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The North Wind

The North Wind

The North Wind

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Hannah Jenkins
Hannah Jenkins
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Hi! My name is Hannah Jenkins, and I am one of the copy editors here at the North Wind. I am a sophomore at NMU, and I love all things writing and editing-related. I am proud to be a part of this great...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

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Fishing On Ice

Out on the Ice
The lakes surrounding the Upper Peninsula are one of the area’s most beloved treasures, from gigantic Lake Superior to smaller inland ones like Lake Independence or Teal Lake. While some may consider these waters most suitable for a refreshing dip on a hot summer day, they don’t go out of commission once the winter cold strikes.
Bryan Sromalski, a senior construction management major and Marquette native, is an avid ice fisher. He started ice fishing five years ago.
“A typical day of ice fishing would start in the early morning and end at dark,” Sromalski said. “I like to make a day out of it; you can go midday or afternoon if you wanted, but early morning and night are the best times for fishing, because that’s when the most fish are out.”
Sromalski most often practices traditional ice fishing, which uses a hand line, called a jig, or a set style system called a tip-up. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) allows two hand lines, so one person will use a tip-up while the other uses a jig, he said.
Another type of ice fishing Sromalski has tried is spearing, which involves piercing the fish with a 12-inch spear. For this type of ice fishing, a decoy is dangled in the water and the fisherman waits for the fish to approach it.
“The shack has to be completely dark, so you can see all the way to the bottom,” Sromalski said. “Not many people spear, but you usually get Pike or bigger fish when you do.”
Besides casually ice fishing, Sromalski participates in derbies as well. A derby is similar to a tournament, where awards are given out for certain catches.
“Depending on the derby, you pay $6 or $7. Everyone just goes out and drills their holes,” Sromalski said. “Prizes are given for things like biggest size of a species or amount caught.”
For Joe Nowicki, a junior criminal justice major from Lake Orion, ice fishing is mainly a way to keep him occupied during the harsh U.P. winters.
“It’s definitely something to do to get out of the house, even if you’re not catching fish,” Nowicki said. “And it’s a totally different experience than being out on a boat.”
On a clear winter day, Nowicki embraces the cold by preferring to sit on nothing but a bucket rather than inside his wooden “ice shanty,” which many ice fishermen use as protection against the winter elements.
Nowicki’s fishing partner, junior environmental conservation major Tom Hollenbeck, said his favorite part of the sport is being in the raw elements.
“I like just being outside and getting away for the day. Also, it’s a lot more social than hunting. You can go out with a group and have a good time.”
Mind the Ice!
While being out on the ice is a fun way to spend a winter day, it can sometimes be dangerous. The Michigan DNR posts a daily fishing condition update on their Web site, including an average of ice thickness on surrounding lakes.
The recommended thickness of ice to fish on is four to five inches, but each angler always needs to be prepared and take safety precautions.
“It’s best to go out on early ice, when it’s first frozen, because that is when it’s the most solid,” Hollenbeck said. “You should definitely know how to swim and be prepared in case you or someone else falls through the ice.”
Sromalski said that sometimes he will fish by himself, but he always makes sure to check ice conditions before heading out.
“If there is four or five inches of ice, I’ll go by myself,” Sromalski said. “But if there’s anything less, I’ll make sure to bring a partner.”
Besides taking the correct safety measures, a first-time ice fisher should always know the ropes before taking any chances. Nowicki recommends asking veteran anglers for any tips.
“Never be afraid to ask for advice,” Nowicki said. “You need to have a lot of patience, and you can’t just go out blind not knowing what you are doing. And you need to dress warm, of course.”
Ice fishing season is always something to look forward to, Sromalski said, and he encourages others to try it out.
“You just need to buy a couple rods, a bucket, maybe a six pack and head out there,” he said.
Ice fishing season lasts for as long as the ice is frozen, and a permit is not needed for anyone over the age of 17.
