Extended ice fishing is a hit

Lake Orion, Mich. – Although the general public is mostly tired
of the snow and cold, ice fishermen welcomed the wintry weather
that hung on through the end of March in southern Michigan, and
still lingers in many northern haunts.

“It’s been a phenomenal year for fishing,” said Debbie Yonkman,
manager of Pilgrim Village Fishing Shop in Cadillac. “We saw some
pretty big fish this year (from lakes Cadillac and Mitchell),
especially pike. We had several in the 30s (inches) and a couple in
the 40s. They caught a few walleyes, too, crappie fishing was good,
and perch fishing has been good, once it got started.”

Part of that success is being attributed to the fact that
anglers had plenty of time to fish.

“We got ice early and it stayed all year,” said Gary Hath, of
Lyman’s on the Lake, a bait and tackle shop on Houghton Lake. “We
got our shanties out the first week of December. Last year, we
didn’t get them out until late January.

“We’re still fishing out there,” Hath told Michigan Outdoor News
on April 3. “Usually, we’re done by the first of April, but we
probably still have another two weeks to go.”

Even anglers in southern Michigan – where ice fishing has been
hit or miss in recent years – enjoyed a nice, long season.

“The last few years we started losing our shore ice around the
first of March, but this year it hung around. We were still fishing
down here in the last week of March,” said Mike Covey, of D and R
Sports in Kalamazoo. “It was an awesome season, too. Fishing was
above average. I saw some nice fish caught this winter.”

According to the National Weather Service in White Lake in
Oakland County, overall winter temperatures were not below
normal.

“It’s been a long winter, but not abnormally below normal,”
Meteorologist Steve Considine said.

That’s because the January thaw tilted the overall temps up a
little. The average temperature in January in southern Michigan was
4.8 degrees above normal. In February, the average was .7 degrees
below the long-term average, and in March it was 1.5 degrees below
the average.

“The big thing around here was the amount of snow that fell,”
Considine said.

As of April 3, Detroit had experienced its fourth snowiest
winter ever with a total accumulation of 71.7 inches. The average
normal snowfall for Detroit is 42 inches. Flint recorded its second
snowiest winter ever with 82.3 inches of snow, compared with an
average of 46. The record snowfall for Flint is 82.9 inches.
Saginaw experienced its third snowiest winter with 80 inches of
snow, compared with an average of 55.

All that snow didn’t slow down the anglers.

“We had excellent fishing on Lake St. Clair,” said Dan Chimelak,
of Lakeside Fishing Shops in St. Clair Shores. “The season started
early, and we were still fishing until last week when guys started
falling through.”

Even in the U.P., where winter traditionally lingers into April,
even May, ice anglers are enjoying an extended season.

“Typically, we fish until about April 15th,” said Barry Drews,
of Bear’s Nine Pines Resort on Lake Gogebic. “Once the snow melts
and we get down to the bare ice, we usually have about two weeks
left of fishing. Right now (April 3), we still have between 10 and
20 inches of snow and the ice is solid. We should be good for a few
weeks.”

Drews said the fishing on Gogebic has been “absolutely
tremendous.”

“We’ve had excellent walleye and perch fishing all year long,”
he said. “Walleyes were biting right through the end of the season.
Perch fishing was good in January and February and still is good.
Usually, the perch don’t turn on until March.”

In the eastern U.P., heavy snow put a damper on some fishing,
but the extended opportunity was welcomed.

“The season started really well in December,” said Kathy Cyran,
of J.R. Sport Shop in Curtis, in the heart of the Manistique Lakes.
“In January we did well, and February is usually our best month,
but heavy snow and crappy weather kept a lot of people off the
ice.

“We still have lots of ice so they should be fishing for a few
more weeks,” she said. “The last four or five years we have been
wrapped up by now, but I remember years that we didn’t get ice-out
until mid-May, so it really isn’t that unusual.”

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