Getting Ready for Ice Fishing

Getting Ready for Ice Fishing

Author: Dale Helgeson

It’s that time of year again. When you wake up in the morning and have to scrape your windows before you drive to work in the dark and you are lucky to see daylight when you get home from work. But there is one good thing about this time of year. It is going to start forming ice. After the ice starts it is time to break out the ice fishing gear.

Before any ice fishing season you should go through all your equipment and test it at home before venturing out on any lake. This will save you many headaches and cold fingers out on the lake.

First of all I check my ice fishing clothes and wash them before the season starts. I make sure my long underwear is in good condition as well as all my outer wear. Make sure to patch any holes or replace it before the season because there is nothing like a nice December wind blowing through you outerwear right onto your clothes to put a chill into you. Make sure you have a fishing towel. I prefer to use a golf type towel so I can hang it up in my ice shack so the heater keeps it nice and warm and dries it faster. This is actually a necessity on the ice so you can dry your hand after handling fish or minnows. This will keep your hands a whole lot warmer. Invest in some quality socks. My favorite socks are Black mountains from The Gene Edwards Company. They are fairly expensive but well worth the money. They stay up on your leg even after walking great distances and wick the sweat away from you while retaining the heating qualities. Good quality outwear is a must as well. Try to get something with at least a waterproof lower because of the constant kneeling in the snow and water near the holes. Boots and gloves are very critical too. I prefer Rocky and La Crosse boots. I have owned both and they are both warm and comfortable. Also pick up a pair of ice cleats especially for early ice when there isn’t any snow yet.

After you get your clothes ready and make sure everything is in working order including the zippers and any tie downs it is time for the fishing equipment.

I check all the assemblies of my rod and reel combos. Make sure the reel is securely attached to the rod. Then change all the line on the reels. I use Berkley’s Micro Ice line. Make sure the reels are lubed and ready for the season so you don’t get unwanted squeaks or reel hitches on the ice. The frozen air will accentuate the problems.

Tip-ups should have their braided line changed at least every other year. Use one that won’t freeze up or kink. Then tie some new monofilament leaders. I prefer a 2-4 foot leader. I also make my own steel leaders for northern fishing as well using braided wire. Make extra leaders up ahead of time so you don’t have to tie on hooks out on the ice and you can just unclip it and put a new one on. Make sure to use a good swivel for you tip-ups as well. Check the grease in the tip-ups to save it from freezing up on the ice too. Also check the condition of the flags. If the flags are torn or loose on the shaft replace them.

Now that your rods and tip-ups are ready to go it is time for the ice shack. If you have a portable shack set it up in the garage or your yards and make sure the sled is in good condition and patch any holes or trouble spots. Check the canvas thoroughly. Patch any holes in the canvas and spray it down with a water repellant spray to make sure that water doesn’t leak in as much as possible. Check all the pivot points and tubing as well.

On a permanent shack you will want to check the runners and make sure they are solid and not rotting or cracked. Check the walls and make sure they are not damaged as well as the windows. Check the floor to make sure there are no weak spots or rotten boards. Replace all broken or week parts of the shack.

Ice augers are one of the most important items in ice fishing. There are several types to choose from. I usually use a spud bar early in the year but mainly to check ice conditions every few feet. Ice can for very unevenly and safety is first priority. I like to use a hand Lazer auger early in the year or when fishing in large groups of pan fisherman because some are offended by power augers even though I don’t personally feel they affect the fish even in shallow water. I have drilled hundreds of holes in as shallow as 3 feet and seen fish under my hole right after drilling with my Jiffy power auger. I do use a power auger most of the year because I drill many holes per day to find and follow fish as they move. The main thing to check on the augers and spud bar is to make sure they are sharp. Any blades should be replaced or sharpened before the season start. Power augers should have new gas put in them and a new spark plug and then test to make sure it is running properly. If it is not running properly take it to a small engine repair shop for a tune-up to insure a year of good use. It is a lot better to know your auger will work before you drag it out on the ice and it doesn’t run. I always carry an extra spark plug with me too as they tend to foul out occasionally.

