Ice Fishing in Michigan (MI) – Top Spots with Map

Ice fishing is a time-honored sport, and there are few places better to do it than the state of Michigan. With over 11,000 lakes, the ice fishing in Michigan offers plenty of opportunities to catch a large variety of fish, including bluegill, walleye, perch, pike, and crappie.

Ice Fishing in Michigan (MI) - Top Spots with Map

In this state, you have about 4 or 5 solid months of cold weather that freezes the lakes over, giving you plenty of time to get out and enjoy some quality ice fishing. You also have a great chance of catching some of the large fish that are continually caught from this part of the country.

If winter fishing is something you love or maybe something you have always wanted to try, Michigan is the place to be.  From popular tourist spots to secret fishing holes, these five spots are some of the best ice fishing in Michigan

Top Locations for Ice Fishing in Michigan

1. Houghton Lake

Houghton Lake is Michigan’s largest inland lake at over 20,000 acres. The entire lake is relatively shallow, so it is one of the first bodies of water to freeze over in the colder months and offer safe ice fishing conditions.

Houghton Lake is located right in the center of the northern portion of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. There are plenty of resorts and cabins around the entire lake that offer lodging, as well as bait shops and places to rent ice shanties. 

Crappie, bluegill, and walleye are found in abundance in this lake and are fairly easy to catch. If you are looking for a great place to go fishing before the holiday season, Houghton Lake should be high on your list. 

2. Cass Lake

For anglers looking for a quick and easy place to escape the city and do some fishing, Cass Lake is located very close to Metro Detroit. It is one of the most popular winter fishing lakes in Michigan, but with over 1280 acres of ice to fish on it provides plenty of space to catch some fish.

Cass Lake is popular for its crappies, but its claim to fame is its giant perch. Bluegills and other sunfish can also be caught here, with the occasional walleye and pike caught as well. 

This lake generally freezes over sometime in mid-December and has safe ice conditions in late December to early January. The fishing is good here no matter the weather or the season, so if you are ever in the Detroit area this is one lake that you won’t want to miss!

3. Hamlin Lake

Generally considered the best winter fishing lake in all of Michigan, Hamlin Lake produces some of the biggest bluegill and northern pike than any other lake in the state. You can also catch other panfish and walleye here as well. 

This lake is a large reservoir formed by the damming of the Big Sable River, and this provides a steady flow of nutrients that helps the fish grow to such large sizes. It is found next to Lake Michigan on the western side of the state. 

Hamlin is a deeper lake than many others on this list, but it still will freeze over in December and allow ice fishing before the Christmas holidays. Fishing is usually best after the first ice forms but is good throughout the entire winter months as well. 

4. Crystal Lake

Crystal Lake is one of Michigan’s ice fishing lakes that requires plenty of cold weather before it is safe to venture out onto the ice. It is not until February when this lake is safe to fish, but the wait is well worth it as Crystal Lake holds a healthy population of lake trout.

In addition to the giant lake trout found here, Crystal Lake is also home to plenty of rainbow and brown trout. Some popular spots around the lake include Herman’s Point, Railroad Point, and Lobb Road. Many places can be accessed through public land at Warren Road. 

Whether you are after giant lake trout, rainbow or brown trout, or even perch, Crystal Lake is a great spot to fish once it does finally freeze over. There are plenty of places that provide lodging, ice conditions, shanty rental and bait around the entire lake. 

5. Lake Mitchell

One of Michigan’s most fun lakes to ice fish has to be Lake Mitchell. This lake is home to many different species of fish, and you never really know what you are going to catch. Thanks to its large fish populations, you are pretty much guaranteed to catch something though!

Another great thing about Lake Mitchell is that it is almost guaranteed to have ice. The entire lake is less than 20 feet deep, so it freezes very quickly. Anglers can usually get on the ice by Christmas, and this is usually the best time for fishing this lake.

Anglers here can expect to catch bluegill, crappie, pike, walleyes, and sunfish. The best locations are off of Big Cove and Little Cove on the west side of the lake, but you should keep moving and try different locations in order to find the large pockets of fish. 

When Does Ice Fishing Season Start in Michigan

While the start of ice fishing season varies from year to year depending on the weather and temperatures, there is usually safe ice to fish on in mid-December in the state of Michigan. There are no set seasons for winter fishing in Michigan, although care should be taken to abide by the local and state fishing regulations.

Many lakes throughout Michigan abide by their own set of rules and regulations when it comes to ice fishing and species bag limits, so be sure to do your homework before heading out. For more information on Michigan’s fishing regulations and about ice fishing, check out their website at

How Much Is a Fishing License in Michigan

Michigan requires that anyone over the age of 17 to purchase a fishing license. Fishing licenses are good from March 1st of the given year to March 31st of the following year. 

  • 24-hour fishing licenses cost $10 for both residents and non-residents.
  • 72-hour fishing licenses cost $30 for both residents and non-residents.
  • An annual non-resident license will cost $76. ($26 for residents)

All non-residents to the state of Michigan must also buy a sport card for $1.00. All of the license fees and more information can be found on Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources website at 

Where to Buy a Fishing License in Michigan

Michigan allows both residents and non-residents to purchase fishing licenses online, through licensed agents, or at DNR customer service offices. Luckily the Department of Natural Resources provides a great map of all the counties in the state to find license agents. 

While the easiest way is to purchase your license online, you can find this interactive map on their website at to find a dealer in the area you will be fishing in. 

Michigan is not only a great state to visit, but it can also be a fisherman’s dream vacation. There are few places in the world that offer the amount and the variety of ice fishing that Michigan does, and there is something here for every angler no matter their preferences. If you have never ice fished in this great state, now is the time to start planning a trip!

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