May 26, 2024

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Ice Fishing Ontario Complete Guide

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Ontario takes winter seriously. From hockey to ice wine, via dog sledding, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing… the great outdoors gets even better once the cold sets in. Ask many local anglers, and they’ll tell you that winter is actually their favourite season. You can’t blame them – there’s something addictive about ice fishing Ontario‘s frozen waters. So wrap up warm, ready your provisions, and grab a rod. It’s time to drill through the ice and say hello to some ice-cool fish!

Top Ontario Ice Fishing Targets

You can’t see the fish once the waters ice over but they haven’t gone anywhere. In fact, you can catch almost all of Ontario’s summertime favourites in the winter. Here are our top picks you should look out for.

Lake Trout

A man crouching in his ice hut, with the zip almost completely undone, holding a Lake Trout caught while ice fishing in Ontario
Photo courtesy of Blue Rock Charters – Ice Fishing

If you’re set on hauling a monster from the icy depths, dust off your tube baits, soft plastics, and spoons, and try your hand at hooking a freshwater slob. Ice fishing for Lake Trout is an Ontario specialty. Locals insist that there are more Lake Trout here than anywhere else in the world. And as soon as ice fishing season opens, it’s game on – Lakers will stick around until the ice melts.

A Lake Trout from Lake Superior held the world record for over three decades. This monster weighed in at over 27 kilograms (60 pounds). It’s much more normal to catch Lakers weighing under 4.5 kilos (10 pounds) but plenty of trophies over double that size make an appearance under Ontario’s ice every winter.

Given the record catch, it’s no surprise that many people consider Lake Superior to be one of the best places to ice fish for Lake Trout in Ontario. But that just scratches the surface. Lake Nipigon, Lake Simcoe, and Lake Temagami are also famous Lake Trout ice fishing spots.

Lake Trout take a long time to mature. So we recommend snapping a quick photo of your trophy catch before releasing it back into the water, and only keeping smaller Trout for the dinner table. This way, you’ll protect the fishery for generations to come and get a delicious meal to boot.


A man standing on a frozen lake in Canada holding a Walleye caught while ice fishing on a clear but cloudy day
Photo courtesy of Northern Life Ice Fishing

The tastiest fish in Ontario are also the most sought-after. Walleye’s subtle flavour and firm, flaky flesh make them a top target all year round. And winter is no exception.

These fish are named for their cloudy, opaque eyes that allow them to see in low-light conditions. Because of this special adaptation, they generally hunt from dusk through dawn. Many people ice fish for them at night or first thing in the morning. Finally, a reason to celebrate winter’s shorter days!

The province is packed with quality Walleye ice fishing spots. Lac des Mille Lacs, the Bay of Quinte, and Lake of the Woods all vie for the title of “Walleye Capital of the World.” But there are countless other places to explore. Lake Nipissing is famous for its big Walleye, while pretty much any shallow bay or estuary will also hold this popular species.

Yellow Perch

A man in full winter gear and fingerless gloves holds up a small Yellow Perch caught while ice fishing a Canadian lake on a clear day
Photo courtesy of Ice Fishing Out of the Blue

It’s all very well going after a lake monster but why make your life harder than it needs to be? Yellow Perch are abundant across Ontario all year round and are among the most enjoyable species to ice fish for.

Their distinctive pattern is like a ray of sunshine against a wintery backdrop – and they cook up a treat, too. They also grow unusually large in Ontario. “Jumbo Perch” that reach well over 30 centimetres (1 foot) long are common in these parts.

The shallow waters of Black Bay in Lake Superior are famous for serious numbers of Jumbo Perch. Long Point Bay in Lake Erie is another hotspot. But almost every Ontario lake holds a healthy population of these beefy Panfish. Drop shiny, bright lures like spoons through the ice and hold on. There’s a good chance you’ll soon be sharing your ice fishing hut with some Perch!

And More!

All sorts of fish lurk under Ontario’s iced-over lakes and rivers throughout the winter. Toothy Northern Pike and Musky hunt around reeds and structure, while Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout, and Splake cruise towards the top of the water column. Black Crappie and Bluegill add to the list of delicious Panfish, while Whitefish have been an ice fishing target ever since indigenous tribes used to catch them through the ice with spears.

