Deep snow for Michigan’s free fishing

Outdoors Report

IRON MOUNTAIN — Temperatures will be OK but access could be difficult as Michigan observes Winter Free Fishing Weekend today and Sunday.

No fishing license is required for residents and out-of-state visitors alike. All other regulations still apply.

With recent storms, lakes are heavy with snow and travel is challenging.

“A few people have been going out,” said John Grier at Whispering Pines Outpost in Breitung Township. Some others have decided to try getting their shacks off the ice, he said.

Beneath the snow, slush or water may be found, advised Fay Whisler at Whisler Outdoors in Florence, Wis. “It’s been rough,” she said.

Leff’s All Lake Fishing Derby will take place today. Register before noon at Leff’s Bar, 5050 Keyes Lake Drive, three miles west of Florence off Highway 101, and fish any Florence County water.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says northern lakes are covered with 20-plus inches of ice and anglers are fishing for walleye, crappie and perch. In Marinette County, fishermen on Lake Noquebay report still highly variable ice conditions ranging from over 20 inches to as low as 6 inches, said Aaron McCullough, DNR wildlife technician at Wausaukee.

“There have been reports of trucks breaking through while trying to cross a heave in the middle of the lake,” he said. “As always, be very careful when traveling on any ice.”

During Michigan’s free fishing weekend, state parks will waive the Recreation Passport entry fee normally required for vehicle entry.

The Michigan DNR reported the following Upper Peninsula activity:

Keweenaw Bay: Has a lot of snow on the ice so travel conditions are very difficult because of the deep slush. Foot travel will also be difficult so angler may want snow shoes. Anglers need to use extreme caution when traveling on the stack ice around the Pump House and watch for stacked ice north of Sand Point which can be hard to see in windy conditions. Slush was also making travel difficult including the area of smelt village near the Baraga Marina. Ice conditions can change rapidly so be sure to check the ice before venturing out. Lake trout were caught when jigging 1-ounce spoons or jigs with cut bait in 170 feet or more. The whitefish action was spotty in 50 to 90 feet with a single salmon egg or spoons. Coho fishing was slow and the splake bite slowed with only a few taken in 30 to 60 feet on spoons, jigging raps or tip-ups. A couple brown trout were caught randomly at different depths ranging 12 to 90 feet. In the deeper water, the fish were in the upper 3rd of the water column. Anglers are seeing good numbers of smelt however the bite was spotty in 30 to 90 feet in the morning or just before and after dark.

Little Bay De Noc: Heavy snowfall is making travel on the ice much more difficult for many. Snowmobiles were the best means of travel. The weight of the snow has opened some of the ice off Saunders Point so extreme caution needs to be used in this area. Overall fishing was slow. Anglers were marking good numbers of fish but only a few were caught. The better perch fishing was near Kipling with minnows or wigglers in 29 to 35 feet. Best walleye catches were taken in the Gladstone area with rapalas or minnows in 28 to 35 feet however most the fish were undersize. Several large pike were caught near the Escanaba Power Plant when using tip-ups with minnows in about 30 feet.

Munising: Ice conditions have remained about the same except now there are areas of slush. Some areas have six inches or more of snow cover so travel will be difficult. Trout Bay was marginal for fishing. With the heavy snow, be safe. Those venturing out caught coho and burbot. In general, fishing continues to be slow. A few whitefish over 14 inches were caught but the majority were small. Try 50 to 70 feet with a single egg or mousies. Lake trout anglers fishing out towards the White Rocks and Wood Island Reef had some nice catches when jigging in 120 to 160 feet. Anglers report the lake trout are full of smelt but no one seems to be catching smelt yet. A couple legal size splake were also caught.

Cedarville and Hessel: Ice fishing is on however travel by ORV is difficult due to slush and deep snow. Those fishing Musky Bay caught seven to 10-inch perch with minnows, wigglers and spikes. In Hessel Bay, anglers caught perch when jigging minnows and wigglers in 12 to 15 feet. Those fishing deeper water had not seen any schools of perch come in yet.

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