The Saginaw River in most years (when run-off is light) freezes earlier then does the Saginaw Bay, especially up near it’s narrower headwaters in the City of Saginaw itself. Walleye usually enter this system long before freeze-up. And die-hard’s like myself catch many vertical jigging or quarter casting jigs from boats right up until freeze.
Usual Best Time Ice fishing: Late December till Mid/too late February. All weather depending.
Average Catch: Lots of smaller fish of 15 to 19 inches, from recent natural hatches has been the norm for the last 2 years on the river. Larger fish start to show up in February with a few in the 10 to 12 pound range, often winning a local tounament that the City of Saginaw puts on yearly.
With how clear the water column has become in the last few years, both Flashers and Cameras work very well to alert you when a walleye comes into the hole. But depending on river current, flasher have to be set down current a little to capture your jigging action.
#5 and #7 Jigging Rapala’s. Fire Tiger, Perch, Silver Blue best choices. Tip belly treble hook with head or small minnow. 2nd best, 1/4 to 1/2 ounce (depending on current) Fireball jig. Orange/Chartreuse tipped with minnow. Jig Rapala 4 to 6 inches of bottom. Lift/drop Fireball jig on bottom.
The fish on the river bite best in the mornings/evenings, but have been know to bite all day.
Shanties are not usually needed, as most places on the river have high banks or buildings blocking winds. Plus moving around to find better runs or holes is made quicker/easier with small portables or simple wind blocks.
Augers are also (for the most part) not needed. If your in decent shape, the thickest I’ve ever seen ice on the river has been about 10 inches thick. Spuds also aide in safety when used to hit the ice ahead as one moves along to another spot.
Good roads run along almost the entire length of the Saginaw River from it’s headwaters to where it dumps into Saginaw Bay. But because of the flow dynamics of the river, only certain spots have been tested and seem safe from year to year for safe access.
The first spot would be Wicks Park, just below where the Shiawassee and Tittabawassee rivers dump into the Saginaw. Find any spots where you can physically see others fishing, or spots along that road where others are walking down to the river.
For first timers, do not make or break any new untested trails or access points anywhere. Next access is along M-13 or (East Bay City Road) just south of the Zillwauakee bridge on I-75, that crosses the Saginaw River. You can also turn North off I-75 and fish the upper side of this access area. Both spots will have many vehicles parked along the road and lots of anglers during mid-season. Vets park in Bay City will also have anglers up and down the river during peak times. The launch at Independence bridge in Bay City is probably the busiest and most productive (at times) on the river. The last is the DNR ramp at the very mouth of the Saginaw River. This spot can be productive, but can change often because of ice breaker traffic, run off and just plane current. Be very careful at this access.