The Keweenaw Peninsula: Ice fishing dream come true

Frozen lakes transform into ‘winter villages’ in preferred form of angling

The Keweenaw Peninsula is, simply put, an ice fishing enthusiast’s dream come true. In fact, its fishing opportunities make the region a prime angler destination year-round.

Many anglers actually prefer fishing through the ice to open-water fishing, reports the Michigan DNR website.

“Anglers can get just about anywhere on a lake during the ice fishing season,” the DNR states, “something they can’t do without a boat during the warmer months. Virtually every fish that’s available to anglers in the summer can be caught through the ice – some more frequently in winter.”

As the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau’s visitkeweenaw.com website suggests, the region is legendary for its ice fishing.

“The Keweenaw’s frozen lakes become winter villages as fishermen set up their shacks in preparation for peak season fishing,” the website says. “The pure thrill of pulling a large Lake Trout through a hole in the ice makes ice fishing in the Keweenaw extra appealing.”

Among the most popular locations for ice fishing is Chassell Bay, which is home to Crappie, Pike, Walleye, and some other inland species. Chassell Bay is perfect for jigging rods or tip-ups. Dead-stick rods can be also be used here with live or dead bait, as well.

The lakes and streams of Keweenaw County are so well-known that Copper Harbor was listed among the top eight fishing destinations for 2022 by Fishing Booker’ blog site.

“By mid-December, the ice on the smaller lakes in the area is safe enough to walk on,” the blog says. “Lake Manganese and Lake Fanny Hooe right outside Copper Harbor feature popular fish such as Trout, Northern Pike, and Walleye, as well as various species of Panfish. By late January, the ice on Lake Superior is usually safe for ice fishing as well. There you have the chance of reeling in Trout, Coho and Chinook Salmon, Whitefish, Herring, and Smelt close to shore. Ambitious anglers head out slightly further to get their hands on some Lake Trout.”

Fishing Booker is the world’s largest online marketplace that enables anglers to list, find and book fishing trips worldwide. In 2021, the site included Lake Gogebic in its top seven ice fishing destinations.

“What’s so special about it?,” the site asks. “Well, the lake’s waters get deep right by the shores of the resorts and parks, giving you a chance to catch a jumbo Perch right at the start of your adventure. The lake’s next big catch is Walleye. On Lake Gogebic, it’s not only about the size, but the action these fish will give you. They require patience and skill to be reeled in.”

The Michigan DNR list of the most popular ice fishing destinations includes:

• Baraga County: Vermilace Lake and Silver River.

• Keweenaw County: Gratiot Lake, Lake Medora, Lake Bailey.

U.P Travel also lists Keweenaw Bay, Lake Gogebic (largest inland lake in the U.P.), Bob Lake, Portage Lake and Lac Vieux Desert, as premier ice fishing destinations.

Another exciting aspect of Keweenaw ice fishing is the length of its season.

Lake Superior ice cover persists through the month of March, states visitkeweenaw.com.

“The weather tends to get nicer this time of year and the increased sunlight and warmer temps make this an enjoyable time to get out on the ice and fish,” the site says. “As the ice on Lake Superior starts to recede, anglers turn to the Portage Canal for some good crappie fishing. Snowshoes can be helpful during early season ice fishing to help improve access to the best ice fishing holes.The Keweenaw’s larger inland lakes, such as Lake Manganese, Lake Fanny Hooe, and Lac La Belle, offer good opportunities at Panfish, stocked Trout, Northern Pike, and Walleye.”

More important than tackle and equipment for ice fishing, the Keweenaw Convention and Visitors Bureau cautions:

“The most important part of planning any ice fishing trip is ice safety. Ice conditions vary a lot from year to year and location to location.”

The site cautions ice anglers to always:

Mark the holes when anglers leave with a small tree branch or sticks and watch out for others’ holes that may have been marked in this manner.

“Recently cut holes may not have had a chance to freeze and there’s a possibility of stepping right through,” the site states.

Pay attention to spots on the ice that do not look the same as other places, for example, wet spots, snow-covered spots, jagged texture, etc. These differences sometimes indicate a potentially hazardous area that should be avoided. Basic equipment such as ice pics and floating rescue rope should always be packed. Ice cleats are recommended and can be worn over most boots.

It is also critical to dress for the weather. Dress in layers so that you can layer up/down depending on your activity level and comfort. Warm waterproof boots are a very good idea, especially in the Keweenaw where there is often a layer of snow or slush on the surface of the ice.


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