Look out over just about any frozen lake in Michigan and chances are you will see it dotted with people ice fishing. For many, ice fishing is a family tradition. They have fond memories of drilling a hole in the ice and sitting next to it on a bucket waiting for a tug on the line with their dad, grandparent or group of friends.
Others, however, missed out on this experience and while they want to go out and catch perch, bluegill, crappie, walleye, pike and steelhead in the icy waters, they donâ€™t have the knowledge or skills to do so. Ice fishing, after all, can be dangerous if you donâ€™t know what youâ€™re doing or what to watch out for.
Novices should never venture out alone. If you donâ€™t have an experienced ice fishing buddy, you have several options to learn how to ice fish.
Some local outfitters offer guide services. These guided fishing trips can include any number of services, including basic ice fishing instruction, transportation to and from the lake and set up of a heater and supplies on site. Most provide all the equipment that you need as well, including shanties, rods and reels, bait and heaters. Guides also are familiar with the lakes, rivers, streams and bays in their area and they know without a doubt where the best fishing spots are so youâ€™re almost guaranteed to have a successful outing.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources also hosts numerous classes and clinics throughout the season. Most are held in January and February and cover items such as rules and regulations, how to set up equipment and how and where to safely ice fish. They may also review fishing basics like knot-tying, bait selection and how to remove fish from the hook.
Recent classes scheduled at Mitchell State Park as part of the Hard Water School ice fishing class focused on techniques for panfish, walleye and pike.
Twice a year, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources hosts Free Fishing Weekends, where no fishing license is required. During this weekend, which usually falls in mid-February for ice fishing, many communities host free ice fishing events and derbies.
An ice fishing program was held at Independence Oaks County Park in Clarkston during free fishing weekend, for example. Aimed at school-aged children and adults, participants practiced fishing knots, observed an auger demonstration and then tried to reel in some fish.