Beyond the Bite: Exploring the Enchantment of Higgins Lake Ice Fishing

Unreel the secrets of Higgins Lake ice fishing! Discover prime spots for walleye, pike, and perch, plus insider tips on gear, safety, and guides. Your winter adventure awaits!

Higgins Lake in Michigan is a renowned destination for ice fishing enthusiasts. With its crystal-clear waters and abundant fish species, it's a winter wonderland for those looking to reel in a big catch.

Whether you're a seasoned angler or trying ice fishing for the first time, we will help you plan the perfect ice fishing trip to Higgins Lake.

Key Takeaways

→ Discover the best times to visit Higgins Lake for ice fishing and the variety of fish species you can catch.

→ Learn about hidden hotspots, local regulations, and the top charter services for an optimal ice fishing experience.

→ Find out about gear rentals, accommodation options, and local eateries to make your trip comfortable and enjoyable.

Fishing Map of Higgins Lake
Fishing Map of Higgins Lake ( BA-Bass LT-Lake Trout P-Pike S-Small Mouth Bass C-Crappie B-Brown Trout P-Perch R-Rainbow Trout W-Walleye) [credit-Visit Houghton Lake]

Higgins Lake transforms into an angler's paradise when winter's icy grip takes hold. But knowing when to go and what to expect can be crucial for a successful ice fishing adventure.

Early Ice (December- early January):

  • Ice Thickness: Proceed with caution as ice thickness can be inconsistent early on. Always check with local bait shops or DNR for safety updates.
  • Target Species: Walleye and smelt are most active during low-light periods, making dusk and dawn prime times. Jigging minnows or spoons for walleye and light jigs with maggots for smelt are effective tactics.

Mid-Ice (Mid January - February):

  • Ice Thickness: Generally the safest period, with consistent ice thickness around 12-18 inches.
  • Target Species: All species are active, offering diverse fishing opportunities. Walleye bite well throughout the day, while yellow perch and pike favor midday sun. Crappies and whitefish provide light-tackle fun in shallower areas. Explore different depths and locations to target specific species.

Late Ice (End February - March):

  • Ice Thickness: Monitor ice closely as warmer temperatures can cause rapid deterioration. Check local reports before venturing out late ice on Higgins Lake
  • Target Species: Focus on deeper waters as shallow ice melts. Lake trout become more accessible, while walleye remain active near drop-offs.
Remember: Always prioritize safety. Check ice thickness, dress appropriately, and carry essential gear.

Fish Species in Higgins Lake

Higgins Lake is home to a variety of fish species that make it a prime location for ice fishing. Anglers can expect to catch lake trout, which are abundant in the cold waters of the lake.

1. Walleye: The crown jewel of Higgins Lake, walleye are prized for their feisty fight and succulent flesh. These elusive predators prowl the deeper waters, particularly near weed beds and drop-offs. Early and late ice often yield the best results, and jigging minnows or spoons tipped with wax worms entice hungry strikes.

2. Yellow Perch: These scrappy panfish are abundant in Higgins Lake, providing non-stop action and tasty table fare. Look for them in shallower areas near weed edges and humps. Small jigs tipped with maggots or minnow heads are your go-to weapons and prepare to fill your bucket with golden beauties.

3. Rainbow Smelt: A recent introduction to Higgins Lake, rainbow smelt has exploded in population, offering a unique smelt fishing experience. These silvery darts inhabit deeper waters and are attracted to light jigs tipped with maggots or wax worms. Night fishing under the stars adds an extra layer of magic to the smelt chase.

4. Northern Pike: The apex predator of Higgins Lake, northern pike are fearsome fighters with razor-sharp teeth. They lurk in weed beds and ambush prey, so tip your tip-ups with large minnows or lures that mimic wounded baitfish. Be prepared for heart-stopping runs and explosive strikes!

5. Lake Trout: These deep-dwelling giants inhabit the frigid depths of Higgins Lake, requiring specialized techniques to reach. Tip-ups with large minnows or smelt suspended near the bottom are your best bet. Landing a trophy lake trout is a true test of skill and patience, and their delicate white flesh is a winter delicacy.

