ice fishing canada

Ice fishing in Canada with John Johnson

As many Canadian anglers, John Johnson braves freezing temperatures and frightening wind chills, to go ice fishing out on the vast whiteness of Lake Simcoe. Located in southern Ontario, the lake also known as the “ice fishing capital of Canada” is only a short drive north of Toronto and offers all year long some of the best fishing in the province.Each winter, John goes there on three to four ice fishing trips. He shares with FishFriender his best ice fishing tips to help us enjoy the oncoming winter season.

Safety first

Ice fishing puts people in potentially dangerous situations. Each year, people fall through ice and drown or become hypothermic. Most ice fishermen are aware of this and take many precautions to maintain safety. The number one rule is to discuss with locals in the area and check the YouTube channel theblueicereport. It will keep you updated on thickness and quality of ice.Indeed, the ice must be thick to avoid unnecessary risks :
  • under 2 inches do not even think about going on the ice
  • 4 inches starts to be ok to walk on
  • 6 inches enable you to drive a snowmobile
  • but wait for at least 7-8 inches to bring your car
ice fishing in Canada, Lake Simcoe
During winter time, it’s usual to see people drive snowmobiles or even their car on ice to reach their fishing spot. First check if you are insured for driving on ice because cars do fall through ice If you get a soaker, the only silver lining is that your car will turn into a good spot for fishes to get shelter.A few additional precautionary measures to take:
  • be aware of weather and fishing conditions in general before you embark on your trip
  • fish with a friend, ice fishing alone is never a good idea
  • do not hesitate to bring safety gear (augers, screwdrivers, spikes and rope)

Rent an ice shack

Ice shacks provide shelter for ice fishermen. During winter, you can find a village with all the tents gathering people from all around the world. Everyone is welcome, there’s no typical angler on Lake Simcoe!If you don’t know the area, you can easily rent a preheated shack with holes ready from a nearby operator. But regulars, like John, prefer to have their own portable ice shack and shove through the ice with an electric drill.
Ice shack, ice fishing in Canada, Lake Simcoe
Depending on the weather, you will find ice shacks on the lake from January to approximately March 15th which is the deadline set by Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry for removing them. Beyond that date, you can still go fishing on the lake without the comfort of a hut.

Catch jumbo yellow perch, northern pike and lake trout

Lake Simcoe has more than 50 species of fishes, but the most common winter targets are perch, pike and lake trout. Especially perch, as Lake Simcoe is internationally renowned for its perch fishery. As perches are abundantly present in Lake Simcoe, each person is allowed to catch up to 50 specimens in a day…!You will take small perches, around 13 to 15 inches whereas northern pike and lake trout are big around 36 to 40 inches. Finally, lake trout can weight 10 to 15 pounds, sometimes even 20 pounds.

Best time, location and technique

The golden rule is talk to an outfitter or ask in a tackle shop for advices about the area where you want to go fishing. They will point you in the right direction. On Lake Simcoe, the main area of fishing activities is in Cook’s Bay at the southern part. It’s shallow and rich in weed growth, where bulrushes, eel grass, and cabbage weeds flourish. Whereas the main lake is deeper, with a maximum depth of 136 feet in Kempenfelt Bay.

1. Choose the right timing

During the day up until supper time is a good time to catch fish. There is a good bite at supper time, fishes seem to be more excited but later in the evening they drop off. You are up for a long day, if you do not have a cabin nearby, you can rent a room in a motel nearby or even spend the whole weekend on the ice in a bungalow. During nighttime, most fishes are quiet, perch and pike lie on the bottom and don’t bite but you can still try to catch a lake trout.

2. Adjust location and depth

  • You’ll find perches and pikes in the same area : in Cook’s Bay where fishes can hide and feed in the weed-bed. Focus on fishing in the 10 to 20-foot range and keep in mind that locating pikes in winter is way more challenging than perches.
  • Lake trout take deeper water. You have to go to the main lake to fish them where they can be found in depths of 90 to 100 feet.
Lake Simcoe fosters a lot of different ice fishing approaches. Some of the pros have their own gear and snow mobiles in order to change location quickly and run all over the lake. Others will do the northern pike fishing from shore, make a camp fire and bring children. They will set tip ups on ice and run when the flag jumps up – it indicates a fish has taken that bait. It’s a good technique especially for families, that way nobody will go on ice, make noise and scare fishes.

3. Set up your fishing tackle

John is generally using bait fish, in particular 2 inches minnows for perch. Lake trout would take a small minnow as well, whereas pike can benefit from larger minnows since they are bigger and more aggressive. You can buy and find more advices in the many bait and tackle shops surrounding Lake Simcoe.

Hold a fishing permit

In Canada, do not forget your fishing permit. Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry monitors recreational fishing rules and regulation in Ontario. You don’t want to fool around without a license. Moreover, in order to continue catching quality fish, follow their catch and possession limits.For non-Canadian resident over 18 years-old, out of residence fishing license cost around 25 dollars for a one-day sport fishing licence. If you want to ice fish for more than a day, you will need an Outdoor Card (plastic ID valid for 3 calendar years) and a fishing license tag (valid for 8-days, 1 or 3 calendar years). It will cost you:
  • 30 dollars for 8 days of conservation fishing licence tag
  • whereas an 8-days sport fishing licence tag will cost around 55 dollars
Besides that, on most waters including Lake Simcoe, you can ice fish with 2 lines, if at all times:
  • you stay within 60 meters of any line to tip-up
  • and you can have a clear and unobstructed view of your lines
You’re ready to take a chance at ice fishing. Keep in mind that rules change in summer, for exemple you will only be allowed to use one line!

🐟  You have an idea or just want to contribute to our Blog FishFriender ? Do not hesitate to contact us ! And if you go fishing this weekend, do not forget to take beautiful pictures & record your catches on the FishFriender app!

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