Our angling expert shares his tips for ice fishing in Ontario this season.
When old man winter locks up the water and turns it to ice, boat anglers are out of luck. But for those that don’t mind a little fresh air, ice fishing can be a great adventure. Not only does ice level the playing field and let people without watercraft access the best spots, it can also be a great time to catch fish. Good ice fishing opportunities exist across the province, including within an hour or two of the GTA. Here are the six top fish anglers’ targets on hard water.
Ontario’s favourite open water sport fish, the walleye, is also a big ice fishing draw in parts of the province. The walleye is known for its white, flaky flesh and delicious flavour. Many anglers will drive a long way to catch a feed of walleye, and spend a lot of time and effort getting their limit. These fish are not known for great aggression in the winter, but will generally bite well at first and last light. On some clear water lakes, winter walleye will bite through the night. Most walleye are caught while fishing near bottom, at the base of reefs or drop offs. The top techniques for catching them include setting a live minnow below a tip up or jigging a Swedish Pimple. Top spots for walleye include the Bay of Quinte, Lake Nipissing and Lac Des Mille Lacs, northwest of Thunder Bay.
Sometimes known as the water wolf, the northern pike is a predator known for its mouth full of sharp teeth. They can provide great sport in the winter, as they can attain both a large size and are quite active under the ice. Pike like shallower bays and rock reefs in the winter, and are often found not far from the river mouths where they spawn. Top techniques for catching pike include hanging a frozen Portuguese sardine on a treble hook beneath a tip up, or jigging with a large minnow. A steel leader is a must as pike have razor sharp teeth. Pike are expanding in southern Ontario, and are common throughout the northeast and northwest of Ontario.