Getting Started
Ice fishing has become extremely modernized over the years, and the amount of equipment available has grown tremendously. Dan Webb, assistant store manager at Gander Mountain in Marquette, said he often sees a lot of fishermen around the store during the winter.
“It’s a large part of our winter business,” Webb said. “Almost every fisherman in town has come here.”
Equipment ranges from basic fishing rods to shelter and safety gear, but for ice fishing where all you have is a bucket to sit on, only the raw basics are needed.
“First of all you need a way to get a hole in the ice,” Webb said. “This can be done a number of different ways.”
A spud bar, which is basically an ice chisel typically made of iron or steel, is used for thin ice and to check the thickness of the ice, Webb said.
A hand style auger drill, operated manually by turning a lever, is used on ice that is not incredibly thick and drills a 4 to 8 inch hole. A gasoline powered auger drill is preferred for very thick ice.
After the hole is drilled, a device called a skimmer is needed to get rid of the ice shavings left over, Webb said. A skimmer looks like a giant ladle with holes to separate the water from the shavings.
After skimming the water, it’s time to fish. An ice fishing rod and reel look just like a regular fishing rod except they’re shorter, Webb said, ranging from 18 to 40 inches long. The length of the rod is important.
“You’ll need to match the length and stiffness to the type of fish you are hoping to catch,” Webb said.
For rods, you can use artificial or natural bait, but for tip-ups, live or dead Minnows are normally used, Webb said. A tip-up is a set style system made out of plastic or wood, where a flag goes up when something grabs the line and you pull it in hand over hand.
While what’s listed above is all that is really needed for bare bones ice fishing, more avid anglers opt to purchase or build a shelter.
“It’s not real fun to not have a shelter,” Webb said. “In some places people drag real, two story structures on the ice.”
Because of the amount of snow fall in the U.P., shelter options are limited. Ice fisherman can buy a portable, pop up shack or build a wooden structure to leave on the ice all winter.
A small heater for the shelter is also an option. Because the ice is so thick and the air so cold, there are no worries about melting the ice.
Other smart investments would also be a large sled to haul your equipment, a snow shovel, pail for bait and a tackle box for your hooks, sinkers, and jibs, Webb said.
Safety gear is also a big concern when ice fishing.
“Always make sure to bring a knotted rope, or ideally a throw bag in case someone goes through the ice,” Webb said.
Other safety equipment includes cleats for boots, water-proof chaps and lots of warm, layered clothing, Webb said.
As far as ice fishing goes, more and more technology is being introduced to update the old tradition. Gear like fish locators, sonar and underwater cameras are now on the market.
“Every avid fisherman uses some sort of electronic,” Webb said. “The sky is the limit when it comes to different equipment.”
Good Fishin’
Teal Lake – Located on US 41 right as you enter the town of Negaunee. This lake is such a hot spot for U.P. ice fisherman it even has its own fishing derby. The Teal Lake derby happens mid January every winter.

Independence Lake – Located in Big Bay by the Perkins Park Campground, this small lake is mostly occupied by the more avid ice fisherman. A fishing derby is held every February in Perkins Park.

Little Bay De Noc – Touching the shores of Escanaba, Gladstone and Rapid River, this small lake is used often no matter what the season is. Ice fishing brings many people from all over the Upper Peninsula to the lake. For more information on the area, visit

Squaw Lake – Republic, about 50 minutes outside of Marquette County, is home to this small lake. Sometimes called Long Lake for its lengthy and narrow appearance, it is also the namesake for Squaw Lake State Forest Campground.

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For maps to lakes surrounding the U.P. as well as weather conditions, visit

Upcoming Events

Independence Lake 29th annual fishing derby
February 7 -8

The only team ice fishing contest in the U.P., pre-registered teams are awarded for their largest pike, walleye, and perch. Includes both adult and children classes. For more information, visit

Free Fishing Weekend
Feb 16-17
Free to ice fish to anyone under 17 without a fishing license

Teal Lake Derby
January 17th
8am – 3pm
$5 fee, or $6 day of the derby

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