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Ice fishing sunrise

Ice Fishing

Delta County has the longest freshwater shoreline of any county in the entire USA. So it’s no surprise that “villages” of ice fishing shanties spring up on both Little and Big Bays de Noc. This area is for trophy walleye fishing, where you can reel in a 30 to 32-inch keeper, tipping the scales at 14-pounds. Catch northern pike or a mess of yellow perch. Or try to beat the 54-inch and 43-pound sturgeon hefted through the ice of Stonington Peninsula in mid-January 1996.

Tyler flynn ice fishing

Photo: @tyler.flynn_


The first and last light of the day is the best for fishing. Head out early in the morning before sunrise or hours before sunset. Experts say that good ice fishing is present at the same place that you would find success in the spring, summer, and fall. Plan to start your winter fishing in the northernmost waters of the two bays. That’s where the ice first forms.


The boat landing at Kipling has an extensive weed bed that attracts walleye. The “black bottom” area to the south is well-known for being a good fishing spot. Check your depth charts and fish the edges.


Little Bay de Noc

Big Bay de Noc

Lake Michigan


  • Never fish alone. Also, tell someone on land where you are going and when you expect to return.
  • Take appropriate emergency gear. Bring your cell phone, a lifejacket, flashlight or battery-powered lantern, and ice picks.
  • Dress in your warmest winter clothes. Warm socks and thick boots are a must. Bring a thermos with hot coffee, chocolate, or tea. Snacks. And an empty bucket, stool, or lawn chair to sit on.
  • Check ice constantly. As you cross the frozen Bays, use an ice spud and tape measurer to check the ice thickness every 150 feet. Clear ice needs to be a minimum of 4 inches to 5 inches thick (8 inches to 10 inches if the ice is white or snow-covered) to safely fish on. It needs to be 5 inches to 7 inches thick to drive a snowmobile or ATV to reach your spot.  
  • NO ICE IS EVER 100% safe.
  • Avoid river mouths, heavy current, and unstable ice are often found there.
  • STAY OFF thin, slushy, dark, or discolored ice. Every year, someone goes through thin ice or drives onto an ice flow which breaks loose and floats into the Bay. Use common sense and check the ice thickness with a spud bar. Watch for pressure ridges. And always heed warnings, especially late in the season when ore shipping resumes. The arrival of the first ore boat is often preceded by Coast Guard icebreakers.
  • Contact the Delta County Sheriff Marine Patrol Office at 906-786-3633 with any questions.


As soon as ice forms on the Big and Little Bays de Noc, hard shacks, and portable shanty “villages” begin to appear. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has the following requirements:

Ice fishing sunrise

Photo: @kelli929kelli


In addition to the safety gear and shanty listed above, avid ice anglers recommend that you bring an ice spud or auger to cut an 8 inch to 10-inch hole, jigging rod(s), tip-up(s), heater, fish sonar or finder, and live bait or artificial lures or both. Be sure to carry your ID and Michigan fishing license (details below).


-Dunham’s Sports, 301 N Lincoln Rd, Escanaba; 906-789-4007

-Bay View Bait & Tackle, 7110 US Highway 2 41 M35, Gladstone; (906) 786-1488

-Bayshore Bait & Tackle, 1323 N Lake Shore Dr, Gladstone, MI 49837; (906) 428-9687

-Blade's Bait & Tackle, 8923 Bay Shore Dr., Gladstone; (906) 420-8494

-Beaver's Lures, 914 Ludington St., Escanaba; (906) 399-1578


Blade's Bait & Tackle offers a shuttle to and from your fishing spot on Little Bay de Noc as well as an overnight shack that sleeps up to 4 anglers and includes your bait in the cost. They're open from Dec. 1 to March 15. Call (906) 420-8494. The sooner the better — these shacks book fast!

Hook Set Fishing offers half or full-day packages; gear available for up to three people; will fillet and ice pack catches; call 906-399-5407 (requests one-week notice).

RTH Fishing is a USCG Licensed Capt. on Little Bay de Noc and the surrounding waters of Lake Michigan. Offering guided fishing tours all year long! Call (906) 241-2664

Interested in growing your guide business? If you offer ice fishing guide services in the Escanaba area, please contact Robert at 800-533-4386 or We will add your contact information to our list.

Jordan ice fishing

Read more Michigan fishing regulations information here

Before you head out on your adventure, check out the current weather.

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