Free fishing next weekend in Michigan

Outdoors Report

IRON MOUNTAIN – Colder weather has firmed up the slush that’s been hindering ice anglers across the region, although fishing pressure remains light.

John Grier is waiting for the first walleye entry in his February contest at Whispering Pines Outpost on M-95. “They’re catching a few bluegills, a few crappies,” he said, adding the highlight of the week was a 36-inch northern pike catch.

At Whisler Outdoors in Florence, Wis., Fay Whisler said anglers have reported getting “some nice crappies, pike and bass.”

Next weekend is Winter Free Fishing Weekend in Michigan. On Feb. 15 and 16, residents and nonresidents alike can fish without a license and the Department of Natural Resources will waive the regular Recreation Passport entry fee.

In addition, no fishing license is required and the Recreation Passport fee will be waived Monday, Feb. 17, to coincide with the DNR’s changeover to a new license sales system.

In Wisconsin, Leff’s Annual All Lake Fishing Derby will take place from 5 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15. You can fish any Florence County water. There is a $5 entry fee with 100% payout.

Register at Leff’s Bar, 5050 Keyes Lake Drive, three miles west of Florence on Highway 101.

The Tri-County Snowmobile Club says its local trail system is in very good condition and should get better with snow in the forecast for Sunday.

The Michigan DNR reported this Upper Peninsula activity:

Little Bay De Noc: The cold evenings had formed a crust on the snow layer with slush underneath, making travel difficult at times. Walleye anglers reported fair to good catches just south of Aronson Island with rapalas and minnows in 30 to 40 feet. Although this area is being fished, DANGEROUS ice conditions exist, and extreme caution needs to be used. Overall, the best walleye catches were south of Gladstone using jig raps in 30 to 40 feet. Perch catches were steady, especially at Kipling, when using wigglers or minnows in 26 to 32 feet. A few whitefish were caught off Sand Point in Escanaba when using minnows or spawn in 70 to 85 feet but, again, caution needs to be used in this area as well. Those spearing at Kipling reported a few nice pike taken southeast of Butler Island when using decoys in 6 feet or so. Several vehicles have gone through the ice, so most are using ATVs or snowmobiles.

Munising: Has some ice fishing; however, conditions were variable, with open water in some areas. Bay Furnace, the East and West Channel, around Grand Island and Trout Bay had open water. The ice near Sand Point was not safe. Powell Point was fishable, but there is always unstable ice due to currents in the area. Off Brown’s Public Launch, a boat setting nets had cut a path from the docks out into the bay, so use caution. At the city docks, a few were venturing out, but use the foot path as there are areas of open water. There was ice off the Anna River dock. Most anglers were jigging for coho, splake or whitefish when using Swedish pimples and spawn or jigs tipped with minnow heads, but catch rates were spotty. Whitefish were found near the bottom in 50 to 80 feet, but most were small at 12-13 inches.

Munuscong Bay: Was good for walleye and yellow perch.

Cedarville and Hessel: There was some fishing activity in Musky Bay, but no reports came in. Ice conditions in Musky Bay and Government Bay were unknown. Extreme caution needs to be used around the Les Cheneaux Islands due to the strong currents. A few perch measuring 7-10 inches were caught in Hessel Bay when jigging wax worms in 12 to 15 feet. A splake just over 6 pounds was caught when jigging minnows in 12 feet.

Brevoort Lake: Ice conditions were slushy after the warm temperatures. Walleye and perch fishing were good, with many fishing around the sunken island and just out from the spawning reef. A couple nice pike were also caught.