Once your augers are ready it is time for the rest of your ice fishing gear. Make sure to have your tackle ready to go. Untangle all you tackle and sharpen hooks or replace them with new ones. Also on new jigs punch the eyes out before putting them in you tackle box to save time and possible cold fingers having to do it on the ice.

Next up is your heater. Check all the connections and test your heater. Make sure the heater is in good working order. If it flames up get it serviced so it will run properly. Another useful tool on the ice is a lanyard. I put a jaw spreader, depth finder, clippers, jig eye cleaner, and forceps on them for easy use. Other useful tools a 5 gallon bucket for your fish which I line with a garbage bag so I can remove the fish easily after fishing and it doesn’t make a mess out of my bucket. Grocery bags work well for this. Check the condition of your bait bucket for leaks or cracks. Make sure your minnow scoop is in good order as well. They are very cheap to replace. I prefer the floating nets so I don’t have to stick my hands as far into the water. If you have a Vexilar or Aqua View make sure to charge the batteries and test them before taking them out to the lake. After you have everything ready to go and head out for the lake be extremely careful to be sure that the ice is safe. I don’t like to go onto ice thinner than 3 inches. Make sure to test the ice every few feet to insure safe travel especially if you are the first one out.

Remember think safety first, be considerate to others out on the ice, don’t leave any trash out on the ice even if it isn’t yours, and if you check all your equipment first you will have a safe successful season.

 – Dale Helgeson

Man Reels in Record Breaking Fish in Antrim County




Man reels in record breaking fish in Antrim County.

Joseph Seeberger from Portage caught a Great Lakes muskellunge at 58 pounds, 59 inches long.

He caught the fish October 13th on Lake Bellaire in Antrim County, he was actually bass fishing with a minnow at the time. He said it took two hours and two friends to help reel in the fish.

The previous state-record Great Lakes muskellunge was caught on Torch Lake in Antrim County in 2009. That fish weighed 50.5 pounds and measured 56.13 inches.

A record breaking fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.

Michigan Fishing Report

The state received lots of rain, particularly the areas north of Cadillac. This should bring the last of the chinook salmon to the gravel then the fish will be done. Increased water levels should also bring more steelhead into the rivers. Fewer anglers were out and most of the big water boats have been put away for the winter. The inland lakes are producing some panfish.

Anglers are reminded that all Type 1 and Type 2 rivers and streams along with the Type A and Type D inland lakes closed to fishing on September 30th. Lake trout season on the waters of Lake Huron and northern Lake Michigan also closed on September 30th. The waters of Lake Michigan between Arcadia and New Buffalo will remain open for lake trout until October 31st.


Fisheries Division is asking for your cooperation in completing a survey by the University of Toledo regarding the use of live bait. The purpose of this survey is to find out what factors Michigan anglers consider when choosing live baitfish. Some types of baitfish can be infected with viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) and the disease can be spread to many species including sport fish in the Great Lakes area. The results of this survey will be beneficial to the division regarding future bait regulations. The survey can be found at

Check out the Buc’s facebook fishing report


Perch fishing has been good on Mullet, Burt, Big Glen, Big Platte, Lake Leelanau, lake Margrethe, and Crystal.

Harbor Springs: Had very few boat anglers. A couple smallmouth bass were caught in 30 feet of water.

Petoskey: Those wading and those fishing off the rocks are still catching fish past the mouth. Try crank baits or floating spawn bags. Those surfcasting off the beach and near the breakwall caught fish using crank baits or spoons. Orange and green were still the hot colors. A couple coho and pink salmon were caught right along with chinook. Some have started to target steelhead with spawn but it might still be a little early for them.

