Winter fishing in Michigan on ice-free waters worth the effort

Here are some tips to help anglers get ready to hit the water.

The weather outside may be frightful but fishing can still be delightful with preparation and planning. Here in southeast Michigan there aren’t many people fishing along the shorelines but several boat launches are still quite active, including Alter Road in Detroit, Wyandotte, Lake Erie Metropark, Sterling State Park and Bolles Harbor. Some of these Michigan anglers also will venture into Canadian and Ohio waters.

Things to consider for winter fishing:

  • What are people fishing for? Here in the Detroit River and western Lake Erie, many anglers are targeting yellow perch and walleye this time of year.
  • Pre-trip planning: Check the wind and water temp before venturing out. Anglers I know use Windfinder for wind speed and direction, and NOAA’s Weather.gov  for wind speed and direction as well as several other weather elements such as surface temp and precipitation potential.
  • Network: Connect with other winter anglers to find out where they are having success. You also can find info in the Detroit River/Lake Erie section of the Michigan Sportsman website, western basin section on the Ohio Sportsman website, Downriver Walleye Federation Facebook page, etc.
  • Let someone know before you go: The U.S. Coast Guard and other boating experts recommend filing a float plan before you launch your boat. Float plans need not be complicated, at a minimum you need to tell a reliable person who is staying onshore where you are going, who you are going with and when you plan to be back. A more detailed float plan template is available from the Coast Guard.
  • Know your limits Regulations for the number of lines allowed in the water, bag limits and fishing licenses can be different from Michigan to Ohio or Canada. Be sure to obtain the proper license(s) and know these regulations before heading out to fish.

Michigan

Ontario, Canada

Ohio

Detroit River

5 walleye (15+ inches)                      

50 yellow perch (no size limit)

2 jigging rods

6 walleye (no size limit)             

50 yellow perch (no size limit) 

1 jigging rod              

 

Lake Erie

6 walleye (15+ inches)

50 yellow perch (no size limit)

3 trolling rods

6 walleye (no size limit)

50 yellow perch (no size limit)

2 trolling rods              

6 walleye (15+ inches)

30 yellow perch (no size limit)

2 trolling rods

License Info

http://www.mdnr-elicense.com/Welcome/Default.aspx

https://www.ontario.ca/page/fishing (outdoor card also required)

http://wildlife.ohiodnr.gov/fishing/fishing-regulations/licenses

 

  • International Border Crossings: You’ll also need to know the call-in procedure when going into Canadian waters. Dial 888-226-7277 as soon as you enter Canadian waters and be sure to have proper documents and information handy such as an enhanced driver’s license or passport, MC number from your boat, where you launched from, and how long you expect to be fishing.
  • Dress properly: Layer up, invest in warm weather gear and don’t forget boots, gloves, hats and even hand warmers.
  • Specialized equipment: While most anglers use the same rods, reels, nets, and other equipment, they will also add glow sticks to the mix because the sun goes down early this time of year. Many anglers use more crank baits in the winter months as opposed to crawler harnesses and live bait that are used in the warmer months.

On a good day, anglers can bring in their bag limit in just a couple of hours. On a bad day, well that’s why they call it fishing, not catching.

Michigan Sea Grant helps to foster economic growth and protect Michigan’s coastal, Great Lakes resources through education, research and outreach. A collaborative effort of the University of Michigan and Michigan State University and its MSU Extension, Michigan Sea Grant is part of the NOAA-National Sea Grant network of 33 university-based programs.

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