This sheltered Lake Michigan bay is a prime place for hard-water anglers to start their season. “Shipping traffic keeps the lower bay from having good ice, but the upper bay (near the town of Gladstone) is more sheltered and may have safe ice by mid-December,” says Michigan Department of Natural Resources fisheries biologist George Madison. “The best fishing usually comes between Christmas and mid-January.”Perch, walleyes and northern pike are still in late-fall patterns then, which translates into good fishing near reefs and weed beds. Some of the best action occurs inthe early morning hours, before ATVs and snowmobiles have been on the ice and spooked fish. Michigan ice fishermen are limited to two lines, so Madison uses one rod to target fish feeding on mayfly nymphs near the bottom. “I lower the jig to the bottom, raise it about six inches, and jig it,” he says. “I use the second line to work on suspended fish, usually in the nine- to eighteen-foot range. Traditional leadhead patterns work well, as do jigging Rapalas in firetiger, and the Swedish Pimple.”

Contact: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Gladstone office (906-786-2351); Delta County Tourism and Convention Bureau (800-437-7469).