Reel Great Ice Fishing: Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula
When the lakes freeze over, pure adventure awaits! The Keweenaw’s frozen lakes become winter villages as fishermen set up their shacks in preparation for peak season fishing. The pure thrill of pulling a large Lake Trout through a hole in the ice makes ice fishing in the Keweenaw extra appealing! Call your best fishing buddies, grab your essential gear, and get ready to have a blast ice fishing in the Keweenaw Peninsula!
What Makes the Keweenaw a Destination for Ice Fishing?
Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula, located in the heart of Lake Superior, is an ice fishing paradise. The Keweenaw’s long cold winters guarantee solid ice formation on large inland lakes and even Lake Superior, increasing the variety of fish species that can be targeted during the hard water season.
When is the Keweenaw’s Ice Fishing Season?
Anglers can expect ice formation to begin in November, with the first safe walk-on ice appearing on smaller inland lakes by mid-December. By late January, Lake Superior typically forms ice that is safe for walk-on access, making it possible to target an even larger variety of fish species. Vehicular access to inland lakes usually becomes safe and feasible by early January.
Lake Superior ice cover persists through the month of March. The weather tends to get nicer this time of year and the increased sunlight and warmer temps make this an enjoyable time to get out on the ice and fish. As the ice on Lake Superior starts to recede, anglers turn to the Portage Canal for some good crappie fishing. Snowshoes can be helpful during early season ice fishing to help improve access to the best ice fishing holes.
Keweenaw Fish Species
Inland Lake Species
The Keweenaw’s larger inland lakes, such as Lake Manganese, Lake Fanny Hooe, and Lac La Belle, offer good opportunities at Panfish, stocked Trout, Northern Pike, and Walleye. These varieties of fish fight hard and are a great deal of fun to catch!
Some of the most accessible and productive ice fishing happens on Chassell Bay, where there is good fishing for Crappie, Pike, Walleye, and some other inland species. This is an excellent place to use a jigging rod or tip-ups. Deadstick rods can be used here with live or dead bait. If you are looking to buy bait on your way out, there is a convenient self-service bait shop located in Chassell near the boat launch.
Lake Superior Species
Trout, Coho and Chinook Salmon, Whitefish, Herring, and Smelt can all be caught close to shore, but once ice cover spreads to deeper depths of Lake Superior waters, anglers tend to focus their efforts on catching Lake Trout.
Recommended Lake Superior Ice Fishing Destinations
Keweenaw Bay turns into an ice fishing village, as locals set up ice shanties for peak season fishing during February and March. This is the PERFECT time to jig for Lake Trout on Lake Superior, and vehicular access at this time of year makes it easy to get gear out on the ice for a safe and rewarding day of ice fishing. Keweenaw Bay can be easily accessed in the towns of L’Anse and Baraga.
Copper Harbor and Huron Bay are other possible locations to fish Lake Superior water. Ice safety is more critical than ever in these locations due to the dynamic conditions Lake Superior brings. Try to follow others’ trails getting on and off the ice in these locations, but never assume the ice is safe because others are fishing. Local knowledge can be extremely useful when fishing these locations.
Ice Fishing Events
Local VFW Post 6507 in Chassell, Michigan, hosts an annual ice-fishing tournament in February. Anglers compete to catch the heaviest Walleye, Pike, Crappie, and Perch. There is also a kid’s tournament during the weekend to help encourage children to enjoy the outdoors. It’s a great community event that brings anglers together for a weekend of friendly sportsmanship and competition.
Guides & Outfitters
The Keweenaw Peninsula is also home to exceptional guides who can help you experience the thrill and adventure of ice fishing by providing local knowledge, ice transportation, and all necessary gear for a safe day on the ice.
Keweenaw Charter Fishing Co. offers fully guided ice fishing trips on Lake Superior and inland lakes throughout the region. Captain Travis White teaches his clients how to use sonar and GPS to locate and catch fish. Ice fishing trips are offered as long as safe ice conditions exist.
Ice Fishing Equipment
For most types of fishing, a spud or auger can be used to make a hole in the ice. Many anglers also like to use a portable fish finder (sonar, flasher, or Vexilar) to help determine the depth of water beneath the ice and to be able to see the fish swimming through the hole. Rods, reels, line, lures, and bait depend on the type of fish you are pursuing. Buckets or sleds are helpful for hauling gear, including portable tents and heaters.
Talk to a local bait or tackle shop for tips on selecting the appropriate tackle for your specific ice fishing adventure. Campioni’s True Value in Calumet, Northwoods Sporting Goods in Hancock, and Indian Country Sports in L’Anse are stocked up all the essential gear you will need for a day out on the ice. Campioni’s True Value even offers equipment rentals, such as augers, fish finders, and underwater cameras!
Ice conditions vary a lot from year to year and location to location. The most important part of planning any ice fishing trip is ice safety. Basic equipment such as ice pics and floating rescue rope should always be packed. Ice cleats are recommended and can be worn over most boots.
A spud is an essential tool for checking ice thickness. Anglers should always proceed with an abundance of caution when on the ice. Ice thickness safety guidelines should always be followed. Never trust the ice because no ice is ever 100% safe ice. Going on the ice in a small group is a good idea (buddy system).
Always mark your holes when you leave with a small tree branch or sticks and watch out for others’ holes that may have been marked in this manner. Recently cut holes may not have had a chance to freeze and there’s a possibility of stepping right through. Pay attention to spots on the ice that do not look the same as other places, for example, wet spots, snow-covered spots, jagged texture, etc. These differences sometimes indicate a potentially hazardous area that should be avoided.
When in doubt, check the ice in front of you with your spud. If one hard whack on the ice causes the ice to crack or draws water up onto the top of the ice, get off immediately.
It is also critical to dress for the weather. Dress in layers so that you can layer up/down depending on your activity level and comfort. Warm waterproof boots are a very good idea, especially in the Keweenaw where there is often a layer of snow or slush on the surface of the ice.
Ice anglers should familiarize themselves with the Michigan Fishing regulations and purchase a fishing license. This can be done online or at many local merchants. Certain bodies of water have season closures or other restrictions in place on fishing, which anglers need to be familiar with in advance. The Michigan DNR is a good resource for learning more about fishing regulations.
What Makes Keweenaw Winters Special?
Each year, the Keweenaw Peninsula receives an average snowfall of 270 inches, turning it into a wintertime playground! Beyond ice fishing, the Keweenaw is a snowmobiler’s dream destination and has over 230 miles of picturesque trails to ride. It is home to extreme-skiing destination, Mt. Bohemia, as well as several fantastic trail systems that are maintained for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and fat-tire biking. The Keweenaw Peninsula is also home to Otter River Sled Dog Training Center and Wilderness Adventures where guests can take dogsled tours through the snowy backcountry. Ice fishing can even be added to your dog sledding tour!