Winter 2017-2018 Ice Fishing

2018 has been fantastic so far, with lots of safe ice on almost every body of water. This has allowed us to take our guide customers to many different inland lakes to target a wide variety of fish species; yellow perch, walleye, lake trout, northern pike, crappies and bluegills are among the most common.

Guided ice fishing is becoming more and more popular, and in 2018, a few more guide operations popped up. Sport Fish Michigan began offering guided ice trips back in 2013, and we are proud to have an experienced, outstanding operation. We have been featured on the local news, in national print magazines, and on television shows in addition to our own online productions.

From the seasoned ice angler to the novice who has never been out on the ice before, Sport Fish Michigan’s Guides work hard to give each and every customer the best experience possible. We tailor each trip to the customer’s desires and needs, and strive to provide a fun, safe, and comfortable atmosphere in which to enjoy your day on the water.

There are a few differences that set Sport Fish Michigan apart from some of the other guide services that exist around the state. First, all our Guides are licensed and have a U.S. Coast Guard Captain’s license. Whether we are guiding on inland waters or navigable waterways like Lake Michigan, Grand Traverse Bay, or Lake Huron, we feel that it is important that each customer fish with a Guide that has the highest credentials possible. Every one of our ice guides is passionate about ice fishing and is more interested in helping our customers catch fish and have a good time than they are in catching fish themselves. We love to teach what we know and pass along our years of ice fishing knowledge to our customers. And we are also always trying to learn as well. We constantly try to improve and look forward to each trip as an opportunity to not only teach, but to learn as well. Each one of our Guides is also a people-person. We look forward to spending time with our customers, and thoroughly enjoy our time on the water with them. Fishing is so much more than just catching fish: it’s supposed to be fun, too, and we strive to always provide an enjoyable atmosphere.

Our equipment is another thing that sets apart. We use what we feel is the best equipment available to help our customers enjoy their experience: fully-insulated Otter Outdoors pop-up or flip-over shanties equipped with Humminbird Ice Helix graphs for customer use, as well as MarCum Technologies or Aqua Vu underwater cameras. We provide it all! Each shanty has a heater inside, so that no matter how cold it may be outside, it’s nice and toasty warm inside the shanty. The rods and reels we provide are all in tip-top shape, rigged, and ready to go. We love the 13Fishing ice rods and pair them with a Shimano reel. We also provide transportation on and off the ice when safe and practical. We transport our customers using a Polaris Ranger Crew UTV, a Polaris 4-wheeler, or via Ski-Doo snowmobile. Ice and snow conditions dictate which vehicle we will use for transportation, but our goal is to provide as much luxury, comfort, and safety as we can. “Show up and fish!” is how we try to run things at Sport Fish Michigan. Let us do all the work: setting up your shanty, drilling the holes, getting the heat on, setting up the electronics or cameras, and even getting the tip-ups set before customers even arrive. Many times, there is a flag on a tip-up by the time our customers arrive on the ice!

We have worked hard to provide the kind of ice guiding service that we have become and are proud of our results. Our customers are our proof. We have been fortunate to have customers from all over the country, as well as some from out of the country—as far away as Brazil and Puerto Rico! When customers travel to fish with us from out of state or country means that our customers are committed to us, and we are always just as committed to them. For those of you that have fished with us in the past, thank you. And for those that have not, we would truly enjoy an opportunity to do so in the future!


2014 Year in Review and a Look Ahead to 2015 Part 2

Part 2: The Future

Looking ahead to the 2015 season, we are encouraged by the opportunities that lie ahead for all of our guide services. We have a lot of goals, many things that are inspiring us to push further ahead, and things we want to improve upon.

Traverse City Bass Guide Service will be guiding again this year on Grand Traverse Bays as well as many of the potent inland lakes around the Traverse City area in northern Michigan. Bassmaster Magazine ranked the Bays #9 in their rankings of the top 100 Best Bass Fisheries in the World. That’s pretty exciting, especially when 4 out of the 5 lakes mentioned in the rankings were all in northern Michigan! Partnering with a couple of bass guides within the Sport Fish Michigan network of the Michigan’s top Captains and Guides, we can offer trips on each body of water mentioned in the Bassmaster Magazine rankings. Who knows where these lakes will be ranked in 2015 but the future looks incredible, and we are excited for spring to be here so that we can get back out, chasing after smallmouth and largemouth bass. With changes to the Michigan fishing regulations on the horizon, we may even see a change which will allow us to be able to target bass year-round in a catch & release manner. Under the proposed Michigan DNR changes, the open season would remain the same, but we would now be able to target bass all year long when practicing catch and immediate release.

