This is the first part of a series of articles in which I will attempt to provide you with a list of lakes and rivers in each region of the state that should present reasonable winter walleye fishing opportunities. You may know of other lakes or rivers with fishable walleye populations but this is not meant to be an all-inclusive listing. This listing is based primarily on DNR stocking data accompanied by personal experience and other reliable sources of information.
Among Branch County lakes that produce winter walleyes, Coldwater Lake would have to be considered the best bet for good size walleye although the entire chain of lakes of which Coldwater is the Western most, produce occasional fish.
The St. Joseph River produces good numbers of walleyes for those anglers familiar with it but this is an open-water fishery as it rarely freezes over.
Other possibilities, although not noted as walleye fisheries include Matteson Lake, Palmer Lake and ........Lake.
Calhoun County's Duck Lake is undoubtedly one of the best bets for icing winter walleyes in the region. Although numbers are not the rule, the average size of the fish make up for it. This is primarily a night fishery due to the extremely clear water and most of the fishing takes place along the South end of the lake. There are a number of shoals, a sunken island and many drop-off areas that can be worth exploring but again, any real success should be expected after night-fall.
Hillsdale County has no fishable walleye populations at this time.
Jackson County hosts Big Wolf Lake and portions of the Grand River in Tompkins Township that hold fishable populations of walleye although neither are noted for their walleye fishing.
In Lenawee County, try both Devils and Wamplers Lakes. Wamplers Lake walleye populations have been given a boost by Knutson's Tackle which has contributed to local stocking efforts.
Livingston County has probably some of the most underutilized walleye fisheries in Southeastern Lower Michigan. The Portage Lake Chain of Lakes starting to the East with Strawberry Lake and ending with Big and Little Portage Lakes to the West host natural spawning walleye populations that migrate up the Huron River to the dam on Oakland County's Kent Lake and large numbers of fish planted in the lake chain by the DNR. Each year,more and more walleye are caught by anglers fishing for other species. Only a handfull of local anglers persue walleye on a regular basis. One of the biggest obstacles walleye anglers are confronted with is obtaining lake access since the DNR Public Access Site is located on the river mouth at Big Portage Lake which does not freeze. With a little effort however, persistent anglers should be able to obtain winter access if property owners are approached in a polite and courteous manner keeping in mind that access is a priviledge and not your right. Each year, a few double-digit walleyes are caught making your efforts worthwhile on this system that borders Washtenaw and Livingston Counties.
Further North, Lake Chemung has received sporadic plantings of walleye for a number of years and each winter some nice fish are caught although not specificaly targeted by local anglers.
Although laying within the bounderies of Oakland County, Kent Lake bears mentioning since it is just outside the Easternmost part of Livingston County. Unbeknownst to many anglers, perhaps due to its reputation for Crappie and Northern Pike, Kent Lake supports a healthy populationn of Walleyes in all age classes. If you question the walleye population just show up a a weigh-in during any of several bass tournaments at the boat lauch and you may be surprized to learn that nearly as many walleye are caught during these tournaments as bass. Again, only a small group of local anglers target walleyes on a regular basis making Kent Lake a real sleeper.
Since the Portage Lake Chain of Lakes was mentioned in the Livingston County section, it bears no further mention outside of being highly recommended as a local walleye destination.
Further to the Southeast, the lake/pond section of the Huron River in and around Ann Arbor supports a decent walleye population including Argo Pond, Barton Pond and Geddes Pond. Access can be difficult and anglers are advised to use extreme caution since these impoundments a quite small with a constant flow of moving water which causes them to freeze very unevenly, even during the coldest times of the winter.
Ford Lake which lies between Ypsilanti and Belleville is another Huron River impoundment that supports a spawning population of walleyes although little fishing pressure is placed on them with the exception of springtime anglers fishing near the I-94 bridge and the dam in Ypsilanti.
Perhaps one of the best area walleye destinations in this part of the state is Holloway Reservoir and the entire Flint River system. Long known as a Crappie haven, Holloway is becoming better and better known each year as a walleye water due in part to several tournaments being hosted on it each year. Although caution is stressed as with any river impoundment, anglers take fair numbers of walleye through the ice each winter.
Even more astonishing, except for a small group of closed-mouth walleye anglers, is the massive run of walleyes that migrate into the Flint River each year. This is an entirely open-water fishery but the opportunity exists for trophy fish. By some estimates this run may approach that in the Tittabawasea River. Access is somewhat limited so the full potential of the Flint River may never be realized.
As mentioned in the Livingston County section, Oakland County's Kent Lake is undoubtedly one of the most underrated walleye waters in the county, perhaps due in part to its reputation for panfish and Northern Pike. Fish this lake using the methods described in my article,"Getting the Jump on First-Ice Walleye", and you'll soon discover its true poten- tial. This body of water does present some unique conditions for walleye anglers however, due to its structure. Kent Lake has a relatively small main basin which is all that remains of a large pond that existed prior to the impoundment being filled, numerous points, both shallow and mid- depth flats and a slight remnant of the old river channel. During the winter months, walleye scatter over the extensive flats searching for small perch which infest the lake and golden shiners which grow up to 12 inches in length.
By the way, want a crack at a trophy Northern, pick up one of the many golden shiners tossed on the ice by anglers and set up a tip-up. Kent Lake may very well produce the Northern of a lifetime for you.
It goes without saying that Lake St. Clair is one of the state's best walleye fisheries. This expansive body of water can be the subject of a seperate article but its potential for producing walleye cannot be ignored whenever a discussion on Southeastern Michigan Walleyes is concerned. This body of water supports an enormous population of resident as well as transient walleyes. Much of the winter walleye fishing takes place in and around its frozen tributaries such as the Thames River on the Canadian side, however, winter walleye can be found throughout its expanse by those willing to do some exploring.Caution should be stressed however due to the constant currents that exist along with the potential for taking a ride on an ice flow to Canada when a Westerly wind kicks up. If unfamiliar with this lake, its best to check out current conditions with local bait shops and experienced anglers.
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