How to Go Ice Fishing in Ontario

Ice fishing is one of the most accessible ways to fish. You don’t need expensive equipment or a boat to access the waters where the biggest fish hunt. Just put on your warmest boots and some good gloves, pack an auger, and grab an ice rod and reel, some jigs, and some spoons. Now, you’re ready try one of the following options:

Take a Guided Ice Fishing Trip

A closeup of a black ice hut used for fishing in Ontario next to a snowmobile on a frozen lake on a cloudy winter's day
Photo courtesy of Blue Rock Charters – Ice Fishing

Hire a guide, and finding fish through the ice will become a whole lot simpler. No matter if this is your first time or if you’re simply exploring a new area, a local guide will give you an insider’s account of Ontario’s ice fishing secrets.

Guided trips usually include all the gear you could ask for, so you just need to turn up warm, licensed, and ready to fish. As well as providing equipment, your guide will explain the ins and outs of how to use it. Listen to them, and you’ll be able to put your newly-learned skills into action the next time you ice fish.

Rent a Hut

A view of the inside of a fully-equipped ice hut, with holes in the floor ready for ice fishing, along with sofas and a wooden-fitted kitchen area
Photo courtesy of Ice Fishing Out of the Blue

Ever wished you could go fishing without even leaving your accommodation? Come to Ontario in the winter. The province’s most popular ice fishing lakes are dotted with portable huts that are decked out ready for you to eat, sleep, and fish in!

Some hut rentals are accessible by car over specially maintained ice roads, while others provide sleigh or snowmobile rides across the ice. You’ll usually have the option to rent tackle, and it’s also common for the owners to drill holes in the ice for you so you don’t even need an auger. Sit back, relax, and make yourself at home. Oh, and then catch some fish!

Forge Your Own Path

A closeup of a hole in the blue ice of a frozen lake with a small ice fishing rod set up for fishing near sunset on a clear winter's day
Photo courtesy of Ice Fishing Out of the Blue

If sitting in a hut surrounded by other huts isn’t your thing, remember you’re in Ontario. There are literally thousands of backcountry lakes to explore. Wind up on any of them, and you might be the only group of ice fishers for miles. Just drive north, pack a popup shelter, and snowmobile your way into the wilderness. Moose, lynx, and deer rule supreme above these ice waters – and you can join them!

We don’t recommend going ice fishing without a guide unless you’ve already got some experience. But we’ll leave the ins and outs of using your auger and fishing equipment to you. Just make sure to travel in a group and to let others know exactly where you’re headed. Which leads us onto….

Pro Tip: Stay Safe

No matter what type of Ontario ice fishing experience you choose, one thing’s for sure – you’ll be spending a lot of time over some very cold water. You’ll need to dress in layers to stay toasty whatever the conditions throw at you. You should also bring plenty of snacks and water.

If you’re going off the beaten track, consider wearing a flotation suit, carry an ice pick, and check the integrity of the ice before you start fishing it. Remember, clear blue ice is stronger than white ice. And make sure someone knows where you’re going. It’s a good idea to always go out in a group and to keep your phone charged and with the GPS switched on at all times.

Where’s the best ice fishing in Ontario?

When it comes down to it, there’s hardly a bad place to ice fish in Ontario. But a few ice fishing spots stand out from the crowd. These are our favourites…

Ice Fishing in Southern Ontario

A view across the ice of a frozen Lake Simcoe on a cloudy day during the bright hours towards a red ice hut used for fishing, with some other visible in the far distance

Canada’s population centre has plenty to offer urban ice fishers. Not one, but three Great Lakes make up a huge chunk of Southern Ontario’s borders. And they aren’t even the only major bodies of water around. It’s no wonder so many people love living – and fishing – here! Hotspots include:

  • Lake Simcoe. More people fish the hard water at the “Ice Fishing Capital of Canada” than anywhere else in North America. Lake Simcoe is legendary thanks to its enormous quantities of Jumbo Perch, Whitefish, Walleye, and Lake Trout, among others. It’s also just an hour away from Toronto, so it’s one of the busiest and best-equipped ice fishing lakes in the province.
  • Ottawa River. Canada’s capital may be a little further from the Great Lakes, but its namesake river is an ice fishing magnet in itself. Ottawa’s Petrie Island is home to a whole village of ice fishing huts every winter and even hosts an annual ice fishing derby. With catches like Perch, Walleye, Crappie, and Pike on the menu, we’re not surprised so many people make their home on the ice this time of year.
  • Lake Ontario. You can’t write about ice fishing in Ontario without mentioning the province’s very own Great Lake. The Bay of Quinte is one of the best parts of Lake Ontario to ice fish, thanks to its huge Walleye population. Focus on the west of the bay around the estuary with the Trent River for your best chances.