Fishes Caught on Higgins Lake
Fishes Caught on Higgins Lake
Bonus Targets: Crappie, rock bass, and whitefish also contribute to the diverse fish community of Higgins Lake. These smaller species offer light-tackle fun and add variety to your ice fishing haul. Rainbow trout also thrive here, providing a colorful addition to any angler's catch.

Hidden Hotspots for Ice Fishing

One of the best-kept secrets of Higgins Lake is the area known as Sunken Island. This underwater feature provides an excellent habitat for fish, making it a hotspot for anglers. Another hidden gem is the area around Lake St. and Houghton Lake, where the waters are teeming with fish. Access to these spots can be less crowded, offering a more secluded and potentially rewarding fishing experience.

Some other spots that you can navigate to for different target species irrespective of your skill level are:

Main Stage:

  • West Bay: A well-known haven for walleye and perch, especially along weed edges and near the drop-off. Head north towards the public access point for early ice action. (Take M-55 and turn west onto South Higgins Lake Drive, then north onto West Bay Road.)
  • North Shore Reefs: Experienced anglers can tackle walleyes and lake trout lurking near these submerged structures. Access off North Higgins Lake Drive near the DNR boat launch.

Off the Beaten Path:

  • Turtle Point: This hidden gem near the state park boasts excellent shallow-water perch fishing during mid-ice. Look for depressions and weed breaks. (Follow Old US-27 north and turn east onto Old State Park Road.)
  • South End Flats: Novice anglers can target crappie and bluegill around the flats south of the state park. Head toward the DNR boat launch for easy access.
  • Deadman's Reef: Advanced ice fishermen seeking trophy pike can explore this deep reef north of West Bay. Use caution and extreme ice safety measures. (Proceed with caution and consult GPS coordinates or detailed lake maps for accurate location.)
Garmin STRIKER Plus 4 Will Ensure Maximum Success on Ice
Garmin STRIKER Plus 4 Will Ensure Maximum Success on Ice

Remember to get updated fishing regulations, lake maps, and ice thickness reports. Also, gather insider tips and the latest reports from seasoned anglers.

Reaching Higgins Lake Hotspots

Higgins Lake's icy expanse beckons with trophy fish hiding in secret coves and hidden depths. But reaching these hotspots requires more than just a map and a fishing rod. Here's a quick guide to navigating the lake and maximizing your icy adventure:

Popular Modes of Transport:

  • Walking/Skiing: A slower but scenic approach, perfect for exploring smaller areas and targeting shallow water spots. Dress in layers and wear proper footwear with good grip.
  • ATVs/UTVs: A versatile option, especially for accessing areas near shore. Be mindful of ice thickness and avoid venturing too far from the beaten path. Consider ice tracks or studded tires for added traction. In early and late ice, you can use these to access shallower areas near weed beds and drop-offs.
  • Snowmobiles: The ultimate weapon for mobility on the ice, offering speed and access to remote areas. Ensure proper safety gear, including a survival suit and GPS, and stay within marked trails. Snowmobiles are ideal for accessing deeper water hotspots for walleye, pike, and lake trout during the thick ice conditions of Jan to Feb.
  • Four-Wheel Drive (4WD): The king of winter travel, a 4WD truck or SUV grants access to remote ice fishing spots, particularly along the western and northern shores. Be cautious of thin ice and check conditions before venturing off the beaten path.
  • Ice Shanty Rentals: Many local shops offer pre-rigged ice shanties with transportation included. This option provides warmth, comfort, and a mobile base camp for your ice fishing adventure, ideal for families or groups.
  • Guided Charters: For ultimate convenience and insider knowledge, consider booking a guided charter service. Experienced captains will navigate the lake, set you up in the best spots, and provide expert tips for reeling in the big ones.
Download offline maps and GPS apps before heading out. Ice conditions can change quickly, so being prepared is key.
Remember to carry a reliable GPS device if you plan to venture on off-beat paths.
Remember to carry a reliable GPS device if you plan to venture on off-beat paths. Garmin Montana has been one of our favorites.

