Great Lakes Fishing Report: Jan-Feb
Published: Tuesday, January 5, 2021
Lake St. Clair
The primary target for ice anglers on Lake St Clair is yellow perch. Most of the effort is focused on the northern part of the lake in Anchor Bay. The bay provides some protection from the wind, so generally has the most consistent ice formation - although ice conditions can vary quite a bit from year to year. In a year with good ice, the catch of yellow perch can greatly exceed the number of fish caught during the open water season. Anglers generally use jigging spoons, jigging rapalas, or shiners. Walleye can occasionally be caught, and anglers also do well-setting tip-ups or spearing northern pike.
One of Lake Huron’s gems is the ice fishing experience in Saginaw Bay during the winter months if good ice conditions set up. Walleye numbers are near all-time high levels, yellow perch can also be caught with great sized fish. Most ice fishers target shallow water all the way up to 30 feet deep by actively jigging spoons tipped with a minnow. In addition to the Saginaw Bay ice fishery, the Les Cheneaux Islands (yellow perch and pike) and the St. Marys River (yellow perch and walleye) can provide some good winter opportunities as well. If you are craving trout and salmon, winter-run steelhead and hold-over Atlantic salmon can be found in the Au Sable and Thunder Bay rivers.
Although harsh winter weather will occasionally keep anglers off Lake Superior, it does offer considerable open-water and ice fishing opportunities. When water temperatures approach freezing, coldwater fishes such as lake trout, whitefish, cisco, brown trout, rainbow trout, Chinook salmon, and coho salmon can be found in nearshore waters often near river mouths. Anglers troll crankbaits and spoons using long lines and planer boards. Lake Superior also has good winter splake fishing in Copper Harbor, Keweenaw Bay, and Munising Bay where anglers target them by jigging spoons or light jig heads tipped with live bait or minnow imitations. Whitefish Bay and Grand Marais also offer ice fishing opportunities for lake whitefish and Menominee where using a single egg on a teardrop jig can be productive.
Most fishing opportunity is along the shore on piers, break walls, and along the beach where steelhead and coho salmon can be found. Steelhead can also be found in major river systems like St. Joseph, Grand, Muskegon, and Manistee rivers. If ice conditions allow, Grand Traverse Bays provide excellent opportunities for Cisco, lake trout, and yellow perch, and Bays De Noc is great for walleye, northern pike, yellow perch, and the occasional whitefish.
Brought to you by the Michigan DNR. Buy your Michigan fishing license online by visiting www.Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses.
Ohioans who spend their time boating Lake Erie will have plenty of fishing success when they cast a line, as the 2020 walleye and yellow perch hatches are both above average and continue an exceptional era of fish production in the western basin of Lake Erie.
The 2020 August walleye hatch index was 48 per hectare, a standard measure of catch per area. This is the eighth-highest value on record for Ohio’s waters of the western basin and well above the rapidly increasing prior 20-year index average of 32 per hectare.
“This year’s hatch combined with the exceptional 2015, 2018, and 2019 year-classes ensures an abundance of young walleye will complement the older and larger fish that make up the current Lake Erie walleye population, which is projected to hit a historic high in 2021,” said Travis Hartman, the Division of Wildlife’s Lake Erie fisheries program administrator.
The 2019 hatch also impressed with 47 walleye per hectare. This was the highest catch of 1-year-old walleye ever observed in Ohio’s 2020 August western basin trawl survey, nearly double the previous high from 2015. Walleye from the 1-year-old 2019 class currently range from 7-12 inches, and most will hit the harvestable size of 15 inches in 2021.
The August survey found the 2020 yellow perch hatch index to be very good at 536 per hectare. This is well above Ohio’s west basin prior 20-year average of 326 per hectare and ranks sixth in the 34-year survey. This above-average yellow perch hatch will help bolster the population in 2022, along with the strong 2014 and 2018 hatches supporting recently improved yellow perch angling success in the western basin.
The HuntFish OH mobile app is available to Ohio’s outdoor enthusiasts from your smartphone app store. Download the app and take your fishing license wherever you go while also taking advantage of maps, weather, and other resources.
Are you looking for inspiration for that freezer walleye? Visit wildohio.gov to browse the Wild Ohio Harvest Community, where you will find the Wild Ohio Harvest Cookbook, an online collection of recipes and tips on how to take advantage of your harvest once you’re back in the kitchen. Step past the usually fried fish sandwich with tartar sauce and cook up some creamy fish chowder or orange chili walleye with noodles.
Brought to you by the Ohio DNR. Download your copy of the Ohio fishing regulations at wildohio.gov. The renovated Ohio Division of Wildlife website and the new HuntFish OH mobile app provide a variety of tools and resources for outdoor enthusiasts of all types.
Thank god 2021 is here; most people will be ice fishing the bays around Lake Ontario for all kinds of panfish. Perch will be the big story. Good places to try will be Sodus point, sandy pond, lake view, and Chaumont bay. Please be safe on the ice. No fish is worth someone’s life.
There will be two types of fishing going on in Chaumont perch and giant walleye! 7 to 19 pounders are shared with up to 14 pounds excepted!
Tributaries will be in full swing for steelhead and brown trout. Depending on snow conditions, it will be a riverbank or drift boat.
Hot spots will be a salmon river, Oswego river, oak orchard, maxwell creek, and the mighty Niagara. Check the river flow rates to be safe.
If you lake fish only, this is a great time to book your charter, or if your a do it yourself, it’s time to get ready! Please attend the state of lake meetings in your area to get an insight into how the fishery is in your area. Tight lines everyone!
Brought to you by Cannonball Runner Fishing Charters, www.cannonballrunner.com.
A version of this article appeared in the Winter Issue (Jan/Feb) 2021 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.