Ice fishermen starting to have huge success

BIG RAPIDS — The DNR reports with the deep freeze, most of the state is now open to ice fishing. But the DNR cautions that anglers will still need to use caution especially along the west side of the state because of the snow.

There are reports the pike are hungry and biting hard and anglers are having success with panfish. Walleye fishermen are also having success.

The DNR points out in the northwest side of the state, deep snow and slush is making travel difficult on the inland lakes. The DNR advises anglers to avoid the bigger and deeper lakes as they take longer to freeze and with deep snow now covering them, it will slow the freezing process.

“Everybody is out fishing,” Craig Walters, of The Eyes Have It in LeRoy, said. “It looks like they’re catching a few crappies. At Sunrise, the crappies are biting good. They’re spearing pike on the east end of Rose Lake. About 30 inches was probably the biggest. On Center Lake, they’re catching a few perch. There’s plenty of ice. We don’t need it to get warmer. It’s looking good.”

Jerry Mondrella, of Big Rapids, said he initially had success at Haymarsh Lake earlier this month as ice fishing was picking up.

“Burgess Lake, I caught a couple there,” he said. “I went to Townline Lake and I couldn’t get a bite. I went to Chippewa and couldn’t get a bite. At Townline, they did pretty good at first. Quite a few people fish there. It’s slowed down, but that’s the way it goes.”

The DNR reports at the Manistee River, anglers braving the cold are taking a fair to good number of steelhead. There was also an ice jam along M-37 at Sherman, the DNR said.

“They have been fishing some (for steelhead),” Amy MacEachern, of Schmidt Outfitters in Wellston, said.

“They are ice fishing, still cautiously,” Rob Eckerson, of Pappy’s, said. “Most of the lakes, they’re out there, and there’s probably three, maybe six inches of ice if it’s doable. The river continues to be halfway decent. It’s actually a little bit low right  now because of the ice dam up stream toward the Sherman, Mesick area. Fishing is pretty good.”

“They’re getting perch on Portage Lake,” Bud Fitzgerald of Tangled Tackle Co. said. “I’ve heard of a couple of pike being brought in through the ice at Manistee Lake. Hamlin, I guess, they’re saying the gills are biting but they only bite for about an hour, and they’re a catch as catch can, but they’re huge. A lot of guys on the south end of Manistee lake are getting a lot of small pike. I heard there was a nice one reeled in at the south end and at Penny Park for nice-size pike.”

The DNR notes at Lake Cadillac, fishermen are ice fishing but should use caution especially along the east side. Panfish were caught by fishermen using wax worms, spikes and small minnows. The pike are very active and hitting on tip-ups with minnows.

Anglers are also having luck at Lake Mitchell and fish can be found in the coves and near the State Park. Pike fishing was good for those using tip-ups with blues, the DNR said, citing recent catch rates for bluegills and crappie for those anglers using spikes and wax worms. Anglers were also getting some perch on minnows and finding walleye just after dark.

Lake Missaukee also has ice and fishermen are out catching panfish, pike and the occasional walleye.

“They’ve been doing pretty good on the Upper Herring (for walleye and perch),” Desyree Shelton of the Backcast Fly Shop in Benzonia said. “Crystal is not froze over yet.”