ice fishing, surpassing most other states in terms of quality. If you’re interested in catching walleye, northern pike, trout, yellow perch, panfish, or bass, Michigan is the place to be.
When it comes to crappie fishing in Michigan, you have the opportunity to reel in large, dinnerplate-sized slabs. The walleye population includes fish of various sizes, ranging from big to trophy-class. In addition, the waters are inhabited by enormous pike and muskies, known for their strength and eagerness to strike when presented with the right bait at the right time.
Considering all these factors, Michigan is truly an exceptional destination for ice fishing. Whether you choose to explore the Great Lakes or smaller ponds, you’ll find fish aplenty, as ice fishing is deeply rooted in the way of life here. Therefore, if you’re an avid angler, make sure to add Michigan to your list of must-visit places for wintertime fishing.
Effective Gear and Tactical Strategies
Ice fishing is a popular and accessible sport that doesn’t require much equipment. To get started, all you need is a fishing rod and an auger to drill a hole in the ice. If you don’t own an auger, you can easily rent one along with other necessary gear and rods at most of the lakes on our list.
Before heading out to an ice shack, it’s a good idea to check with resorts and guide services for information. Alternatively, you can rent a cozy sleeper cabin where you can enjoy watching a sports game while fishing.
When it comes to bait, natural options like wax worms, nightcrawlers, and minnows work well for ice fishing. If you prefer artificial lures, Swedish Pimples, Kastmasters, Rat-L-Traps, and Rapala Shad Raps are excellent choices for jigging. You can also use soft plastics to enhance your jig presentation, and it’s advisable to choose colors that glow in the dark.
Safety is crucial when ice fishing. Always have a flotation device and ice picks with you. Make sure the ice is at least 3 inches thick before walking on it, and avoid areas with slush on the surface. Guides and resorts can provide information about ice conditions, so it’s wise to call ahead and check.
If you’re still learning about fishing on frozen water, we have a comprehensive guide to ice fishing linked at the bottom of this article. It will provide you with additional information and help you improve your ice fishing skills.
Top Ice Fishing Lakes in Michigan
Are you ready to give ice fishing a try? It’s the perfect time as the ice is thick enough. It’s a wonderful tradition that has been around for more than 2,000 years, where people gather on the ice to fish and enjoy each other’s company. Let’s not miss out on being part of this historical activity.
Now, let’s prepare ourselves and head out onto the ice. Remember to bring your fishing equipment and, if possible, an ice shanty for added comfort. By visiting one of these lakes in Michigan, you’ll have the opportunity to experience some of the finest ice fishing in the state, and perhaps even in the whole country.
Exploring the Beauty of Houghton Lake, Michigan
Houghton Lake is a very large lake. It covers an area of 20,000 acres and attracts thousands of anglers every year because it offers plenty of ice for fishing.
Houghton Lake is located in the middle of the Lower Peninsula, and its shallow depth allows it to freeze faster than other lakes in the area. This makes it a popular destination for ice fishing, especially before the holidays. Anglers who come here usually have a successful fishing experience.
There are many resorts and cabins surrounding the lake, and you can easily rent ice cabins and shanties. Bait shops also sell fishing gear, so you can easily get everything you need to go ice fishing.
The ice on Houghton Lake typically lasts from the second or third week of December until early April. When the ice is safe, it’s best to fish near the deeper edge of the weed beds along the shoreline.
During December and January, perch, crappie, and bluegill can be found in the shallower waters, around 5 to 9 feet deep. As the season progresses, they move into deeper water.
In the early season, walleye can be caught in the shallower areas along with the panfish. However, as February approaches, walleye become more scattered throughout the lake and can be harder to catch.
Northern pike can also be found under the ice in Houghton Lake. They can attack both your lures and the panfish you’re trying to catch for tonight’s fish fry. For the best chance at catching walleye, you can add a minnow to a Swedish Pimple lure. Jigs tipped with waxworms work well for catching panfish.
Natural Wonders: Mitchell and Cadillac Lakes
Lake Mitchell and Lake Cadillac are connected by the Clam Lake Canal, providing a great opportunity for ice fishing enthusiasts. These lakes, located near the city of Cadillac, offer excellent ice fishing experiences and are surrounded by various resorts and rental companies that allow you to enjoy your time on the ice in a stylish manner.
Typically, safe ice conditions can be found on these lakes from early December, lasting until late March or even into April. The months in between are particularly fantastic for ice fishing.
Lake Mitchell is known for its abundance of panfish, making it an excellent spot for catching species like crappie and bluegill. For a successful catch, try using a small jig tipped with a wax worm or nightcrawler, and you’ll experience fast action. While there are some large crappie in the lake, the high fish population can result in occasional smaller fish.
If you’re interested in catching walleye and northern pike, Lake Mitchell is also a viable option. Consider using tip-ups to increase your chances of success. Although the lake primarily has smaller pike, Lake Cadillac is known for its larger walleye and pike.
Lake Cadillac is a great place for winter fishing, particularly for perch, walleye, and pike. When targeting walleye, be prepared for aggressive pike to strike before the walleye can reach the bait. However, this is often seen as a positive aspect by many anglers.
Both lakes offer opportunities to catch walleye and northern pike, with Lake Mitchell having a higher number of pike, albeit smaller in size. On the other hand, Lake Cadillac has fewer pike overall, but they tend to be larger. If you’re specifically targeting pike, using tip-ups rigged with big suckers is recommended, as the pike in Lake Cadillac can grow to significant sizes.