Bear River: Did not have as many fish as last week but quite a few are still being caught. Try spawn, skein, or yarn for chinook, coho and pink salmon.

Charlevoix: Fishing was slow. Even the cold, wet weather did not bring salmon up to the weir. Boat traffic seems to have stopped on the big lake. Most anglers were fishing 100 feet from the mouth of Medusa Creek with crank baits. Steelhead should be near the cement plant soon.

Traverse City: Few boats have made it out because of the weather. Those that did were targeting smallmouth bass.

Elk River: Chinook, coho, steelhead, and the occasional brown trout have been caught. Most anglers are using pink or chartreuse spawn bags at the power dam.

Boardman River: The salmon run seems to have peaked but a decent number of chinook and coho remain in the river. Some have caught lake trout. Try drifting skein and spawn bags or fly fishing with an egg-sucking leech pattern.

Frankfort: The weather gave the steelhead a good push. Pier anglers at Frankfort and Elberta have landed some nice fish when using spawn. Chartreuse seems to be the better color. Water levels are still low and those working the shallow waters have done well. When boats can get out, they caught young chinook and coho when fishing 80 to 100 feet down along the Shelf. Spoons worked best.

Betsie River: Could see some steelhead by the weekend.

Onekama: The North Pier was very active with several nice steelhead and some coho caught by those using spawn or cleo’s that glow. Chartreuse spawn bags with glow floats were the ticket this week.

Portage Lake: Bass anglers who braved nature were not disappointed when catching several 4 and 5 pound largemouth as well as some nice smallmouth bass. Work the drops in both shallow waters and those 14 to 18 feet deep. Panfish were slow but anglers are hopeful that colder temperatures will get them feeding.

Manistee: Strong winds have prevented boats from going out. Pier anglers and those surfcasting have started to catch steelhead on fresh spawn. Those using a single fresh egg caught a few whitefish.

Manistee River: Should see good numbers of steelhead by the weekend. The last of the chinook salmon should be on the gravel and pretty much done by the end of the week.

Ludington: Pier and surf anglers are catching steelhead when using salmon spawn. Strong winds have made it difficult for boats to get out.

Pere Marquette River: Did not get as much rain as the rivers north of Cadillac but anglers should still find some steelhead.

Northeastern Lower Peninsula


Cheboygan River: Is producing chinook salmon at the dam for those using rapalas, cleo’s, shallow runners and spawn. Glow works best at night.

Rogers City: If boats can get out, steelhead and Atlantic salmon were caught between Seagull Point and Forty Mile Point. The fish are higher now and can be found 35 feet down in waters 65 to 90 feet deep. Good colors are green, blue, black and silver, orange and silver or anything that glows. The marina and the fish cleaning station are now closed but the docks are still in. The salmon run up to the Swan Weir is just about over but a few fish may trickle back down into the bay.

Ocqueoc River: A few salmon have been caught by those drifting spawn or casting body baits. Quite a few fish are pretty dark now.

Presque Isle: The marina is completely winterized. The docks will be in until the end of the month.

Rockport: Pier anglers caught chinook early or late on rapalas.

Alpena: A few chinook and pink salmon were caught near Mill Island in Thunder Bay. Yellow perch have been caught in the marina by those using minnows.

Thunder Bay River: Is producing chinook up near the 9th Street Dam. Try floating spawn or using rattle traps. Steelhead are also being caught.

Harrisville: Salmon are still coming into the harbor, but in small schools. Most of the fish are still fairly fresh and in good shape. Spoons, body baits and spawn are all taking fish. There have been reports of steelhead following the salmon in and hitting on the same baits. Water levels are low but there is still plenty in the channel.

Oscoda: A few walleye were caught off the end of the pier.

Au Sable River: Salmon are making their way up to the dam. Fish down near the mouth are silver but further up some of the fish are starting to turn dark. Steelhead are making their way up as well and were hitting on spawn. Water levels are starting to come back up and the current is moving faster. This should bring more fish into the river in the coming days.

