Ice Fishing on the Bays de Noc: Part 1

As a Yooper, I think ice fishing is something everyone should experience, even if only once. With that said, I have never been ice fishing. My reason? I am afraid falling through the ice. So with my fear in mind, I talked to some experts of this outdoor U.P. tradition. You guessed it, I talked to some Yoopers.

Based on the comments I received from my friends and family members, I learned to dress warm, not to fall through the ice and that the BEST way to go ice fishing for the first time is to go with someone who knows what they are doing. I was also advised to bring beer, build a heated 12 foot by 12 foot ice shanty, and to watch out for the Loch Ness monster. I’m not going to elaborate on those last bits of guidance. Instead, let’s focus on the “good” advice.  You should consider this a very basic How to Get Started Ice Fishing Guide written by someone who is has never been ice fishing

Staying warm and dry while you are ice fishing will greatly affect your level of enjoyment. Let’s face it, you’re probably going to be sitting for hours on a bucket on ice. Just as with most other outdoor winter activities in the U.P., wearing layers, keeping skin covered and staying dry are crucial. Waterproof boots and outerwear and extra gloves and socks are strongly suggested. We all know ice is cold, so bring a blanket and cushion to sit on and those nifty hand warmers and while you’re at it, get some for your boots.

While we’re on the subject of ice, according to several local ice fishermen, “There is no such thing as SAFE ice.” It cannot be stressed enough how important it is to be aware of the local ice conditions before and during your ice fishing excursions. Stay away from areas where there is water flowing or standing over ice. My best suggestion is to talk to locals about what they are seeing on the Bays and do your own research. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources posts weekly fishing reports available online and by phone (855-777-0908). The reports include local ice conditions, the types of fish being reported and which bait seems to be most popular.

As for the advice to find someone who knows what they’re doing and get them to take you ice fishing, I think it’s pretty sound advice. Ice fishing has been a tradition here in the U.P. for generations. Families have been venturing out onto the ice to catch fish, tell stories and “just get away” for as long as people have lived on the shores of the Great Lakes. Talk to local family members, we all have an “Uncle Mick or Grandpa Leroy” who may be willing to sacrifice an afternoon of time on the ice to pass along this tradition. Lacking a friend or family member to be your personal guide? There are several fishing guides for hire in the area. Simply talk to any one of the local bait and tackle shops, they can make recommendations.

Head on over to this post on for more information about ice fishing gathered by the Bays de Noc Convention & Visitors Bureau. There you will find details about the Michigan DNR’s requirements for Ice Shanties and license fees, as well as Maps, Fishing Guides and locations that offer winter access.

Please stay tuned for a continuation of my experience going ice fishing for the first time.

– Written by Escanaba native Carrie Bartel.