A new law allows Michigan’s ice anglers to fish with three lines…

In November of 2008, the NRC passed a law allowing anglers to use three lines on all bodies of water in Michigan. It took effect April 1, 2009. This will be a huge advantage for savvy ice fishermen. Done right, a three line program can have a huge impact on one’s success rate. By combining tipups and jigging, anglers can now cover the water and discover the fish’s preferences like never before. We’ll be able to target multiple species with much great effectiveness.

I take an annual ice fishing trip to the U.P. every year during the tail end of the walleye season. In 2009, I took advantage of the new walleye season extension and made the pilgrimage during the first week of March. My brother Greg and my lab Harry joined me on the five day trip of fun on the ice.

I have a deer camp about 15 miles from Little Bay De Noc, so I usually stay at my cabin and ice fish for a mixed bag on Little Bay De Noc. I also mix in some small game hunting, snowshoeing and cross country skiing just for variety.

Our arrival was greeted with a decent weather forecast for most of our stay. The weatherman predicted somewhat steady, mild weather so the first morning we hit the ice with great expectations. I used to guide ice fishermen on Little Bay De Noc, but I gave it up years ago due to liability concerns. I do have a very good knowledge of the fishery though and knowing where to go and what techniques to use are extremely valuable to cut to the chase. In the dark of the morning, we headed towards the north end of the bay and set up a combination of tipups and jigging holes before sunrise. We drilled a bunch of jigging holes around the truck (the ice was 30″ thick), then we set up the tipups before sitting down for some serious jigging.

We started out with some old favorite jigging spoons of mine and tipped them with lively minnows. After pounding them up and down for 20 minutes with no bites, I decided to change to something quite different.

A new hot jigging lure had been getting rave reviews and I was armed with a few of the snazzy looking Moonshine Shiver Minnows. These lures are minnow like in appearance and measure three inches with a weight of ½ ounce. They have a unique swimming action and come in ultra glowing patterns that are designed to attract fish from a long distance even in low light conditions. Internet forums were buzzing about the Shiver Minnow’s effectiveness on walleyes, so I was eager to give one a try.

I picked out a Red Grape pattern Shiver Minnows as that is my favorite Moonshine spoon pattern that I use for walleye trolling. I was shocked when I got a solid strike after only about 10 seconds of wet time on the lure. I knew it was a big fish as soon as I set the hook. It bulldogged and threw head shakes at me, but I still managed to steer the fat six pound female up onto the ice.

A few minutes later I glimpsed a tipup flag waving from the corner of my eye. As I approached the tipup I saw the spool slowly revolving, which typically means that a fish is taking line. A slow moving spool also typically indicates a big fish too. Greg got to the tipup shortly after me and set the hook on another chunky fish. He brought the fish in hand over hand as I wound the free line back onto the spool to prevent it from tangling. A minute later and he steered a nice sized northern through the hole. A short time later and it was my turn again as a flag popped up signaling another strike. That fish turned out to be a nine pound walleye. Back and forth the action went between the tipups and the jigging presentations for a fun day on the ice indeed. It certainly paid off handsomely to mix things up a bit. If we could have run three lines each, we likely would have caught a lot more fish too. Maybe I even would have targeted perch as well.

The way I like to fish for walleye, pike and trout is somewhat unique. I’ll have a base spot where my portable shanty and gear are located or where I park my truck (on very thick ice). The base spot will have at least half dozen holes drilled close by for jigging. Those holes will be spaced about 20′ apart. For tipups, I almost always drill two holes side by side about four feet apart. If a tipup gets hot and catches a couple fish, then I jig in the spare hold next to it. I’ll spread my tipups in a long line spacing the pairs no less than 100′ apart, oftentimes much further.

I only jig with one rod at a time. When I need a brake from jigging, I set up another tipup or a Slammer Rod and always try to keep my legal limit of lines in the water at all times while fishing. The more lines in the water, the better ones odds for success with ice fishing. If the fish are hitting best on tipups and jigging is cold, then I’ll give them all tips. I’ll still often test the fish by trying to jig once in a while though. If the fish are hitting jigs better than tipups, then I’ll make sure jigs are always in the water and won’t worry about the tipups as much. It’s all just common sense and this year it’s going to be a lot more fun with the extra line.

The author offers fishing charters for Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay walleyes along with trips for salmon and trout at Manistee on Lake Michigan and Rogers City on Lake Huron. If you have any questions contact him at www.trophyspecialists.com or 734-475-9146.