Higgins Lake: Is producing a few perch.

Lake St. Helen: Is producing a few pike.

Tawas: Pier anglers did well for perch when using minnows. Those fishing outside the piers caught chinook, steelhead and catfish when casting spoons.

Tawas River: A few salmon were still caught by those drifting spawn.

Au Gres: Had good perch fishing in 35 to 40 feet of water along the shipping channel.

Au Gres River: Rumor has it salmon and steelhead have been caught. Those surfcasting in the lower drain near the Singing Bridge have caught salmon.

Upper Peninsula

Black River Harbor: A few salmon are still being caught below Rainbow Falls.

Ontonagon: High winds are keeping boat anglers off the water. A few small salmon were caught in area rivers.

Keweenaw Bay: Boat anglers that can get out have caught mostly coho followed by lake trout and steelhead. They did best between Sand Point and Carla’s which is north of Baraga. Those fishing off the rock dock caught coho and steelhead.

Fall’s River: Is producing coho and steelhead for those casting spoons and spinners or drifting crawlers and spawn bags.

Marquette: Surface water temperatures have cooled to the upper 40′s so fishing has improved. Lake trout and steelhead were caught outside the Lower Harbor breakwall and up towards the Carp River. The fish are running 3 to 6 pounds. They are staging before the spawn but the run has not peaked yet. Shore anglers are fishing off the Lower Harbor breakwall and from the mouth of the Carp River to the Dead River. A couple nice steelhead were caught off the Upper Harbor breakwall.

Carp River: Coho action was fair with the occasional fish caught on spoons or spawn. An increase in water levels should increase catch rates.

Dead River: The salmon run may have peaked as most of the fish in the river appear to be done spawning. Most are using flies.

Menominee: Pier anglers at the marina and the lighthouse caught the occasional salmon but the fish are turning dark. A couple brown trout were caught by those casting spoons or twister tails. Walleye fishing seems to be done.

Menominee River: Walleye fishing was slow. Those targeting smallmouth bass, pike and musky also had reports of slow fishing. Water levels were still low but recent rain may help to bring levels back up. Chinook, pink salmon, steelhead and brown trout were caught near the first dam at Hattie Street. While some are drifting yarn or spawn others are casting spoons, rapalas or twister tails.

Little Bay de Noc: The Kipling area has been fished the most with perch and walleye caught. Perch anglers were still-fishing with crawlers in 4 to 10 feet of water around Butler Island but many were small. Walleye anglers did best late evening when trolling or drifting in 10 to 23 feet of water at the Second and Third Reefs.

Escanaba River: Shore anglers are casting for salmon but few fish were caught.

Big Bay de Noc: Smallmouth bass by those anchored or drifting with crawlers 25 to 35 feet down between the Bluff and Snail Shell Harbor.

St. Mary’s River: Those trolling the north end of Munuscong Bay caught a few walleye around Moon Island when trolling crawler harnesses in 8 to 12 feet of water. As water temperatures get colder, change to crank baits when targeting walleye in the month of November. A few musky were caught by those trolling 8 to 10 inch rubber body shad baits around Tea Cup Island and Kemps Point. Smallmouth bass are excellent around Moon Island when using minnows or jigging with dark green and brown tube jigs. A few yellow perch were caught mid-afternoon across from the Neebish Island Ferry dock or the west side of Neebish Island just off the weed beds. For perch, try out near the red buoy or off Green’s Resort in 12 to 18 feet of water.

Detour: A few walleye were caught out from the DNR Boat Launch. Anglers are trolling crawler harnesses and bottom bouncers in 12 to 18 feet of water. Around Drummond Island, perch were caught in Scott Bay or try the south side of Ashman Island in 8 to 12 feet of water with minnows. A couple perch were also caught near Harbor Island and Bald Island. Good smallmouth bass fishing around Bruce Point. Try minnows or tube jigs in 4 to 8 feet of water around the rock piles.

