Warm weather moves ice fishing school to Houghton Lake

Houghton Lake welcomes Mark Martin's Ice Fishing School

Houghton Lake welcomes Mark Martin’s Ice Fishing School. Credit: Mark Martin

There are no snow days in ice fishing school – not when the principal is Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame angler Mark Martin.

Unusually warm temperatures, wind and rain preceded the Feb 7 – 10 ice fishing class scheduled on Saginaw Bay. When it became apparent the Saginaw Bay ice wouldn’t last, Martin began looking for a new location and turned his focus to northern inland lakes where safe ice could still be found. But safe ice was only one challenge Martin faced; he needed to find a place with available facilities to accommodate a couple dozen students and guides on very short notice. Fortunately, the community of Houghton Lake stepped up to the challenge and the school was relocated to the home of the popular Tip Up Town ice fishing festival.

While Houghton Lake may not have been the original selection, it offered some advantages over Saginaw Bay. For one, the smaller body of water made for shorter on-ice commutes. And the fishing wasn’t bad either.

Mark Martin Pro-staff Mike Schneider shows a typical Houghton Lake walleye

Mark Martin Pro-staff Mike Schneider shows a typical Houghton Lake walleye. Credit: Jeff Nedwick

Walleye were the primary target and early February found them near humps and points in the main lake basin. Once found, walleye could be caught on a variety of spoons or jigs tipped with minnows.

Although Houghton Lake walleye grow slower than the state average, what they lack in size they make up for in numbers and anglers had no trouble catching several keepers. Pike were also present in large numbers and although many hammer handles were caught, several larger pike were iced as well.

Like all of Martin’s classes, the event provided a great opportunity for anglers to develop or enhance their ice fishing skills. The learning began with classroom-style lectures and demonstrations from Martin and his pro-staff who showed anglers – whose skill levels ranged from novice to experienced veterans looking to add a wrinkle or two to their bag of tricks – a variety of topics including rigging, lure selection, presentation options, electronics and location.

But the real treat was the hands-on, on-ice demonstrations where each student had the opportunity to work with the pro-staff or Martin himself to ensure their gear was in good working order and they knew how to use it properly. Special emphasis was given to understanding how to interpret electronics and fine tuning presentations to call in fish and make them bite.

On the ice, student-anglers gained hands on experience through direct access to Martin or one of his pro-staff who provided valuable tips and assistance with presentations and encouraged dialog and information sharing about lures and presentations that seemed to work better than others.

Thea Kirkwood caught a nice bunch of Houghton Lake pike and walleye during the Mark Martin Ice Fishing School

Thea Kirkwood with a nice mixed bag of Houghton Lake pike and walleye during the Mark Martin Ice Fishing School. Credit: Mark Martin

First-time student Thea Kirkwood was quite happy with the way it all turned out. The retired elementary school teacher from Temperance, Michigan fishes every day in the summer on Crystal Lake where her family has a cottage. She got into ice-fishing three years ago as a way to extend her fishing season and early success motivated her to learn more which ultimately led her to register for Martin’s class. “The amount of knowledge and years of experience they (Martin and his pro-staff) brought to the class could never be replicated by me through my trial and error method,” said Kirkwood, adding “Being an educator, I know the value of seeking out experts to accelerate the learning process.”

Kirkwood’s response is typical of students in Martin’s school where success isn’t just measured by the number of fish caught, but by the knowledge imparted.

Filed Under: FeaturedIce Fishing Tips


About the Author: Jeff Nedwick is an outdoor writer and Secretary of the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association. You can follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffsoutdrs.

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