February is prime time for our connecting lakes to Lake Michigan. Arcadia, Portage, Manistee, Pere Marquette, and Pentwater lakes will all have perch in them. The key to doing well is figuring out what one will fish better than the others this year. Keep in mind toward the end of the month many of them have moving water from rivers underneath them. If we have an early spring, the ice can go overnight.
A general rule in February is that perch will be in the deepest spot they can find. The best bite is normally mid-day. They may head toward shallower water in the morning and evening to feed. I prefer to fish mid-day in the depths. Top producers for larger perch in February are larger minnows like blues or small shiners. You are likely to catch several pike and maybe even a walleye as well, but the bigger minnows “sport em at the hook” and you normally will catch the bigger 9”-13” perch. I also love to use a red rubber salmon egg on a jigging spoon (no bait). Top spoons are Kens, Slab Grabbers, and Flickers. Many anglers will use spreader type rigs and normal minnows. They have to do a lot more sorting but will catch more fish overall.
Hamlin and other lakes will have crappie and bluegills migrating to deeper water and suspending as the oxygen levels deplete. If you do not have a flasher or graph for suspended gills and specks, you are better off targeting perch this month or fishing at night with a lantern to draw in the specks. Enjoy ice fishing this month; spring will be in the air before we know it, and it will be time to get back on the river for steelhead.