Gearing Up for Higgins Lake Ice Fishing: Rent or Buy?

Ice Fishing gear setup on Higgins Lake
Ice Fishing gear setup on Higgins Lake

Hitting Higgins Lake for some winter angling? Whether you're a seasoned ice warrior or a curious newcomer, the right gear is key to conquering the frozen depths. But let's face it, ice fishing equipment can be a hefty investment. So, should you buy or rent? Here's a quick guide to help you decide:

Buying Gear:

  • Pros: Owning your own gear grants ultimate flexibility and familiarity. You can customize your setup and avoid rental hassles. If you plan on making multiple trips, buying might be cost-effective in the long run.
  • Cons: Upfront costs can be high, especially for high-quality equipment. Storing and maintaining gear requires space and effort. If you're unsure about ice fishing as a long-term hobby, buying might not be the best option.

Renting Gear:

  • Pros: Perfect for beginners or occasional anglers. Less expensive than buying, especially for short trips. Rental shops usually provide well-maintained equipment and expert advice. No need to worry about storage or maintenance.
  • Cons: Limited selection and availability compared to personal gear. Rented equipment might not be top-of-the-line, impacting your fishing experience. Some rental shops might require advanced booking.

Higgins Lake Gear Rental Options:

  • West Higgins Lake Hardware: Located at Higgins Lake Dr, Roscommon, they provide the full range of ice fishing gear, including rods, reels, lures, tip-ups, minnows, bait containers, clothing, and safety equipment. They also have a selection of used gear at great prices.
  • Sports Barn: Located at Roscommon, they offer an extensive selection of ice fishing gear, including high-end brands and options for all budgets. They also carry live bait and have a dedicated ice fishing department. They even provide services like ice auger sharpening service to keep your blades razor-sharp.
  • Smaller shops near the lake often rent basic equipment like rods, reels, and augers. They're also a great resource for local fishing intel and live bait.
Ice Fishing Gear at Sports Barn
Ice Fishing Gear at Sports Barn

Choosing the Right Gear:

Once you've decided on buying or renting, here's a quick checklist for Higgins Lake:

Electric Ice Auger that’ll have you saying, Hole-y Moley!
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  • Tackle: Jigs, spoons, tip-ups, and minnow buckets are essential depending on your target species.
8 Best Ice Fishing Lures for Unbeatable Catch Rates!
Looking for the best ice fishing lures to up your winter fishing game? Look no further! Our expert-approved list of the top ice fishing lures will help you catch more fish and have more fun on the ice. From jigs to spoons to minnows, we’ve got you covered. Don’t miss out on these proven winners!
  • Shanty (Optional): Provides shelter from the elements and comfort for longer outings. Renting is a good option if you're unsure about frequent use.
Make the Coldest Catch with the Best Ice Fishing Shelters
Ice fishing is more enjoyable when you have the right shelter. Our article reviews the best ice fishing shelters available, so you can find the one that’s perfect for your needs.
  • Warm Clothing: Layering is key! Dress in waterproof boots, insulated bibs and jackets, and gloves to stay warm and dry.
Choose Smartly & Get the Best Ice Fishing Bibs Available
Enjoy the Most Comfortable Ice Fishing Experience With The Best Ice Fishing Bibs! Discover why these bibs are the best for ice fishing, with comfortable materials and a lightweight design that won’t get in your way. Be sure to check out our selection of the best ice fishing bibs today!
No matter what you choose, prioritize safety by checking ice thickness and dressing appropriately. With the right gear and a sense of adventure, Higgins Lake promises an unforgettable ice fishing experience!

Understanding Local Regulations

Before you set out for ice fishing in Michigan, it's crucial to familiarize yourself with the local regulations. These rules are in place to protect the fish populations and ensure a sustainable fishing experience for all.

