Ice fishing is more popular than ever

A northern pike caught on Lake Charlevoix is proudly displayed during a chartered fishing trip with Jim Fish Outfitters.
A northern pike caught on Lake Charlevoix is proudly displayed during a chartered fishing trip with Jim Fish Outfitters.

Fishing is one of the most popular outdoor recreational activities in the United States. In 2019, over 50 million Americans flocked to the nation’s waterways to engage in fishing activities, marking the highest fishing participation rate in over a decade, according to a Statista report on recreational fishing in the United States.

During the winter months in Northern Michigan, ice fishing is what locals and tourists flock to do across more than 11,000 inland lakes and tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams in the state, according to a Pure Michigan report. For many experienced anglers, winter is the best time to fish.

A perch catch on Lake Michigan. Jim Fish Outfitters show off a collection of beauties caught on a Lake Charlevoix charter excursion.
A perch catch on Lake Michigan. Jim Fish Outfitters show off a collection of beauties caught on a Lake Charlevoix charter excursion.

Virtually every fish that's available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice — some more frequently in winter, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Many anglers actually prefer fishing through the ice to open-water fishing, according to Tim A. Cwalinski, fisheries management biologist for the DNR.

Tom Durecki, owner of Tom's Bait and Tackle in East Jordan, says business is booming this winter.
Tom Durecki, owner of Tom's Bait and Tackle in East Jordan, says business is booming this winter.

It comes as no surprise that local fishing businesses are thriving this winter.

“The season has been excellent, and business is good,” said Tom Durecki, owner of Tom’s Bait and Tackle in East Jordan.

Durecki said the only problem this year has been keeping things in stock due to the national shipping delays.

“Ciscos are being caught the most right now (in Lake Charlevoix),” said Durecki, adding that Hemingway point, across from The Landing Restaurant in Lake Charlevoix, is one of the biggest fishing spots so far this season.

Jim Chamberlin, owner of Fish with Jim Outfitters out of Mancelona, takes travelers to a multitude of inland lakes in Northern Michigan during the winter season.

"This is my busiest time of year," said Chamberlin, who operates his charter business year-round.

Jim Chamberlin, owner of charter company Jim Fish Outfitters out of Mancelona, shows off a recent catch. Chamberlin's busy winter fishing season started early this year with frozen lakes in mid-January.
Jim Chamberlin, owner of charter company Jim Fish Outfitters out of Mancelona, shows off a recent catch. Chamberlin's busy winter fishing season started early this year with frozen lakes in mid-January.

If you aren't accompanied by an expert guide such as Chamberlin, he recommends before heading out for a day of ice fishing it is wise to check with local bait shops to make certain the spot you've chosen is adequately ice covered and at the thickness needed.

Cwalinski urges caution at all times when ice fishing.

“No ice is safe ice,” he warned.

The DNR suggests anglers steer clear of dark spots or places where the snow looks discolored and urges folks to never fish alone. Someone should also know where you are going and when you expect to return.

A northern pike is proudly displayed during an ice fishing excursion with Jim Fish Outfitters on Lake Charlevoix.
A northern pike is proudly displayed during an ice fishing excursion with Jim Fish Outfitters on Lake Charlevoix.

In line with global participation trends, the number of hobbyists casting their rods in the United States is forecast to increase in the future — a development that can contribute to the health and well-being of millions of Americans of all ages but also pose a challenge to regional ecosystems, as reported by Statista.

Durecki is having a first annual Cisco Trout Tournament from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 24 with a $10 entry fee per person. Categories will be single largest fish and largest single person 12 fish box. Sign up at Tom’s Bait and Tackle in East Jordan prior to fishing or call (231) 536-3521.

Spots to try

Upper Peninsula

  • Keweenaw Bay (Baraga County) - brown trout, lake whitefish, lake trout, coho salmon, splake, smelt, burbot

  • Little Bay De Noc (Delta County) - walleye, yellow perch

  • Munuscong Bay (Chippewa County) - yellow perch, walleye

  • Munising Bay (Alger County) - splake, lake whitefish, Menominee (round whitefish), coho salmon, burbot

  • Lake Gogebic (Gogebic County) - yellow perch, walleye

  • Les Cheneaux Islands (Mackinac County) - yellow perch, northern pike, splake

Northwest Lower Peninsula

  • Thumb Lake (Charlevoix County) - yellow perch, splake

  • Lakes Cadillac and Mitchell (Wexford County) - yellow perch, crappie, northern pike

  • Fife Lake (Grand Traverse County) - yellow perch, walleye, northern pike

  • Long Lake (Grand Traverse County) - yellow perch

  • Green Lake (Grand Traverse County) - smelt

  • South Lake Leelanau (Leelanau County ) - yellow perch, walleye

  • Crystal Lake (Benzie County) - yellow perch, rainbow trout, lake trout

Northeast Lower Peninsula

  • Burt Lake (Cheboygan County) - yellow perch, walleye

  • Higgins Lake (Roscommon County) - lake trout, smelt, lake whitefish, northern pike

  • Houghton Lake (Roscommon County) - walleye, bluegill, crappie, sunfish

  • Black Lake (Cheboygan/Presque Isle counties) - walleye, yellow perch, lake sturgeon

  • Fletcher’s Pond (Montmorency/Alpena counties) - northern pike, yellow perch

  • Mullett Lake (Cheboygan County) - yellow perch, walleye

  • Otsego Lake (Otsego County) - walleye, panfish, lake sturgeon

This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Ice fishing is back