Ice fishing success runs the gamut
Ice has not been a problem for ice fishing, and reports indicate that fishing has been fairly good on Leelanau’s inland lakes this winter.
The catch has run the gamut, from perch to pike, from smelt to walleyes, as small towns of permanent and portable shanties belie any attempt of ice fishermen to hide their favorite haunts.
Following the earliest start to winter fishing in a decade or so, fishing has remained good on Lake Leelanau and Cedar Lake beyond the expected “first ice” success usually encountered.
North Lake Leelanau has been busy around Houdek’s Creek, where shanties placed over 50 feet of water have been occupied by smelt anglers.
“We’re catching a lot of smelt up by Houdek’s,” said Greg Alsip, a second-year student at Northwestern Michigan College who is studying meteorology. Alsip is working at the Fish Hook in Leland, owned by his parents.
“On most nights there are a lot of people out there. We caught 35 Sunday night in two hours. We’ve caught a few big ones ... close to 10 inches,” he said.
Try waxworms on Hali jigs, Alsip suggested, as the sun sets. He was planning to use some smelt as bait on tip-ups elsewhere on north Lake Leelanau this week.
Alsip said perch fishermen have been connecting on the flats off of Popp Rd. The Fish Hook, which offers live bait including minnows and tackle, is open from 3 to 5 p.m. Fridays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
John Popa caught the largest walleye of his fishing career last Thursday on south Lake Leelanau, a dandy 30-incher. But he figures from first-hand experience that there are fish much larger out there.
“Last Tuesday, three guys went through 14 greys (minnows) and two small suckers, and ended up with one keeper — a 16-inch walleye with the tail freshly bit off. I saw it,” he said.
Popa said he usually sets tip-ups for walleyes 3-4 times a week at several locations. While he’s only caught four fish, he’s gone through a school of minnows.
“So catching is good, but keeping is poor,” he said.
The tip-up technique worked well for Dan Plamondon of Elmwood Township Sunday evening. He pulled out two pike each about 26 inches from Cedar Lake, and has heard of “four or five” northerns taken from Cedar Lake that topped 30 inches.
“We’re getting a few pike and a few smelt,” said Plamondon, who sells waxworms from his Cherry Bend Grocery store.
Pike action is scattered around the lake, said Plamondon, while smelt angling has concentrated around 200 yards off the DNR public access in 45 feet of water. Just look for the two dozen or so shanties that show up about every evening.
Plamondon said smelt catches usually vary between a dozen and 75 fish. But the best part comes later, as smelt are considered the best bait for pike in Cedar Lake.
Although big Glen Lake has been frozen for well over a week, Bob Smith of the Sportsmen’s Shop in Glen Arbor warns to be careful. A fisherman smashed his spud through just two inches of ice over the weekend well out on the lake, which also shattered his believe that the ice was safe.
“The ice, for whatever reason, is very unstable on big Glen Lake. I don’t know if its all the snow causing slush, or what.
Fishing on Glen Lake, however, has been poor even where safe. Little Glen Lake has a dozen or so inches of ice, but permanent shanty owners report sightings of perch have been rare. Some are blaming work to rebuild the M-22 bridge.
Smith has heard only one positive report, that of a good perch catch off Lake St. “People are not even going out,” he said.