Here's a quick guide:


  • Everyone 17 and older needs a valid Michigan (or Wisconsin) fishing license. Purchase online through the Michigan DNR website or at authorized retailers. Make sure to get your license from only a valid provider to protect against spam fraud, which has been on the rise.
  • Special licenses or tags are required for muskies and sturgeon. Check the DNR website for details.


  • Size limits and bag limits apply to all fish species. Refer to the current Michigan Fishing Regulations booklet or the DNR website for specific limits.
  • Certain seasons and closed areas may apply for specific species. Always check the DNR website for updated regulations before heading out.
  • Respect protected fish species. Do not catch or possess threatened or endangered fish.
Fish shanties used in ice fishing must be legibly marked with the name and address of the owner, and persons placing a shanty on these waters shall remove the shanty by midnight of March 15. In Wisconsin boundary waters, fish shanty doors cannot be locked from inside during occupancy.


Knowledge is your best bait for a smooth ice fishing trip. Respect the regulations, protect the lake, and enjoy the thrill of the catch! Stay informed, stay safe, and have a memorable winter fishing adventure on Higgins Lake!

Top Charter Services and Gear Rentals

For those new to ice fishing or looking for a guided experience, there are several reputable charter services around Higgins Lake. These charters provide expert guides who can take you to the best fishing spots and offer tips on how to catch the big one.

Some of the best services that you can get are:

1. Hooked up on Higgins Lake Guide Service:

Bob Stockton is the owner of this ice fishing guide service for Trout, Smelt, and Whitefish. All equipment is provided, and you will not only learn the best ways to produce large catches of fish out of Higgins Lake but also learn about the lake. Detailed maps are provided, and you will learn how to read them and learn how to read structure, which you can apply when fishing Higgins or other lakes.

2. Fish With Jim Outfitters

Captain Jim and his team will do their utmost to get you on the fish and having the best day possible. When transport is needed, you’ll ride on an Argo 750 HDi. It has a heated aluminum cabin, studded tracks, and a winch.

Depending on what’s biting best, Capt. Jim can take you to various ice-fishing locations. Up to 14 guests can come ice fishing at once, making it perfect for large groups. With his decades of experience, you’ll have a productive day no matter which lake you go to.

3. Lake Houghton Ice Fishing  

Captain Derek’s local expertise ensures each ice fishing trip is a thrilling and successful adventure in the snowy landscapes of Michigan’s northern region, which includes Higgins Lake.  He provides all the necessary equipment, including rods, reels, tackle, and bait. He also provides a heated shanty for your comfort. You’re welcome to bring along food and drink.

Book your trip early, especially during peak season (February-March), to secure your spot on the ice with your preferred guide or charter service.

Remember, a good guide or charter service can elevate your fishing trip to the next level. So choose wisely, grab your gear, and get ready to conquer the catch!

Accommodations Near Higgins Lake

After a long day of ice fishing, you'll need a cozy place to rest. Higgins Lake offers a range of accommodations, from rustic cabins to comfortable lodges. Many places are tailored to the needs of fishermen, with amenities like fish cleaning stations and easy access to the lake.

For the Budget-Conscious Adventurer:

  • Campgrounds: Pitch your tent or park your RV at North Higgins Lake State Park or South Higgins Lake State Park. Enjoy stunning scenery and direct lake access, perfect for early morning fishing escapades. Both parks offer basic amenities like restrooms and showers. But remember that winters are cold here, and camping in winter is not for the faint-hearted ones.
  • Cabins: Several cozy cabins dot the lakeshore, offering rustic charm and affordability. Check out Roscommon KOA Holiday for private cabins with kitchens and fireplaces, ideal for small groups. For a more remote experience, explore the cabins at Higgins Lake North Point Lodge.

