Ice fishing continues to play a major role for visitors to the Grand Rapids area. There are some of the best-groomed snowmobile trails in the state and breathtaking cross country ski areas as well, but ice fishing opportunities for several panfish species are a good choice. Until the snowpack recedes it seems the best travel out on the lakes is to stay on plowed roads, snowmobiles, or track vehicles to access the ice. Smaller lakes seem to be good choices for there is far less traffic and less slush and water pockets. There is plenty of ice and most lakes report anywhere from 20-30 inches of ice under all the snow.
Ice fishing for bluegills has been targeted by many anglers for they are less picky during the day and usually once found, can provide action the entire time on the ice. Crappies seem to be more active early and late in the day, but bluegills will provide action consistently. Most good bluegill anglers will provide a lite presentation when chasing bluegills. 2-4# test monofilament line is almost a must for many times the most subtle of bites you will experience. Over the years anglers have switched from spring bobbers on the tip of their ice rod to the softest tip that will detect the slightest bite that bluegills will give you when they inhale your bait. St. Croix Rods have developed a series of panfish rods that will help you to see the bite and even with the lightest of baits. Small tungsten jigs like Northland Tackle’s Punch Jig and Mud Bug are super bluegill baits that will consistently put fish on the ice. Tip them with a waxy or a couple of euro larvae and you’re in business.
Electronics when ice fishing bluegills is essential because of their tendency to be indifferent depths of the water column. As the season gets closer to spring, bluegills will start to relate to transition areas from mud to harder bottom and old weed edges. Their primary food sources are tiny larvae that live in these softer bottom areas and will most often suspend during the day. Having a good underwater camera can be a key ingredient to seeking out schools of bluegills that you might not have seen. Many times there are crappies mixed in with them and that’s always a bonus to include a few in your catch. Pay attention to limit changes the DNR may have implemented and check the new regulation book when purchasing your license. Several trophy bluegill lakes have gone to a 5 fish limit, so make sure you check before going out on the lake. Most public accesses will have any changes in limits for all species on that particular lake, posted near the landing.
There are over a hundred good ice fishing for bluegill lakes within 40 miles of Grand Rapids that can provide you with great opportunities. A few lakes to give a try are Graves, Little Turtle, Little Ball Club, Dunbar, Bellow, Gunn, Clubhouse, Pokegama, and Big Rice. All have good populations of bluegills and crappies. Some of the best ice fishing for panfish is coming up in the next month and warmer weather is on the horizon.
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