• Icefishing

    Anglers travel great distances to sample Lake Simcoe's renowned  Yellow Perch fishery.  Touted by many as the finest eating fish from Ontario waters.  This haul was recently caught from the western shore of the lake over safe ice conditions.Old Man Winter has firmly wrapped his chilly hands around southern Ontario. Winter is here, and with it comes the age-old tradition of angling through the frozen lakes and ponds scattered across our landscape. Icefishing season is now in full swing, and if you are looking to escape the boredom of the mid winter blues, now is your chance to capitalize on some incredible winter sport fisheries our province has to offer.

    For local Grey-Bruce anglers, the options available for icefishing are often slim. Sure there are a large number of local lakes that freeze over, but fish species composition and lake types limit the options at hand. The Grey-Bruce region is famous for our incredible inland bass fisheries, but the local bass season is closed during the winter months. Many of our local lakes posses catchable populations of perch, panfish and pike, but these species are often host to parasites, and lack the size which is normally considered large enough to keep. On top of this, many local lakes exhibit poor ice conditions. Warm water springs can prove to be treacherous for anglers who are not familiar with their location on local waters. In addition, deep snow coverage can create an insulating layer over the ice on small lakes. This insulation can cause poor ice conditions once again. During most of our recent winters, the bays of Coploys and Owen Sound have not developed safe ice conditions. This is a huge damper for local ice anglers as the winter ice-fishing opportunities for Chinook salmon on the “bigwater” can be outstanding and unrivaled across the globe.

    All is not lost should the bays remain open however. Many anglers hit the road this time of year in search of safe ice and excellent fishing opportunities not too far from home. And there are plenty such opportunities around.

    Literally right next door in Simcoe County is the fabled Lake Simcoe. This massive body of water is one of the busiest ice-fishing destinations in North America. Thousands of anglers venture to Simcoe each season with hopes and dreams of landing a large Lake Trout, Whitefish or pail of Jumbo Perch. Truth is, the majority of those anglers do! Simcoe is a productive fishery. Lake Trout and Whitefish are planted by the MNRF each year to supplement the deepwater fishery. The perch population is world famous, and jumbos exceeding the 12-inch mark fill the pails of many anglers on the ice each day during the winter. Anglers can access the lake in a large number of locations. On the east shores of Simcoe; Barrie, Oro, Innisfil, Lefroy and Gilford are popular destinations for ice anglers. Along the western portion of the lake; Keswick, Sutton, Pefferlaw, Beaverton, and Brechin are popular areas to access the lake. Simcoe also supports a major hut rental and outfitter industry during the winter months. Dozens of operators work on Simcoe during the winter, providing travelling anglers with huts and transportation to and from the ice, along with guided icefishing adventures. A quick internet search will reveal these businesses along with up to date icefishing reports and conditions. Bonus: The Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry has now opened up the Lake Herring season on Lake Simcoe, after a successful closed season timeframe and management plan recovery program.

    If winter Walleye fishing is on your hit list, look no further than the Bay of Quinte. Quinte is located on the eastern end of Lake Ontario, and its Walleye fishery is unmatched across North America. Trophy Walleye are the draw here, not huge numbers of fish, and it is often quality over quantity. Winter anglers haul up Walleye over 10lbs on a daily basis once ice conditions are safe enough to allow for angling. The Bay itself has a history of unpredictable ice conditions and it is wise to be cautious here. Bays, narrows, islands and river inlets add to the currents throughout the Bay. Anglers venturing to Quinte for the first time are encouraged to seek the services of a guide or outfitter. Much like Simcoe, icefishing is big business here and there are plenty of operators that cater to ice anglers. The drive to Quinte from the Grey-Bruce area is by far the furthest on this list, but if giant Walleye are on your radar there is no better place in the world than Quinte. The communities of Belleville, Brighton, Picton, Deseronto and Napanee provide travelling anglers with all accommodations required for a jumping off point to access the lake.

    To the southwest, Lake St. Clair is another massive winter fishery that coughs up outstanding catches of panfish, Walleye and Pike for the thousands of anglers who walk on water here each year. St. Clair often fails to draw the attention of local anglers who tend to travel east or north to find better winter angling, but it shouldn’t. St. Clair is shallow and large, meaning the fish can often be hard to locate, but this doesn’t prevent the lake from being known as a hotspot for winter angling. Crappie, Bluegill, Perch, and Walleye are the prime targets here, along with Northern Pike that receive less attention than the Musky (closed season during the winter), which St. Clair is famous for. Popular areas include many of the large sand/grass flats found in Canadian waters, as well as the inlets of the Thames and Sydenham Rivers. Essentials such as baitshops, outfitters/operators, hotels and cottages can be found in communities such as Mitchell’s Bay, Belle River, Stony Point and Windsor East.

    If the winter blues have you down and your local fishing opportunities are limited, hit the road and try one of these popular destinations. Gas prices are dropping to levels we have not seen in years. Having to put fewer dollars in the vehicle to travel on a fishing trip is an added bonus now. Each of these locations is within a reasonable distance from home, located conveniently across southern Ontario. These are incredible fisheries that should be on every winter angler’s hit list at least once. From Perch and Lake Trout to giant Walleye or Pike, there is a destination that provides you with an opportunity to catch a fish of your dreams. Do it now before it’s too late….the ice only lasts for so long!
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