Ice Fishing – Why They Do It!

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Joshua Crabtree is a Vicksburg fisherman who caught this big pike on Portage Lake on January 8. Photo by Jim Hamrick.

By Jim Hamrick

With sub-zero arctic temperatures invading Michigan the week after Christmas, lakes became frozen with enough safe ice to support ice fishing. Driving by lakes and ponds many people are seen sitting on five-gallon buckets, hunched over, peering through a hole in the ice. That is ice fishing! The question is, why do they do it?

They do it for the tug. The tug is a fish taking the bait. Laura Strong, wife of Charter Captain Matt Strong and owner of Strong Ice fishing products, made it perfectly clear this week. Laura is Captain Matt’s favorite girl and fishing partner. She is the mate on Strong Too Fishing Charters and fishes as often as possible. Captain Matt posted an ice fishing picture of Laura this past week with a nice bull bluegill with the quotation “The Tug is The Drug”! That is it, that is why ice fishing is so popular “The Tug is The Drug,” it is what every fisherman, woman and child seeks.

Anglers on the ice will seek the tug in the wind, freezing temperatures, snow, freezing rain and fog. It doesn’t matter.

Michigan offers a variety of species to pursue, bluegills, perch, and crappies are the most popular and available in all local lakes. The Northern pike is the most sought-after predator which can be a magnificent trophy. Around the state walleyes and Steelhead trout are sought by many anglers. When Lake Erie becomes safe for ice fishing, thousands of anglers can be seen waiting on the tug for sweet tasting walleyes and perch. Northwest Michigan offers opportunities for lake trout and brown trout from lakes such as Torch and Charlevoix.

Ice fishing can be a very rewarding and enjoyable outdoor activity for anyone who appreciates Michigan’s winter climate. The equipment is simple to assemble and use. An inexpensive rod and reel with line, jig and bait can be purchased for $25 or less. Tip-ups are the presentation for bigger fish such as northern pike and walleyes, suspending large minnows favored by the big fish. Tip -ups can range in price from $5 to $50. No matter the price, they are easy to use and can put a trophy on the ice. The most expensive item will be the auger or spud for making a hole in the ice. Quality clothes, boots and gloves are a must, if you have lived in Michigan for any period of time most of what is needed is already in the closet. A set of bib coveralls is recommended to break the wind and contain body heat. All in all, ice fishing requires less of a financial outlay than summer fishing, where a boat is required.

The question remains how important is success? There are many products that help improve chances for the tug. Electronics are the next most important item you can purchase. They take the guesswork out of locating fish. Electronic fish locators have evolved to the point you can locate fish and actually see them take your bait. Many styles of shelters are available to provide protection from the elements. Prices are determined by size and accessories.

Ice fishing can be a sport providing relaxation or family adventures making lifelong memories. Most lakes will host a group of like-minded fishermen sharing a common goal : the tug.” Join them!

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