Fishing Bay de Noc Michigan
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Fishing does not end in the winter just because it's cold and snowy. Ice forms quickly on the Bays de Noc, making it one of the best ice fishing spots on the Great Lakes. 

Shanty towns appear overnight on the ice as winter anglers try for Walleye, Perch, Northern Pike, Splake or Smelt. 

Bay de Noc WalleyesWalleyes and Northern Pike can be taken with a Swedish pimple and minnow on tip ups or Pike can be speared. Perch are caught on minnows or wrigglers and minnows are used in the Escanaba yacht harbor for Crappies. 

One of the more popular fish during the winter is Splake a cross between the Lake Trout and Brook Trout. Splake appear to look like either the Lake or Brook Trout or have a combination of characteristics. They can reach sizes of up to five to ten pounds. Splake are more active during the winter but can be taken in the spring and summer, usually incidental to fishing for Salmon and Brown Trout. They can be caught more readily than Salmon or Brown Trout and are typically found in shallower water about 30 feet or less. 

During the winter, Splake are commonly found in 20 to 50 feet of water and are quite often caught incidental to Perch fishing.

Escanaba – An outstanding “year class” should help make this winter a good ice fishing season in Delta County. 

George Madison, Department of Natural Resource’s fisheries biologist in Escanaba, says that a large amount of yellow perch were hatched in 1994 and are now at ideal size for catching and eating. Walleye hatched in ’94 should also make for a good winter walleye season this year in Little Bay de Noc. 

But there’s more good news for ice fishers: “The DNR also stocks the bay with splake (a brook trout-lake trout hybrid) and brown trout. Wintertime is the better time to catch them,” Madison said. “The ice provides shade for them, and they are actually easier to catch than in the summer.”

Ice Fishing WalleyeLittle Bay de Noc is an excellent place to ice fish, Madison said, but there are areas to stay away from for safety reasons. “The people that don’t frequent the bay often seem to be the ones who get in bad areas…The real obvious ones are the river mouths – the White fish River, Days River and Escanaba River,” Madison said. 

The narrows through Gladstone and the shipping channel from the Escanaba ore docks are two other bad ice spots to stay away from. “What we see typically on big bodies of water are “shoves” patches of ice that get broken up and then grind against each other due to wine, “ he said. Shoves produce unstable and weak ice conditions that should be avoided, he said. 

An additional spot to avoid is the north end of Butler’s Island near Kipling, Madison said. “There is a shove there-weak ice is always present off the north end. Though the water is shallow enough there to avoid the danger of drowning, having a vehicle drop through the ice can lead to a very expensive towing and repair bill, he said. 

Madison recommends that anglers stay on established trails to ensure safe ice. But if using new ice, he gives two pieces of advice: “Test the ice every 20 feet, and use the buddy system.” Never go out on the ice alone even when using ice believed to be safe. 

Fishing methods in the winter are much more limited than on warm water. Madison said there are three popular methods for fishing the bay: hook and bobber, jigging (mainly using jigging Rapalas or Swedish Pimples) and minnow on a hook. 

Of the top two fish anglers prefer when fishing the bay – yellow perch and walleye. Madison said perch are easier to catch and better suited for families seeking an ice fishing outing. “Walleye are a fish that takes a little more finesse to catch,” he said. Madison said early weather forecasts for the winter are much more favorable than last year, when El Nino kept temperatures unusually mild. This, coupled with the good stock of perch and walleye in the bay, should keep the ice fishing action hot this season, no matter how cold it gets.


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