While catching walleye can be challenging due to the presence of northern pike, both lakes have decent walleye populations. Additionally, during the warmer months, these lakes provide excellent fishing opportunities for largemouth bass and other warm-water species, making them a favorite among anglers in the spring season,
Exploring the Beauty of Saginaw Bay
Saginaw Bay, also known as The Bay, is a popular fishing spot in Michigan. It is located off the main body of Lake Huron and is well-known for whitefish and walleye fishing. The bay usually has safe ice from around Christmas until March.
You can find walleye, perch, trophy whitefish, and northern pike throughout the bay, but it can be difficult to know where to go because the bay is very large.
The best times for catching walleye are in the mornings and evenings, while perch and whitefish can be caught sporadically throughout the day.
If you want to catch northern pike, it’s recommended to use tip-ups with large white suckers as bait. These live baits stay active for hours after being set up. Smaller minnows are also good for catching walleye.
If you’re new to ice fishing, it’s a good idea to hire a guide service to help you find the best fishing spots and increase your chances of success.
Recreational Activities at Lake St. Clair
Lake St. Clair is a large body of water located between Detroit in the United States and Ontario, Canada. It serves as a pathway for ships traveling between Lake Huron and Lake Erie.
Fishing in Lake St. Clair can be really good or even extraordinary. You have the chance to catch walleye, perch, northern pike, and muskie, but the main attractions are walleye and perch.
Muskie fishing in this lake is especially famous, but they face a lot of activity throughout the year, so many anglers give them a break during the winter months. However, if you choose to target these huge fish, you will be rewarded with some of the best muskie fishing in the entire country.
The average weight of muskie in this lake is about 15 pounds, and it’s common to catch 30-pounders. There are some enormous fish in the lake, but you have to search for them.
To increase your chances of catching fish, you can use jig minnows on Swedish Pimples, Rat-L-Traps, and small Kastmasters. Aim for the bottom of the lake and slowly lift your bait one or two feet above it.
Exploring the Beauty of Muskegon Lake
Muskegon Lake is a great fishing spot with convenient access, numerous rental options, and resorts to choose from. It’s known for its abundance of fish, making it an ideal destination for anglers. If you’re specifically interested in catching crappie, starting your fishing season here right after the ice melts is highly recommended, as it is likely the best crappie fishing location in the state during that time.
To maximize your chances of catching crappie and bluegill, begin your day at Snug Harbor. Focus on fishing in waters that are about 3 to 6 feet deep.
If you’re aiming to catch walleye, the usual fishing techniques work well in Muskegon Lake. Some walleye in this area can grow to over 10 pounds, so keep your bait in constant motion for the best results. Jigging consistently is essential for success.
Northern pike can be found throughout the lake, but some of the prime locations are to the east of Second Street near the B.C. Cobb plant. It’s important to exercise caution when fishing around this area since the plant releases warm water, which can make the ice surrounding it unpredictable.
Another recommended spot for targeting pike and walleye is the North Muskegon Water Tower. Use spoons in blue/silver or orange/silver combinations for bait.
Muskegon Lake is situated on the northern border of Muskegon, near Lake Michigan. It’s a relatively short drive northwest from Grand Rapids, making it easily accessible for a day of fishing.
Cass Lake: A Popular Fishing Destination
Cass Lake, located near Detroit, is an excellent destination for a quick trip. Despite its popularity, the lake can handle the high demand without any issues.
To begin your trip, head to Keego Harbor on the eastern shore. They provide all the necessary supplies like bait, fishing gear, food, and equipment.
Late December is usually the time when the lake has safe ice and is also the busiest period. However, fishing remains good throughout the season, so it’s advisable to choose a time when there’s a little more space available.
If you’re interested in fantastic fishing for crappie and bluegill, head to an area known as “The Guts,” which is located near Dodge No.4 State Park on the northern shore.
For those targeting walleye, focus your efforts around sloping areas. The lake has a gradual drop from 10 feet to more than 40 feet in depth along the slope. Use your fishfinder to locate fish and try using a Swedish Pimple baited with a wax worm or minnow.
While fishing for walleye, it’s a good idea to set up a tip-up with a larger minnow to catch pike as well.
Fishing Adventures on Hamlin Lake
Hamlin Lake, located on the Big Sable River, is a reservoir known for its abundant population of walleye, decent-sized northern pike, and large panfish.
If you’re planning a fishing trip, there are several resorts and charters available on the eastern side of the lake. Another excellent starting point is Ludington State Park, situated between Hamlin Lake and Lake Michigan.
Typically, the ice on the lake is safe for fishing from before Christmas until March. However, it’s important to note that weekends tend to be busier with more people, so it might be better to plan your fishing excursion on a weekday.
One of the main attractions of Hamlin Lake is the presence of giant bluegill and crappie. For the best chances of success, focus on fishing near the edges of weed beds. Using a small lure or jig tipped with a wax worm is an effective method that can lead to quick catches.
When fishing on Hamlin Lake, it’s advisable to start with the upper section, as it is relatively shallow and freezes earlier than the rest of the lake. Additionally, this area offers the most productive opportunities for catching panfish.
During the winter, walleye can be a bit unpredictable. They begin the season strong but gradually become less active as the season progresses.