Perch, bluegill highlight early ice season action

IRON MOUNTAIN — With cold air settling in, ice now covers most lakes and anglers are venturing out.

Heavy snows this week warrant extreme caution when going out on any lakes, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources advised. Locally, those fishing on safe ice are catching bluegills and perch.

“Waxworms, suckers and shiners are the popular baits,” said John Grier at Whispering Pines Outpost in Breitung Township. “We do have wigglers and spikes.”

Little Badwater and Lake Antoine are among the early destinations.

At Whisler Outdoors in Florence, Wis., Jared Whisler said there haven’t been many reports of catches but “people are going out on the first ice.”

The Michigan DNR offered the following tips for early season success:

— Early-ice walleyes are known to be active and aggressive. Use tip-ups at varying depths around the lake (anywhere from 15 to 35 feet deep) to appeal to this species. Regardless of the depth, always set the live minnow under the tip-up to swim 12 to 15 inches off the bottom.

— Consider using plastic bait, rather than live bait, when fishing for crappie. Focus on weed lines to find them. A lot of times crappie will hang out in the middle of the water column, half-way between the ice and bottom.

— You’ll find northern pike near off-shore structures and weed lines, so try these types of spots on your favorite pike lakes first.

— Attract bigger perch by using tip-ups with minnows, as that’s what they’re primarily eating this time of year. Sticking a minnow on an ice fishing rod is also very productive.

The following Upper Peninsula fishing conditions were reported:

Lake Gogebic: Anglers were ice fishing Bergland Bay on the north end of the lake; however, heavy snows have caused water to push up on the ice, causing some safety issues. Anglers will need to use extreme caution, especially with the onset of heavy snow in the area.

Manistique River: Anglers were still taking some steelhead in the lower river.