Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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Ocqueoc Lake — Preque Isle County

By Bill Parker

Ocqueoc Lake in Presque Isle County provides anglers with decent fishing in a relative natural setting. There are a few homes and cottages on the east shore of the lake, but the Mackinac State Forest encompasses the west shore, which gives it a rustic feel.

“There is a little bit of everything in there,” says local angler Mike Parrot. “It’s good for pike and panfish, and there are a few walleyes in there. You can even catch steelhead a little bit, and once in a while a salmon.”

Those trout are sometimes present in Ocqueoc Lake because the Ocqueoc River flows out of the lake at the north end, and five miles downstream it drains into Lake Huron. No official lake level control structure exists on the lake so spawning fish often move upstream into the lake and beyond. There’s an electric sea lamprey weir just downstream of the lake that acts as a low-head dam, but it doesn’t stop salmon and trout from moving upstream.

Ocqueoc Lake is a 132-acre natural lake located in northern Presque Isle County in the northeastern Lower Peninsula between Cheboygan and Rogers City. The Ocqueoc River enters the lake on the south shore, and exits to the north. The river channel flows through the lake, most of which is less than 20 feet deep. The deepest water is 34 feet and lies just north of the island at the north end of the lake.

Ocqueoc Lake is a long, narrow lake running south to north with several points and bays. In addition of the Ocqueoc River, two unnamed streams – one from Orchard Lake – flow in on the west side.

The south end features gradual slopes while steeper drop-offs line the east and west shores as you move north.

Stocking records for Ocqueoc Lake date back to 1933. Between that year  and 1945 the Department of Conservation stocked yellow perch, walleye, brook trout, brown trout, and rainbow trout in the lake.

In more recent times, spring fingerling walleyes have been stocked regularly in Ocqueoc Lake since 1986. 

“Stocking efforts were initially based on the potential for good growth of walleye in Ocqueoc Lake, and limited natural recruitment,” the DNR wrote in a survey following the most recent survey of the fishery in the lake. “The original stocking rates were near 100 spring fingerlings per acre every three years. Today, stocking rates are near 75 per acre every other year.”

More than 49,000 spring fingerling walleyes have been stocked in Ocqueoc Lake in the past 10 years including 13,750 in 2017 and 12,734 in 2019. (Stocks in 2021 were limited due to COVID).

The most recent DNR survey collected 24 species of fish, which is a higher diversity than for most northern Michigan natural lakes. The total catch was 1,416 fish.

Bluegills, rock bass, and black crappies were the most abundant panfish species collected in the survey.

Bluegills ranged up to 8 inches long, but most were undersized. 

“A marginal length distribution of fish was demonstrated, with fewer bluegill exceeding 8 inches captured,” the DNR wrote. “It is likely that some of the bluegill in Ocqueoc Lake are migrants from lakes in the upper Ocqueoc River drainage, or from nearby Orchard Lake. Growth for this species was considered average, and less when compared to specimens from the 1998 survey.”

Rock bass also were found in good numbers and ranged up to 10 inches. The only Master Angler fish caught in Ocqueoc since 2011 was an 11.25-inch, 1.25-pound rock bass that hit a nightcrawler on June 16, 2011.

The DNR survey also produced fair numbers of black crappies to 13 inches, with a majority of them ranging between 10 and 13.

“Black crappie were less abundant… compared to surveys of the 1980s and 1990s,” the DNR wrote. “This is a highly cyclic species, and it is unknown if they are just at lower densities now and will likely be more prominent in the future.”

The survey also turned up light numbers of undersized yellow perch and pumpkinseed sunfish.

Northern pike, walleyes, and largemouth bass are the top predator species in Ocqueoc Lake.

Northern pike was the most abundant predator found in the survey nets. They ranged up to 31 inches, but many were 20 inches or smaller. Special pike regulations allow anglers to keep up to five northerns per day of any size on Ocqueoc Lake, but only one over 24 inches.

The survey also produced fair numbers of walleye up to 22 inches, and light numbers of largemouth bass up to 16.

The survey collected one brook trout and four rainbows.

“The migrant rainbow trout (steelhead) were likely fish on their downstream migration back to Lake Huron, following spawning. This species is stocked in the lower river, but fish can migrate upstream of the lake,” the DNR wrote. “Some tributaries to the upper river support natural reproduction of brook trout. This fish was likely in a downstream migration phase of its life.”

There is an unimproved boat ramp at the south end of Ocqueoc Lake off Domke Road. It’s rather small and only suitable for smaller boats.

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