School On Ice: Mark Martin’s Saginaw Bay Ice Fishing School
Article and Photos © 2013 by Russ Fimbinger
Day 1, Sunday, Feb.10th, 2013—To get a jump start on this ice fishing school I arrived at the Linwood Beach Marina in Linwood, Michigan, at about 1:00 p.m. Linwood is quaint Michigan shoreline town about 10 miles north of Bay City. This small village rests on the edge of Saginaw Bay and the local experienced and the expert fishermen who work with Mark Martin told us there would be good ice all across the Bay, up to 6 miles out. I asked the standard beginner’s question, “What constitutes good ice?”
“Well, you certainly can’t drive a truck on it yet, but there’s 6 to 8 inches of solid ice for miles.”
Because it’s my first winter trip to the Bay I have dark visions of a Coast Guard helicopter lifting me and my four wheeler off an ice flow that’s headed fast toward Canada. In minutes my wild imagination finds me safe on dry land with all of my ice fishing gear piled safely next to me. Now for the truth: nothing like this happened to our group and I’m here to write about it, safe at my desk with the laptop plugged in and reporting these words.
For this group of ice fishing school students and outdoor writers, the learning curve for walleye fishing on Saginaw Bay was going to be steep. At the Sunday afternoon seminar held at Frank’s Great Outdoors in uptown Linwood, Mark Martin and his Pro Staff members spoke to the students and public about the best methods and techniques for targeting and catching walleyes. In fact, think this is where the term “you snooze, you lose” was born. I say this because when the walleye bite is on we were told fishermen better have at least two jig poles rigged with the hot lures of the day.
It’s a good idea to have your tackle box stuffed with Small Cleos, Jigging Shad Raps, Jigging Raps, and Slender Spoons. A rule of thumb for color schemes is this: on cloudy days use bright, fluorescent and glow colors. On sunny days blue and silver lure colors will work best. This is what Pro Staff members Don Leuenberger and Larry DeLong explained to the group. Tip any of these lures with a minnow head and you should be good to go and catch fish.
Day 2, Monday, Feb. 11th—At 7:00 a.m. it was still very dark, and the wind howled from off shore, from the west and southwest. This means Mother Nature came up with a plan all her own especially designed for this group of fishermen today. Overnight (Sunday) the Linwood area ice vanished with the winds and what ice was left was moving away from land. The experts held a brief meeting and came up with another plan to target Saginaw Bay’s walleye and perch populations.
By mid-morning the group was en route to Pinconning, Michigan, about 6 miles north of Linwood. On the way fisherman stopped in at Frank’s Great Outdoors and stocked up on perch and walleye lures that have worked well so far this winter. With snowmobiles, four wheelers, and portable ice shanties all loaded up, we departed from Pinconning Park. Our destination was about 1 ½ miles out to potential hot spots for perch and their bigger cousins, the walleyes. The geare-up caravan of ice-fishing students is pictured below. Soon the truth about Saginaw Bay ice fishing would be known. In fact, it was a young man who attended the fishing school just for the day (Monday) who was the “student of the day” so to speak.
Logan Locke and his father, Dan, Mark Martin’s friends from Muskegon, spent the entire day fishing with our group. The real outdoor story here is told in the picture above. The young fisherman put on his own special demonstration on how to catch a nice mess of perch with a very respectable walleye for good measure. By the end of the day Logan had about 24 decent perch to fry up with his first Saginaw Bay walleye.
Which got me to thinking: why wasn’t this young outdoorsman in school—hard at work figuring doing math problems at his desk at some elementary school back in Muskegon? After all, I’m a retired educator-turned-outdoor writer and think about these kinds of things when I see a kid on the street during school hours. Our when I see a kid out on the ice on a school day during school hours, for that matter. But then I remembered: the boy was in school—today he was attending an ice fishing school. And as you can see he’s a pretty darned good student.
In the next few days Part 2 of the Saginaw Bay Ice Fishing School will appear here. Bookmark this website for more fishing news from Linwood, Michigan’s walleye capital.