Ice Fishing on the Bays De Noc

2019 Special Events and Dates

Feb. 16-17: Free Fishing Weekend. All Michigan fishing license fees will be waived for two days. Residents and out-of-state visitors may enjoy fishing on both inland and Great Lakes’ waters for all species of fish. All fishing regulations will still apply.

Mar. 2: Chenier’s Reef Fishing Tournament. Escanaba. Tentative date; call 906-553-7474 to confirm.

Mar. 15: End of Walleye and Northern Pike Season

What you’ll catch

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 is trophy walleye fishing grounds where you can reel in a 30” to 32” keeper tipping the scales at 13 to 14 pounds. Catch northern pike or a mess of yellow perch. Or try to beat the 54”, 43-pound sturgeon hefted through the ice off the tip of the Stonington Peninsula in mid-January 1996.

Best time to fish

First and last light of the day.

Where to fish

Experts say that good ice fishing can be had at the same places where you’ll 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 which 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.

How to access

Little Bay de Noc

  • Escanaba Municipal Marina, Escanaba
  • No See-Um Creek, South of Escanaba on M-35
  • Gladstone Marina, Gladstone
  • Terrace Bay Resort, south of Gladstone; offers fish-cleaning facilities
  • Days River, North & South (DNR), North of Gladstone
  • Kipling, 1 mile north of Gladstone
  • Twin Springs, 8 miles south of Rapid River, on the Stonington Peninsula
  • Boon-Dockers Store (private), Stonington Peninsula

Big Bay de Noc

  • Fayette State Park, on the Garden Peninsula
  • Little Fishdam River, 2 miles east of Isabella on US 2
  • Nahma, 4 miles south of US 2
  • Ogontz Bay, South of US 2 on County 503

Lake Michigan

  • Portage Bay State Forest Campground, 6 miles east of Fayette on the Garden Peninsula

ALWAYS stay safe!


  • 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” to 5” thick (8” to 10” if the ice is white or snow- covered) to safely fish on. It needs to be 5” to 7” thick to drive a snowmobile or ATV to reach your spot.  
  • NO ICE IS EVER 100% safe.


AVOID river mouths
Heavy currents 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 floe 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.

Ice Shanties

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:

  • A person placing a shanty on the ice for fishing shall permanently affix their name and address on ALL SIDES of the shanty in legible letters at least 2 inches in height. The name and address must be on the shanty and may not be placed on a board or other material which is then attached to the shanty. Tents and other temporary shelters which are removed each day and not left on the ice do not require identification.
  • Persons placing a shanty on waters of the Upper Peninsula shall remove the shanty by midnight March 31 of any year.
  • A shanty must be removed if ice conditions become unsafe, regardless of the date. After March 31, a shanty must be removed at the end of each day’s fishing activity.

What equipment do you need and where can you get it

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” to 10” 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).
You can purchase shanties and ice fishing gear at area bait and sports shops.
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

Fishing Guides

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).

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.

Fishing Regulations

Contact your nearest Michigan Department of Natural Resources office for the latest Michigan Fishing Guide. Rules are effective April 1.

  • A fishing license is required for all persons who have reached their 17th birthday, including those serving in the Armed Forces. Michigan residents with a 100% V.A. disability benefit or who are legally blind are entitled to purchase a Senior Resident Annual license.
  • Persons with mental impairments and residents of a home for the aged may fish without a license if they are a member of a group and accompanied by one or more adults who possess a permit issued by the DNR.
  • You must purchase a fishing license if you are 17 years of age or older to fish. If you are under 17, you may fish without a license, but you are required to observe all fishing rules and regulations. Any adult actively assisting a minor who does not have a license must have a fishing license. Please note, a license is required when targeting fish, amphibians, crustaceans and reptiles.
  • Michigan’s annual fishing license is valid from March 1 of a given year through March 31 of the following year.
  • DNR Sportcard $1.00. A DNR Sportcard is issued to non-residents, minors, or any individual that does not have a valid Michigan Driver’s license or State I.D.


  • Resident Annual $26.00*
  • Nonresident Annual $76.00*
  • Senior Annual (Residents 65 or older or Residents who are legally blind – see p. 6) $11.00*
  • 24-hour (Resident or Nonresident) $10.00
  • 72-hour (Resident or Nonresident) $30.00


  • Muskellunge Harvest Tag (License Required, see p. 9) FREE
  • Sturgeon Fishing Permit and Harvest Tag (License Required, see p. 8) FREE

Read more Michigan fishing regulations information here