Cedarville and Hessel: Anglers are targeting yellow perch in Musky Bay and the Middle Entrance in 10 to 12 feet of water. Most are using minnows.

Carp River: The pink salmon are almost done but chinook are moving into the river.




Southeast Lower Peninsula

Lake Erie: When boats can get out, they have done well for perch. Hot spots were around the Raisin River Buoys in 13 to 18 feet of water and off Stony Point in 22 to 24 feet. For walleye, try out from Luna Pier in 16 feet of water.

Huron River: More steelhead should be moving up into the river soon. One fish was caught up at Flat Rock. Try floating wax worms, minnows or a single egg. Shore anglers caught some nice perch.

Detroit River: Walleye anglers jigging in the lower river are catching a few fish. Perch anglers are also picking up a fair number of fish. Try the Cross Dike near the south end of Grosse Ile in 10 to 15 feet of water or the west side of Celeron Island in 8 to 10 feet of water. Shore anglers have caught 10 to 14 inch perch.

Lake St. Clair: Once the winds die down and anglers can get back out, perch fishing should be very good. Best areas to fish this time of year are off the 400 Club and the Grosse Point Yacht Club. Muskie fishing should also be good around the weed beds in Anchor Bay and along the St. Clair Delta Channels. Walleye fishing should also pick up in the channels as water temperatures continue to fall.

St. Clair River: Fishing activity has been slow. Anglers continue to fish off the boardwalk in Port Huron with limited success.

Lexington: Is producing the occasional steelhead and brown trout. Anglers are casting spoons or using spawn. Baitfish are showing up along the breakwall. Anglers did best in the early morning or late evening. A few perch were seen around the docks at the marina.

Saginaw Bay: Shore anglers were catching a few small perch at Quanicassee, Sebewaing and Caseville. Those able to fish in the marinas have caught bluegill and crappie. Gizzard shad were starting to move in.

Shiawassee River: Is producing a good number of smallmouth bass.

Southwest Lower Peninsula Fishing Report

St. Joseph: Pier anglers using spawn caught steelhead and whitefish.

St. Joseph River: Water flow has increased but levels are still below normal. The salmon run is winding down however no big push of steelhead yet. The fish cam at the Berrien Springs ladder is temporarily disabled due to some technical difficulties. It may be down for a few days.

Paw Paw River: As the salmon run winds down, steelhead are moving in. Many are using spawn.

South Haven: Pier and shore anglers are casting spawn or body baits for steelhead.

Kalmazoo River: Has a fair to good number of salmon and steelhead below the Allegan Dam. Try spawn, Hot-n-Tots, small spinners or floating wax worms.

Grand River at Grand Rapids: Has a good number of steelhead along with some brown trout. Anglers are doing well at the dam and the stretch before the dam with pink or chartreuse spawn bags with about 4 eggs. Use light line 4 to 6 pounds and small hooks. Those fishing off the Fulton Street Bridge caught trout on Hot-n-Tots. At Riverside Park, crappie and bluegills were hitting on minnows, leaf worms or wax worms. A few walleye were caught on the gravel at night when back bouncing.

Grand River at Lansing: Salmon fishing picked back up with coho caught in the Grand and the Red Cedar. Fishing picked up at the North Lansing Dam as the number of fish increased. Most are using small spinners. Pink and chartreuse were the hot colors.

Looking Glass River: Has lots of northern pike but most are on the small side.

Calhoun County: Duck Lake was producing good numbers of bass, bluegills and other panfish. Those fishing Lake of the Woods and Warner Lake caught a small number of nice bluegills.

Reeds Lake: Is producing crappie, bluegills and even some perch.

Muskegon River: Salmon are still being caught below Croton Dam. Anglers are casting small spoons and crank baits or drifting spawn and wax worms. The rain did push some steelhead into the river.