IRON MOUNTAIN - This weekend is Michigan's annual Winter Free Fishing Weekend.
Today and Sunday, both residents and nonresidents can fish without a license. All state regulations still apply.
This is a great time for novice anglers to take someone new out and introduce them to the winter sport of ice fishing.
Local anglers are reporting good crappie action this week, with panfishing in general producing results.
"The fishing isn't too bad right now," said Pattie Teske at Florence Sport and Bait. "Fisherman are reporting good bluegill and crappie action. And some guys are finally doing well on walleye, using suckers."
John Grier at Whispering Pines Outpost in Breitung said the active northern bite has slowed a little, but panfishing is going strong.
"They're doing real good on crappies, using the small minnows," he said. "Hitting them pretty good right now."
"There's some nice crappie being caught right now," said Tom Bean at Crystal Bait. "Guys are still catching pike. Not too much on walleye though."
Don Ciochetto at The Sport Shop in Iron River reports lots of activity, especially with the free fishing weekend.
"It's what you would expect for this time of year," he said. "Guys are still getting northern and panfishing is good."
Dean Lindblom at Iron Mountain's Country Bait and Tackle reported a few 14-inch crappie with most measuring in the 11-12-inch range. He says ice on Lake Antoine is approaching two feet thick.
"Panfishing is pretty darn good," he said. "Chartreuse colors seem to be working best. They're still catching pike too. Not as much walleye though."
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported the following fishing conditions across the Upper Peninsula:
Menominee River - Anglers are jigging for panfish at the Menekaunee slip however the bluegill and perch were running small. Sixth Street had some poor ice near the launch. Anglers need to use caution when venturing out to their shanties. Brown trout and a few whitefish were caught on tip-ups with rapalas and minnows. Boom Landing and Mystery Ship reported slow catch rates. Those fishing the Cat Walk at Hattie Street started to catch walleye and trout on blue and silver rapalas.
Green Bay - Ice conditions were starting to improve but caution needs to be used. Those jigging minnows caught yellow perch however many were small. Trout have been caught on tip-ups with shiners.
Little Bay De Noc - Ice conditions remain good for the most part from Gladstone to Garth Point. Large pressure cracks have created dangerous conditions in some areas and anglers are advised to stay away from those areas, especially with any type of vehicle. Several anglers have gone through the ice, so caution needs to be used. Take the time to study the area or talk to other anglers before traveling too far out on the ice. Fair to good walleye catches at the head of the Bay when using tip-ups with sucker minnows in 8 to 13 feet of water.
Avoid the area between the Escanaba River and the Terrace Bay Inn or Aronson Island and Portage Point as they are considered to be dangerous areas. Limits of perch were caught at the head of the bay on minnows, wigglers and spike in 8 to 13 feet of water and out from Kipling in 11 to 17 feet of water. Northern pike spearing was good in the Escanaba Yacht Harbor when using live decoys in 4 to 10 feet of water.
Munising - Whitefish were caught throughout the bay when jigging a single egg. Splake were caught in the Sand Point area by those using tip-ups or jigging. Extreme caution needs to be used in the West Channel as the ice is very unpredictable.
Manistique Lake - Anglers were catching a significant number of small fish.
Copper Harbor - Limits of splake were caught in 4 to 6 feet of water. The fish were running 10 to 12 inches.
Keweenaw Bay - Anglers caught a mix of coho, lake trout, and herring between Lighthouse Point and the Baraga Marina. A few perch and some herring were caught off Baraga and whitefish were taken in 80 to 105 feet of water south of Lighthouse Point. Those fishing Perch Corner and the Fall's River off Bay Shore Road picked up a few coho and rainbow trout. Anglers are encouraged to stay between Lighthouse Point and Baraga. The ice off Sand Point and north was not safe.