Weekly Fishing Tip: Targeting Northern Pike at First Ice

Many anglers will agree that the first ice of the winter season often produces some of the best northern pike fishing you can find.

There could be a couple of reasons why this is so, perhaps it’s because there are plenty of baitfish for them to target thanks to a decrease in weed cover…or perhaps it’s because first ice is often clear and allows the sight-feeding fish to target their prey more easily because of the penetration of sunlight. Regardless, the coming weeks (weather permitting) are a great time to target this species.

You’ll want to use a tip-up for this type of fishing, with a minnow or small panfish on the end of your line. Keep in mind you can catch small panfish in the lake you’re fishing and legally use them as bait in the same water body.

Target similar areas that you may have fished for northern pike when there was still open water and you might see some success!

Click here for more information on northern pike fishing in Michigan.

This tip is adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

SOUTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA

  • Lake Erie: Some are catching perch in Brest Bay while others are shore fishing at the Metro Park Marina. Walleye action was slow.
  • Huron River: Is producing steelhead near Huroc Park. Those fishing the backwaters have caught bluegill and crappie when using jigs with wax worms.
  • Detroit River: Had fair to good perch fishing at the Cross Dike, Hole-in-the-Wall and in the canals near Gibraltar. Most are using minnows.
  • Lake St Clair: While most anglers have put their boats away for the winter, those still heading out reported good perch and muskie fishing.
  • Saginaw Bay: Word has it walleye are still being caught between Linwood and Pinconning. This is the time for shore anglers to target perch before ice-up. Good spots to try are the marinas at Linwood Beach, Sunset Bay and Bayshore. The better fishing is usually in the morning.
  • Kawkawlin River: Is producing some perch in the lower river.
  • Saginaw River: Perch can usually be found in the lower river between the Independence Bridge and the mouth. Look for walleye near the bridge as well.

SOUTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA

  • Kalamazoo River:  Continues to produce steelhead from the mouth to the Allegan Dam. Try floating spawn or casting spoons and plugs. Walleye are also being caught up near the dam.
  • Grand River at Grand Rapids:  Is producing steelhead behind the Post Office and off the wall. Anglers are using white jigs with wax worms. Those fishing near Fulton Street did well when back bouncing spawn bags. Fish have been caught throughout the river by those casting plugs, rapalas or Hot-n-Tots. Bluegill and crappie were caught in the backwaters.
  • Grand River at Lansing:  Water levels are still low so not many steelhead have made it up this far. A couple fish were caught at Fitzgerald Park in Grand Ledge however the bigger story there is the great pike action for those using shiners. Walleye were hitting on shiners at Moore’s Park. Pike and smallmouth bass have been caught below the North Lansing Dam on anything that shines like rapalas or spinners. Those using a white rapala have also caught fish.
  • Looking Glass River: Has good pike action right along with some nice crappie being caught in the deeper water.
  • Reeds Lake:  Is producing bluegill and crappie.
  • Muskegon River:  Water levels were up a bit after the rain so a few more steelhead moved up. Catch rates are still spotty however fish are being caught. Try a white jig with wax worms or floating spawn.

NORTHEAST LOWER PENINSULA

  • Alpena:  Boat anglers are still taking whitefish in Thunder Bay however the peak of the action will soon be coming to an end.
  • Thunder Bay River:  Shore anglers are catching the occasional steelhead or brown trout. Whitefish were still being caught up near the dam. Small perch were also reported down near the mouth.
  • Oscoda:  Is producing steelhead and some whitefish for pier anglers.
  • Au Sable River:  Steelhead are moving in and out of the river. Most of the fish caught were taken at Foot Dam and the mouth. Not many anglers have been fishing the holes between the dam and the mouth so it is hard to judge the number of fish in the river. Spawn seems to be working the best, but wax worms and body baits have also done well. The whitefish have slowed but those targeting them think they will still be coming in over the next few weeks.
  • Tawas:  Is still producing some whitefish and the occasional perch.
  • Au Gres River:  Was producing some nice perch for those using minnows near the launch site at the mouth. Those fishing the channels have caught bluegills.

NORTHWEST LOWER PENINSULA

Rain took out what little ice was starting to form so we are back to fall fishing.

  • Boardman River:  Continues to produce steelhead for those using spawn and wax worms.
  • Long Lake:  Has reports of anglers out targeting perch and walleye.
  • Betsie River:  Should have more steelhead after the rain. Try fishing between the mouth and the Homestead Dam.
  • Manistee:  Pier anglers and those surfcasting are catching steelhead on the right day depending on wind direction and speed.
  • Manistee River:  Recent rain may have pushed more steelhead up into the river. Look for chrome colored fish between the mouth and Tippy Dam. While some are floating spawn others are fly fishing.
  • Ludington:  Pier and surf anglers are catching steelhead. Try spawn, wax worms or body baits in the early morning or evening.
  • Pere Marquette River:  May also have more steelhead that moved up into the river. Try floating spawn under a bobber or drifting egg flies.

UPPER PENINSULA

  • Little Bay De Noc:  Both day and night anglers are catching walleye especially around the Second and Third Reefs. While some are trolling stick baits or thundersticks, others are jigging minnows and wax worms. Green, orange and silver are good color.

Logo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources

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