Top Ice Fishing Tips in Michigan to Make This Season More Successful!


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Michigan is the best place to gather ice fishing experience. Even in the harsh winter, anglers could do fishing in most of the lakes here.

The lake water of Michigan is an abode of over 150 various fish species. If you know the technique to catch them, you could get almost all of the species over the ice. You just have to be determined about catching them in the cold weather.

You would find about four to five months of winter that supports ice fishing. Safe ice could start during early December and continues till April and this situation may depend on the lakes.

When the local area freezes over, you could get an opportunity to access such areas for fishing. You could get connected with Bluegill, Trout, Northern Pike, Walleye and many more while ice fishing.

You can enjoy your pastime drilling holes in the ice and dropping lines, or you can have an amazing camping experience with well-heated shanties, modern lighting, and other amenities. You could set up your camp on such lakes and drop some lines or you could even hire local guides to show you better spots for fishing around. Here are the tips for ice fishing in Michigan.

  1. Fishing license:

A fishing license is a first and main thing that you would need. There are some options available for you like:

  • You could purchase an e-license online anytime nowadays.
  • You would find 3 licensing options- season license, 72 hours’ license for catching all species, and one-day license. A 72-hour license is the best option if you are going fishing on your weekend. Every non-residents and resident could buy this for 30 dollars.
  • During free fishing weekends, you could do fishing for free. Search for this weekend and get there to get this opportunity.


Here is the list of the supplies and basic equipment that you would need for fishing out there. like most hobbies and sports, there are so many variations, necessities, and upgrades that could expand your options, and also your wallet gets empty. Here is the list:

  • First, check if you have your valid fishing license in Michigan. Children under age 17 could do it for free.
  • Spud or ice auger but it depends on the depth of ice. If the ice is more than 4 inches, you would want an ice auger.
  • You would need a sled for pulling the gear.
  • Bucket, portable stool, or foldable chair to sit on.
  • Fishing rods or tip-ups.
  • Another important piece of equipment is the bait. For rods, you could use artificial bait or wax worms like spoons and jigs. Live baits like minnows would work best but remember to keep the buying receipt with you because DNRE officers could ask you to show proof.

Safety tips:

  • The more the ice thickens the more it is safe. 4 inches of ice is recommended for safe fishing on inland lakes but you should wait for five to six inches of ice.
  • You should watch for cracks, open ice, and holes. Freshly reckless ice holes are likely to twist or even worse. Anglers leave markers or branches in the abandoned holes for warning, so always keep your eyes open.
  • Always keep emergency gear with you. Safety spikes could be the best option to wear around your neck. They are equipped with one spike and like a small jump rope with handles on both ends. You could pull yourself out by using the picks if you accidentally fell in.
  • Avoid fishing alone as it is not so fun. It is better to bring your friend or someone with you.
  • Make sure of the safety of the lake ice and if you don’t have any idea, you better ask local people or bait shops for this information.
  • Tell your family about your location and the time of your return.
  • You should always test the lake ice using a spud.
  • Take your mobile with you because you may face some problems and want to call someone.
  • Wear warm clothes and fill your thermos with coffee or tea.


Most hook-and-line fishermen use limber and short rods with spring-tension reels or spools for holding the line. Limber rods would let the use of dainty line that results in good fishing and engages more shock while fighting with fish.

hook-and-line anglers usually use artificial lures, live bait, or both for catching various fish species. They use short lures often and attach them to the hook to get the best action. You could use jigging for attracting the fish as it is great with any type of lure.

To catch big fishes, you should use larger lures and bigger hooks that would allow them for using larger baits like smelt, spawn bags, salmon eggs, or minnows. Start fishing at the bottom first and then move up when jigging.

Best ice fishing spots in Michigan:

  • Hamlin Lake:

Many anglers believe that Hamlin lake is the best spot for ice fishing as the depth of this lake is higher than others. It is situated just beside lake Michigan and safe ice is found normally before Christmas. The upper layer of this lake is thinner that makes it freeze over first.

Thus, don’t be eager to get there and wait till safe ice forms. You would find bigger Sunfish and Bluegill here. Teardrop lures with a wax-worm are great to catch these fishes.

  • Lake Mitchell:

This lake is situated in Wexford Country beside Cadillac and provides great opportunities for ice fishing throughout the year. Safe ice starts to form during the beginning of December and is safe for fishing before Christmas.

You would find a lot of Bluegill, Sunfish, Northern Pike, Perch, and Crappie. A delicate rod and light line with spring bobbers would help to catch all of these fishes.

  • Houghton Lake:

This lake is the biggest inland lake in Michigan that covers about 20000 acres of land. It is also shallower and provides safe ice from early December till early April. It hosts plenty of Walleye, Sunfish, Bluegill, and Crappie.

Panfish swim through this lake everywhere. These types of fishes bite chartreuse and gold teardrop lures and also jigs tipped using spikes and wax worms. Walleye bite Swedish-pimple lures using minnow heads.

Cass Lake:

Located in Metro Detroit, this lake is the best for the ice fishing experience. Safe ice forms from late December to the beginning of January. This place is well-known for its beautiful Crappie and Jumbo Perch. Moreover, you would not get disappointed if you want large Walleye, Pike, Sunfish, and Bluegill in the lake water.

Ice fishing on your weekend is probably the best option to enjoy the time and you could return home with a nutritious meal. If you are living in Michigan or just want to get there for the holidays, you should do some ice fishing. Follow the tips above and get started!


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