Area anglers gearing up for ice fishing as cold weather sets in
ARENAC COUNTY — As temperatures drop for the winter months and ice forms on the surface of the Saginaw Bay, diehard anglers will head out to do some ice fishing.
According to Norm Wright, proprietor of Wright’s Sporting Goods in Au Gres, perch and walleye are the two most popular fish this time of year, followed by pike. Catching those fish in the winter is not a simple matter of going out to the lake, casting a line and waiting, however, as he said it is important to take the proper gear out onto the ice.
“If there’s no snow on the ice, it’s a good idea to use creepers (ice cleats) if you’re walking,” Wright said. “Some people go out on snowmobiles or four-wheelers, but when you’re walking you’ll want creepers on slick ice.”
He also recommended wearing arm cleats or an ice pick around the neck. In the event an angler falls through the ice, Wright said they could use these to latch onto the ice and try and pull themselves back up.
For shallow ice, he said a simple spud should be good enough to break through to fish, though thicker ice may require a power auger or a laser auger to cut through.
Wright said for ice to thicken to a safe level to support a person, a series of good, cold nights are required. Wind can slow down the freezing process, and he said different areas of the lake will have different levels of thickness to the ice. Checking with the Department of Natural Resources or even the U.S. Coast Guard for conditions in a specific area is also a good idea, he said, as is talking with experienced ice fishermen about the conditions that day.
For the fish themselves, he said a hole five inches in diameter is usually good for perch fishing, with a lighter fishing rod to catch them. For the early part of the season, when perch are smaller, he said teardrops, wax worms or minnows work for bait, while later in the season a larger Russian hook may become necessary.
Anglers seeking walleye will want to cut a nine-inch hole and stick with a heavier rod.
“They’re a bigger fish, so you want it to set the hook,” Wright said.
He said walleye anglers use a variety of lures, from Krocodiles and Swedish Pimples to live bait.
For pike, Wright said fishermen tend to use decoys or minnows closer to shore, or will go spear-fish.
Due to the low water levels on the lake, Wright is unsure what the situation will be for the ice this year, but he suggests people stay off the ice if it is not stable.
“Just be careful and use caution,” Wright said. “I don’t like the idea of people going through the ice.”