For the Comfort Seeker:

  • Motels and Resorts: If you crave creature comforts, opt for a motel or resort near the lake. North Winds Lodge offers comfortable rooms, a lounge, and complimentary Wi-Fi, making it a convenient and relaxing base. Lyman's On The Lake Resort features a swimming area, bait shop, and liquor store, catering to all your needs.
  • Vacation Rentals: Rent a charming cottage or spacious house for a home-away-from-home experience. Airbnb listings like Beets Cottage and The Modern Moose offer cozy spaces, full kitchens, and close proximity to popular fishing spots.
Consider your target species and desired amenities when choosing your lodging. For early ice walleye fishing near weed beds, opt for North Higgins Lake access points. If you're chasing pike in deeper waters, South Higgins Lake might be a better base.

Whether you're looking for a budget-friendly option or a more luxurious stay, you'll find suitable lodging around Higgins Lake.

Local Eateries to Enjoy

No ice fishing trip is complete without sampling the local cuisine. Higgins Lake has a variety of eateries that cater to hungry anglers. From hearty breakfasts to warm up before hitting the ice to delicious dinners featuring local catches, there's something to satisfy every appetite.

1. Matt's Lake Street Grill & Pizzeria:

Located at Roscommon (a 10-minute drive from Higgins Lake), they offer classic American comfort food with a twist. Dig into juicy burgers, piled-high nachos, or their famous "Garbage Bread" pizza—a local favorite. You'll love the casual, family-friendly atmosphere with a touch of up-north charm.

Matt's Lake Street Grill & Pizzeria
Matt's Lake Street Grill & Pizzeria

2. The Lake House:

Located at Houghton Lake (a 15-minute drive from Higgins Lake) is an upscale dining with stunning lake views. Sample their seafood specialties like pan-seared walleye or indulge in a juicy steak. Don't miss the homemade bread pudding for dessert! The romantic setting with impeccable service and a touch of elegance will surely impress you.

3. Little Boots Country Diner:

Located at Roscommon, they offer hearty breakfast and lunch options to fuel your next fishing adventure. Think fluffy pancakes, omelets packed with local ingredients, and sandwiches piled high with goodness. Enjoy the local cuisine vibe with a classic diner ambiance, friendly service a,d generous portions.

4. Country Corners Pizza and More:

Located at Houghton Lake, it is a casual spot for satisfying slices and more. Grab a piping-hot pizza piled with your favorite toppings, wings with their signature sauce, or a sub overflowing with fresh ingredients. You'll love the laid-back atmosphere, which is perfect for grabbing a bite with friends or family after a day on the lake.

Sample the local brews at one of the nearby breweries, like Dead Bear Brewing or Two River Deli, for a refreshing post-fishing treat. Don't miss the chance to try smoked lake trout or freshly caught perch, which are local specialties.

Higgins Lake offers not just epic catches but also culinary delights to tantalize your taste buds. So grab your appetite, explore the local eateries, and savor the flavors of this winter wonderland!

FAQ Section

Q: What kind of fish can I catch while ice fishing on Higgins Lake?

A: Higgins Lake is known for its lake trout, rainbow trout, smelt, perch, and walleye. These species are commonly targeted by ice fishermen on the lake.

Q: Are there any specific regulations I need to be aware of when ice fishing on Higgins Lake?

A: Yes, there are regulations regarding the number and size of fish you can keep, as well as rules about the use of live bait. It's essential to check with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources for the latest information before your trip.

Q: Can I rent ice fishing gear at Higgins Lake?

A: Absolutely. There are several bait shops and rental services around Higgins Lake that offer gear rentals for ice fishing, including rods, reels, shelters, and heaters.

Final Thoughts

Planning an ice fishing trip to Higgins Lake in Michigan can be an exciting adventure. With a diverse range of fish species, anglers are in for a treat.

With comfortable accommodations and local eateries nearby, your ice fishing trip to Higgins Lake is sure to be memorable. Even if you are not an avid ice angler, you will enjoy the breathtaking beauty of the winter landscape here.

So, whether you're a seasoned angler or a curious newcomer, Higgins Lake will welcome you with open arms (or should we say, frozen fingers!). This winter wonderland promises adventure, excitement, and the chance to connect with yourself and the natural world in a way that only ice fishing can provide.

May your winter be filled with frozen glory and epic catches!

Morning at frozen  Higgins Lake