Wolfe Outfitters will be entering its second full season as the only permitted outfitter allowed to fish inside the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. What makes this truly exciting is that we are poised to be able to target the outstanding steelhead and brown trout fishery at the mouth of the Platte River in the spring. Steelhead and brown trout can be caught with a variety of techniques including casting, fly fishing, and trolling. Casting minnow baits, like jerkbaits, is a great way to enjoy these feisty fish, and with the gin clear water that Platte Bay has, being able to watch these fish fight and chase offerings is nothing short of awesome. For fly anglers, stripping streamers is every streamer angler’s dream come true, as both browns and steelhead respond well to this technique. Trolling andsa jigging can also pay off handsomely out on Platte Bay.

The salmon fishery on Platte Bay is something to behold, and we are hopeful for a great run in 2015. Coho were first stocked in the Platte River by the DNR back in the mid 1960’s, and created the world-class coho fishery that we enjoy today. The bulk of our techniques employ casting and jigging techniques for these awesome fish. We had a lot of customers out on Platte Bay in the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore this past fall, and every single person was blown away by not only the incredible fishery on the Bay, but also the scenery. After all, Sleeping Bear Dunes wasn’t named the most Beautiful Places in America by a Good Morning America poll for nothing!

Jigging trips went extremely well last year, and we are looking forward to building on that momentum. With the incredible lake trout fishery that the northern Michigan area has to offer, jigging is a truly addictive way to target these fish. With the light bass tackle that we use, anglers get to feel every bump and bite from these aggressive biters, and the fight is heaps more than many anglers have experienced in the past with other techniques.

River trips will continue to be a major focus of Wolfe Outfitters and its Guides in 2015, and we are excited about the prospects of not only lots of salmon and steelhead trips, but also about the outstanding smallmouth bass fishery on the Manistee River as well as its trout fishery. The portion of the Manistee River just below Tippy Dam is absolutely spectacular for trout fishing, and this year’s fish will be pushing a very healthy 20 inches by the end of the summer, with many fish well over that mark.

We have both Michigan State and Federal permits, including the highly coveted permits for the Manistee National Forest. This gives us access to fish the entirety of the Manistee River, utilizing the Federal launches that many other guide services aren’t able to take advantage of with their customers. While the salmon and steelhead runs were below average, and definitely below what we have become accustomed to, we are excited about the spring steelhead run. With low numbers of steelhead running all of the northern Michigan rivers in the fall, this sets up well for a stellar run in the spring. We are looking forward to targeting these chrome beauties when they enter the area’s rivers.

Sport Fish Michigan has grown each year, and we are hopeful that 2015 will be no exception! We are thrilled to have each and every Captain and Guide that we have, and each brings something special to our customers’ trips. From fly fishing to bass fishing, trolling the big lake to river trips, and even ice fishing, we are working hard to offer everything an angler might want around the state. We are once again sponsoring the Hook n’ Look television show on the Outdoor Channel in 2015, and are excited about the national exposure from this popular show.

In addition to the Hook n’ Look show, we hope to be able to produce our own videos on a variety of fisheries utilizing our Sport Fish Michigan Captains and Guides. We plan on filming walleye fishing in the spring on the Detroit River. The Detroit River is truly spectacular for walleye fishing in the spring, when these tasty fish run into the river to spawn. We also plan on filming bass fishing with several of our Captains on Lake St. Clair, taking advantage of this world-class bass fishery.

Further north, lies the Muskegon River, the Manistee River, Betsie River, and Platte River. All boast stellar steelhead runs, and it is our goal to film some steelhead clips on these rivers fishing with our Guides both with conventional tackle as well as on fly.

Atlantic salmon are on the list of species we would like to highlight as well, and Torch Lake just north of Traverse City is host to an impressive population of Atlantics. The super clear water that Torch Lake is known for will make this a treat, as these are a beautiful fish.

We are also tremendously excited to be the largest ice fishing operation in Michigan, and are hoping to build upon the successes of last year. Ice fishing is a very popular aspect of fishing, and early indications are that we will be busier than ever. This year, we are planning an inaugural on-ice seminar clinic that will span 2 days. We will discuss rigging options, how-to demonstrations, and technique options accompanied by hot catered lunches right on the ice. All of the necessary tackle and gear will be provided for the seminar, as well as transportation on and off of the ice.

In all, the future is bright for everything that we have to offer. With continued hard work and dedication by all of our Captains and Guides, we will continue to strive to create lasting memories and outstanding experiences for each and every one of our customers.


Smallmouth bass fishing on Grand Traverse Bays from the rod’s POV

Using an underhanded loop cast, Capt. Ben Wolfe of Traverse City Bass and Sport Fish Michigan shows how to accurately pitch a small bait to a likely holding spot for a smallmouth bass on Grand Traverse Bays. Taken from the rod’s perspective, here is an interesting angle for catching a northern Michigan smallmouth. Bass fishing POV style.