Top Cold Weather Fishing Spots

Get on the chilly waters year-round in #MyManistee

Good Things Happen To Those Who Bait in #MyManistee

Winter is here, but don’t be tempted to pack up your lures and rods until the spring. World-class fishing in cold weather awaits anglers in three renown places – the Big Manistee River, Betsie River and Pere Marquette River.

So bundle up and get ready to catch a heap of cold water fish.


1. Big Manistee River Fishing

The Big Manistee River is one of the finest salmon and steelhead rivers in the world. The river is more than 200 miles long, but all of the salmon, steelhead and other migratory trout fishing is done in the last 30 miles of river located below Tippy Dam. The Big Manistee River is home to the world record Brown Trout, a monster that weighed nearly 42 pounds!

2. Betsie River Fishing

The Betsie River is a formidable four-season fishery, especially in winter. Focus on the lower river just across the Manistee County lines because the fish are cold and they want a big meal. So grab a rod and get ready to land ‘em. 

3. Pere Marquette River

The Pere Marquette River has the distinction of being the first river in the country stocked with brown trout. The “PM” is a world-renowned trout fishery that also offers excellent steelhead and salmon fishing. The winter steelhead run brings in anglers from far and wide. The PM offers some of the finest trout fishing for a fly fisherman and is one the premier fishing destinations in North America.

4. Ice Fishing on the frozen lakes of Manistee

As January temperatures drop, a thick layer of ice begins to form across the inland lakes, and slowly small shanty towns start to develop as sport fishermen flock to 80 deep water lakes of our region for another type of winter fishing.  Through the mid to late winter months ice fishing becomes a popular pastime drawing fisherman to drop a line for pike, walleye, perch, smelt, bluegill, and crappie.

Portage Lake: Located in Onekama you will find the perfect spot to drill into the ice and sink a line. With easy access on and off the ice, join the active ice fishing community for a spectacular winter day casting on the ice.

Bear Lake: Located in Bear Lake is another popular spot to set up your shanty. This expanse of water offers beautiful views and plenty of room to find just the right spot to drop your fishing line.

Manistee Lake: Located in the City of Manistee and bordering the Village of East Lake. This prime fishing spot is a local favorite offering multiple access points and ample parking for unloading your equipment for a day on the ice.

5. Big Lake Fishing (yes, you read it right, fishing on Lake Michigan)

With temps staying warmer later, and warming up earlier in the spring season, anglers are venturing out on the big lake more and more when the cooler temps hit. Steelhead, Rainbow Trout and Brown Trout is what you can expect to haul in off-shore, and Manistee County offers a few easy access locations in First Street Beach and Onekama Village Park. You can also head out on one of our many piers and cast a line.

Use caution in the wintertime as conditions can change quickly.

Local Resources & Maps

River, Lake & Launch Maps

Access our downloadable river and boat launch resources

Access each page for an interactive map:

Fish from the shore:

License Information

Access a complete list of Michigan Department of Natural Resources License Items & Fee Schedule | Learn More

Purchase a MDNR fishing license now! | Get Started

Request a Winter Adventure Guide NOW!

Request a FREE winter adventure guide, complete with all the latest tips and #MyManistee insider info!
Request & Sign-up NOW!