Monday, January 05, 2009

Big Lakes Coming Along & Producing Fish


It’s a well-known fact that big, deep lakes like Higgins Lake are the last ones to freeze, but anglers should expect to find good fishing there this weekend.

This is always a hotspot once it freezes because anglers have a wealth of fishing opportunities on Higgins Lake. The lake is a jackpot of locations to try, and it offers a smorgasbord of species.

Yellow perch are perhaps the best and most productive fishery on the lake, and the first safe ice is when people cash in on excellent catches with some perch to 10-11 inches with the occasional fish a bit larger.

Perch fishermen favor small blues (emerald shiners) for bait, and often fish them off a two-hook spreader. Perch schools move around, but there will be plenty of anglers on the ice this weekend prospecting for them. A one-ounce bell sinker on the bottom, and a two-hook spreader rig is a winner. Some perch fishermen prefer wigglers, and it’s wise to take a choice of bait out onto the ice.

Start fishing near bottom, and keep moving up and trying different depths until perch schools are located. Limit catches of perch are possible, and a variety of other game fish can be caught.

Many anglers enjoy jigging with minnow-baited Russian Spoons. Perch eyes also are productive as bait. Try a variety of colors, and use a light-action spinning reel with two- or four-pound line. Keep the jigging stroke short (only two or three inches), and let the lure flutter back down near bottom. Find a perch school, and it can be easy to catch a limi of these tasty fish.

Lake trout fishing isn’t quite as productive as perch but Higgins Lake is known for producing some lake trout to 25 pounds. Every winter, a few truly large lakers are caught from deep water.

Most of the lake trout are caught on tip-ups with a large shiner, small sucker or smelt fished near bottom. Many anglers fish for smelt, and keep some alive to use on lakers. The rule, according to the DNR, is that smelt caught from the lake can be used as bait, but smelt caught from Higgins Lake can not be used as bait on any other lake.

Anglers can find some pretty special fishing for rainbows and the occasional brown trout. I’ve fished the lake a number of times in 10-20 feet of water off the tiny creek that empties into the lake near the Ralph A. MacMullan DNR conference center.

What has worked well for me in the past is a silver or silver-blue Do-Jigger made by Bay de Noc Lure Company. I hook one small shiner minnow on each point of the treble hook, and jig it up and down.

Use short lift-drop strokes, and try using six-pound line and a small snap swivel to prevent line twist. I’ve had good luck using orange and yellow spoons with some prism tape for the rainbows. For me, the occasional brown trout is just an incidental catch.

Again, the Do-Jigger is a favorite lure in these colors. It has a wonderful flutter-down action that seem to drive fish wild. I have found that in the shallow water it’s important to avoid walking around too much. The fish seem very spooky in shallow water.

I’ve had some limited success fishing for rainbows with single cured salmon egg or a small spawnbag that floats up just off bottom. Use a small egg sinker, and run the main line through the sinker and tie to a barrel swivel. Add a two-foot leader of four- or six pound line, and knot on a tiny No. 10 hook. Add two or three Styrofoam pieces when tying up spawnbags. Lower this rig to bottom, and if a trout bites, set the hook and hold on for a good fight.

There are some panfish, pike, smelt and whitefish in Higgins Lake as well. However, trout and yellow perch seem to attract the most angler attention, and if all indications are on target, this should be the big weekend to fish Higgins Lake.

Anglers should find plenty of weekend action on Higgins and countless other lakes. Good luck.

Posted by Dave Richey on 01/05 at 06:25 PM
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