Nearly 100 ice fishermen were counted on Millhouse Bayou in Grand Haven Township on Saturday morning, and plenty of anglers took advantage of many other early-ice hot spots as they chased pan fish and pike.
The arrival of safe ice couldn’t come fast enough for those who enjoy sitting on a frozen pond fishing for their dinner — or for those who sell them their bait.
“We lost a good month and a half of ice fishing, but it took off with a boom and everybody’s happy,” said John Stillson of Lakeview Marine & Tackle, 24 S. Beechtree St. in Grand Haven. “It looks like they’re doing really, really good. The reports I’ve had have been excellent.”
While most ice anglers are after bluegills, Stillson said tip-up fishing for pike has been extremely hot the past few days. A change in laws by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources that allows fishermen to use three lines at a time has upped the popularity of tip-up fishing.
“People are enjoying this three-pole business,” Stillson said. “They can fish with two tip-ups, and that seems to really be going over big.”
Stillson said the pike have been slamming tip-up minnows on Bruce’s Bayou, and Millhouse Bayou has also been producing fish.
“We’ve gone through about 280 dozen tip-up up minnows the past three days, and all told, maybe 360 dozen,” Stillson said.
Bluegill fishing has been hot on Millhouse, Sterns and Little Robinson bayous, as well as near the public access in Eastmanville. Bruce’s is also producing panfish, as is Lloyds, although the ice there isn’t as safe as in some other places.
The DNR says that ice 4 inches thick is enough to support anglers on foot. Five inches should safely hold a snowmobile or an ATV, while 8-12 inches is enough to support a car or a small truck. A medium-sized truck can travel on ice that’s 12-15 inches thick.
Those are general guidelines, however, and not all ice is the same. Anglers should always travel with a spud (a large ice chisel) and check the thickness and the consistency of the ice before heading out onto the water.
Clear, solid ice is generally considered the safest, while white ice is to be avoided.
“I’d tell them to look for white spots, because white spots tell you it never froze there,” Stillson said. “I just tell them to be safe, and I always ask them if they’re bringing a rope along, and to stay away from one another so that they can help them if they go through.”
Temperatures climbing into the 40s and rain falling overnight could put safe ice in jeopardy, but temperatures are supposed to sink back down below freezing tonight.
“With it getting down into the 32-degree bracket, I don’t believe we’ll lose that much ice,” Stillson said. “They’re talking lower temperatures at night, so what we lose, we’re going to gain right back.”