South Manistique Offers Hot Ice Action

Most ice fishing enthusiasts have heard the story of the two hearty souls who after much work finally got settled in their shelter. As the wind howled and the snow built drifts around their enclosure for hours on end, they remarked, “It doesn’t get any better than this!”

What makes a seemingly sane person don layer after layer of clothing, and then lug pounds of equipment for a half-mile or more on a frozen lake caked with ridges, snow masses and slick surfaces? Is it for the adventure, the thrill of the hunt so to speak, or is it because they are just plain stupid? My wife would agree with the latter.

As an avid ice fisherman, I’ve experienced a variety of conditions in my travels. Lake blizzards have taken my shanty up and around me and set it free hundreds of feet away from my original position, while I casually sat on my bucket mesmerized by a finicky “eye.” Though most days are cold and blustery, I have also been a part of warm, spring-like days in February where a sweatshirt could be the uniform of the day. People who spend hour after hour on the ice are not necessarily loners, recluses and escapees. They tend to be outgoing, sincere and concerned individuals who just happen to like the outdoors so much they are willing to risk frostbite, missed football games, and Sunday get-togethers to pursue their quarry.

As mentioned, every day is not going to be a good day when ice fishing, at least weather wise. However, isn’t it odd that many fishermen will be able to relate a story from one of their most memorable trips on the ice? For the past 20 years, my weekend walleye memories have been developed at South Manistique Lake. Much of its shoreline laps on the quaint little city of Curtis, roughly 65 miles west of St. Ignace and the Mackinaw Bridge (on H-33, off of Highway 2). This lake offers a variety of gamefish (walleyes, northerns and muskies), plus panfish for those willing to dare the fates and the weather.

As with most winter walleyes, these too tend to bite best during the low lights of morning and evening with early ice. Yet, because of the thickness of the ice and heavy snow cover during January and February, I’ve witnessed hits frequently during the day because of the lack of light penetration during these months.A variety of tackle will work on any given day, so don’t be afraid to experiment. Teardrop jigs laced with waxworms might nail a bucket of fine perch one day, while a Swedish Pimple hooked through the lip of a blue will be irresistible to the bigger walleyes the next.

From bluegills to an occasional cisco, South Manistique Lake offers the angler the opportunity to catch a variety of species and the luxury of abundant underwater cover. Don’t be surprised by the lack of shanties since many anglers are now so mobile, a permanent site is not always necessary. Portable shelters allow the ice fishermen to move continuously until the appropriate area is located. With this in mind, South Manistique has many points, outcroppings and weedy bottoms to explore and hopefully, locate fish. So, don’t be afraid to move and drill, and move.

Curtis has an adequate amount of bait shops, marinas, and snowmobile dealerships in case of unexpected breakdowns, and forgetful anglers who left their tackle boxes and augers behind. While not large, this area also has year-round gift shops, fine restaurants and miles and miles of snowmobile trails to enjoy after a day of ice fishing.

Curtis and South Manistique Lake, it really doesn’t get any better than this.