Ice fishing begins – in fits and starts
The first half of December brought some great ice-making weather to our neck of the woods here in Sault Ste. Marie, but since then, it’s been feeling much more like early spring.
Ice anglers have been getting out on what little we have, and a few adventuresome fishermen are taking snowmobiles and quads out in some spots. We’ve been sticking to walking out, and thanks to the high water, we don’t have to go nearly as far as we used to have to hike.
There is a small sheltered spot off the big water near my house that provides some early ice action for whitefish in most years. It’s a good spot to start the season and get gear sorted out and find out what works and what doesn’t. In our first excursion this year, I was disappointed to find that mice had chewed a couple holes in my portable shanty, just as they’d chewed up duck decoy lines. I was at first angry with the holes in the shack, but I found that one of them was handy for spying on neighboring fishermen.
My assumption about this spot is that the whitefish spawn nearby in deeper water, in late November and early December, then move into the shallows to feed on mayfly larvae after they’re done. It’s not a well-known spawning ground for whitefish, but there is a small area of rocky, gravel bottom that whitefish need to spawn and so I’m guessing it attracts a small number of fish – as opposed to more expansive spawning areas in Lake Superior. The fishing is good in this spot as soon as the ice forms, but it drops off quickly as the winter progresses.
We’ve been out a couple times with a little bit of success, and I learn a little more about this place the more that I fish it. Usually the whitefish bite readily, but we always have a spear ready, just in case they don’t.
The forecast for the next couple weeks is calling for temperatures cold enough to make ice at night, but not much during the day. Lake freighters stop running on Jan. 15 and that will help Mother Nature put more ice on the river and bays, allowing us to expand our opportunities, at least here in Michigan’s north country.