When you live in the fine state of Michigan, winter can be a blue time of the year. Luckily there are many winter activities you can participate in that make the snow and cold a little more bearable, and my favorite is ice fishing!
As a kid of the backwoods, ice fishing is nothing new to me. However, as an adult, it is a whole new ball game. Baits, shanties, poles and gear have been drastically upgraded since my days as a young ice angler.
Brain McCarter, owner of Nemesis Baits and Bass Thumb in Wixom, was my partner in crime for my latest adventure to a small pond in Livingston County. Depending on temperatures and the size of the lake, they’re usually solid by mid-January. Larger bodies of water like Muskegon Lake on the west side of the state and Lake Charlevoix farther up north have been reeling in dinner for a couple weeks now. To be safe, ice should be at least four inches thick, and you should always go with a partner.
Once you find a thick enough area on the ice, it’s time to “dig.” Using a power auger, we carved out a hole and set up the shanty. The size of the hole should be big enough to get the fish out but not big enough to risk someone’s life once you leave your spot.
Shanties come in many shapes and sizes, but most double as sleds for easy carrying. They include fold-down seats and a shell top that you pull overhead to protect yourself and your fishing hole. Most hardcore ice fishermen will bring along a propane heater to help keep the chill off their bodies in the shanty, and I will say that it definitely helped!
We used many methods throughout the day, but sight fishing, tight line fishing and a flasher that detects fish were the most successful methods during our time on the pond. We used live bait, spikes with a Heavy Metal Series tungsten jig from Sportsmen’s Direct in Harrison Township. A friend of ours also recommended a perch rig with minnows or a Calm Speed spoon with a minnow head. Ultimately live bait works best when ice fishing, as the bite is shallow.
Perch, bluegill, crappie and walleye are the main species you will catch in our fine state, and occasionally bass, pike or lake trout if you get lucky!
Staying warm is a vital part of ice fishing. I highly recommend thermal or performance gear as your base layer, topped with sweats, sweatshirts, snow pants, jacket, gloves, hats and whatever else you need to keep warm such as hand and toe warmers. Remember, you can always remove layers if you get too warm.
Although ice fishing doesn’t appeal to all anglers out there, it is one enjoyable way to kill time during the cold winter months.
What are your favorite ice fishing spots or angler tips? Let us know in the comments!