Ice Fishing in Northern Ontario

A view of the Northern Lights above a frozen Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada, with trees visible in the distance

Northern Ontario is by far the largest part of the province – and it’s also the least populated. The immense natural landscape of the “Canadian Shield” means there’s plenty for ice fishers here. Thousands of lakes ice over all season long and, with so much water shared between so few people, it’s likely you’ll enjoy world-class ice fishing here without the crowds.

Head into the wilderness or enjoy first-class facilities at any one of these ice fishing must-visit spots:

  • Lac Des Mille Lacs. The 250 square kilometres of the “Lake of a Thousand Lakes” hold untold numbers of Walleye. Along with a strong population of Pike, Burbot, and Perch, you’ll see why this northwest Ontario lake often tops the charts of the best places to ice fish in Ontario. Just a couple of hours from Thunder Bay, it comes with all the amenities you could ask for, including overnight ice fishing hut rentals.
  • Lake of the Woods. You have to see the vast expanse of the Lake of the Woods to believe it. This magical water body is just as popular in the winter as it is the rest of the year. It boasts a huge Walleye population and opportunities for Lake Trout, Pike, Yellow Perch, Musky, and Smallmouth Bass. You can find all these species through the ice on the Ontario side of the lake, which has a variety of fishing opportunities in different water depths.
  • Lake Nissiping. Ontario’s fourth-largest lake is famous for its Walleye but that’s only part of the story. This vast, shallow body of water also holds Pike, Burbot, Whitefish, Perch, Musky, and a whole lot more. And from January to March, it’s covered in specially-outfitted ice fishing huts and bungalows, ready and waiting for you to enjoy.

Ontario Ice Fishing Regulations

An infographic featuring the flag of Ontario followed by text that says "Ontario Ice Fishing Regulations What You Need to Know" along with the FishingBooker logo against a blue background

Everyone over the age of 18 needs a licence to fish in Ontario. Ice fishing is no different. You should either purchase a single-day fishing licence or – if you’re fishing for more than one day – get an Outdoors Card plus a fishing licence. You can buy these online, at a licence issuer, or at a ServiceOntario location.

As well as getting a fishing licence and an Outdoors Card, you also need to follow catch limits and seasonal openings for different fish species. These depend on the Fisheries Management Zone you’re fishing in and can change every year. Make sure to check Ontario’s Fish and Wildlife rules before you head out on the ice or fish with a guide who can show you the ropes.

If you’re fishing from your own ice fishing hut and are in Fisheries Management Zones 9–12 or 14–20, you need to register your hut. Make sure to display your registration number on the hut and remove the hut according to the regulations for the area.

And finally, for two days a year, any Canadian resident can go ice fishing in Ontario without a licence. This is during Ontario’s Family Ice Fishing Weekend, which usually happens around the middle of February.

Ontario Ice Fishing: It’s Yours to Discover

A view across a frozen lake at sunset towards a couple of temprary ice huts used for ice fishing in Ontario on a bright day
Photo courtesy of Ice Fishing Out of the Blue

Few places can match Ontario’s combination of ice fishing infrastructure, fish, and wilderness. Full service or total isolation – no matter what type of ice fishing adventure you’re looking for – we bet you’ll find it here. Why not give it a try?

Have you been ice fishing in Ontario before or are you thinking of going for the first time? Let us know and, as always, hit us up with your questions below. We’re always happy to help!

The post Ice Fishing Ontario: The Complete Guide appeared first on FishingBooker Blog.

By: Cat
Title: Ice Fishing Ontario: The Complete Guide
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Published Date: Tue, 21 Nov 2023 10:32:24 +0000

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