Ice fishing can appear intimidating to a new comer. My best advice is to never go alone. Be sure to go with someone that is knowledgeable when it comes to ice safety and exercise caution at all times. With a few key factors in mind you are in for a great experience.
Where to Fish
If you’ve never tried ice fishing before & want a fun way to let your family try it out, plan a trip to the Kawarthas for the Family Day long weekend (Februrary 17-19, 2018). During this “Family Fishing Weekend” the Ontario Government allows residents to fish license-free. The Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters is hosting a Family Ice Fishing Day on Saturday February 17, 2018 from 10am to 2pm. At no cost, families can use tackle, bait and prepared fishing holes! Full details are right here. Looking for accommodations? Try our Trip Planner or contact Peterborough & the Kawarthas Tourism.
If you prefer to avoid the crowds and plan your own ice fishing escape, here are four sources of local information for you.
Dressing for the elements is one of the most important parts of an enjoyable ice fishing trip. I always tend to overdress. That has never left me feeling cold which would take away from the experience dramatically. I recommend a thermal flotation suit. Not only are they very warm, but in the event that you were to go through the ice you have flotation to your benefit but this is certainly not a necessity. A good pair of thermal wind proof pants and a warm jacket will suffice.
I will generally wear a balaclava to cover my head, face and neck while in transit to and from the area we are fishing. I like this for two reasons. I am completely covered and warm when I need to be, and I can lift it up and fold it to fit my head only once inside a hut. A good pair of boots is critical. The ice is cold and your feet will be on it the entire time. I have a pair of slip-on ice cleats that I like to put on my boots as well, for traction purposes. I wear a pair of ice picks on a string around my neck as well. These will allow me to pull myself up and out of the water if I happened to go through. Match all of that up with a decent pair of gloves and you are ready to enjoy some time on the ice!
This is a big one. As I mentioned previously, go with someone that knows the area and practices an understanding and respect for ice safety. There are many factors that come in to play when it comes to ice thickness. During the first few trips of the season a “spud” is a great tool. Pounding the ice with one of these every few feet on your way out will give you a fair indication of thickness. Drilling a hole at the shoreline is also a good preliminary test of ice thickness.
Do I Need a Hut?
A hut is definitely not a requirement! Especially on those milder days of winter. They do have some serious advantages however. Not only are you sheltered from the elements, you are quite warm inside the comfort of a hut. I generally have a little propane heater with me and often find myself sitting inside without a jacket, toque or gloves. The huts are often built in to a collapsible sled that can be used to transport all of your gear back and forth. The overhead canopy that it provides shields the hole you are fishing from glare, and allows you to see into the water. And that is a lot of fun when fishing shallow and clear waters. Watching the fish eat your offering is a site to behold. I find the hut to also be a great opportunity to talk and discuss presentations with the person next to you. Improving both individuals’ odds for success while adding to the comradery of the experience.
What Gear is Required?
I think the best aspect of ice fishing is that it is fairly inexpensive to get started and just about everything you will need can be found at your local sporting good or fishing store.
A medium heavy action rod and reel combo spooled with 8 to 10lb fishing line is quite literally the only setup you need to target just about everything that swims in the Kawarthas Northumberland region. A handful of great start up bait recommendations include something loud and rattling, something flashy, and something small and subtle:
You will of course need a valid Ontario Outdoors Card with your fishing license. This is often something that is forgotten given the time of year we are generally out on the ice. I recommend a Sport license if you plan on keeping your catch.
An auger is required to drill your holes. Several options are out there and accessible. Manual and power. I would recommend a manual auger with either an 8 or 10 inch diameter. They really do drill through the ice quite easily and are inexpensive for a beginner. Auger blades are VERY sharp. Handle with extreme care.
Catch Some Fish!
Now that you are all setup, holes drilled and baits tied on. Experiment with different depths of the water column that you are fishing. A beginner will not likely have a depth finder or flasher of sorts. So use your baits to determine how deep you are fishing. Present them on the bottom, just below the ice, and in the middle of the water column until you make contact with fish.
Fishing for me is about the experiences. The relationships and comradery that develops. Don’t get me wrong! The fish are a big part of that, and catching them is a blast. But the time spent in the outdoors with family and close friends are what keeps me coming back for more. The Kawarthas Northumberland region of Ontario is my home. And I plan to continue making fishing memories here in her 350 lakes and rivers for many years to come. Come and see for yourself!
Every year Coboconk hosts the “Freshwater Summit Festival” in late June. What is the “Freshwater Summit”? Coboconk is located on Balsam Lake, the highest point of the Trent Severn Waterway. Balsam Lake is also the highest body of freshwater in Canada from which you can navigate to all oceans in a seaworthy vessel. In other words, this is Canada’s Freshwater Summit!
Just west of Coboconk, around the peninsula of Indian Point, is Balsam Lake Provincial Park. This is a gorgeous park with canoe rentals, playgrounds, a great beach, crystal clear waters, and lovely trails with lots of wildlife. Check them out for camping details and other great activities & events!
Visit the Smallest Jail in Canada! Built in 1884, the jail is currently operated as a craft shop and is open July and August, as well as Victoria Day & Thanksgiving long weekends.
Eats & Treats
Check out Bexley Golf Centre just west of Coboconk & Balsam Lake Provincial Park. They are a Butter Tart Tour stop!
In Coboconk, great eats are available at The Pattie House Smokin’ Barbecue, Riverbank Pizza, Ryan’s Charbroiled Burgers & Pizzas, and more! The Gull’s Nest Restaurant has a great patio overlooking the water, and we all know how delicious Kawartha Dairy Ice Cream is on a patio in the summer sun!
Fishing Tips from Local Pro Chris Huskilson
Balsam Lake is a fishing hot spot! Major species include Large and Smallmouth Bass, Walleye, Muskie (and Tiger Muskie!), Northern Pike, Bluegill, Yellow Perch, Black Crappie, Carp, and Catfish. Fishing is great all-year long. But for many species (Pike, Walleye, Perch, Bluegill, Crappie) fishing is most productive in spring, when the fish are fresh off the spawn and looking to feed. The biggest Muskies and Smallmouth Bass are typically caught in the fall.
Where to Stay
Rent a houseboat & stay on the water! Or check out our Trip Planner for other options! The Saucy Willow Inn is right on the water in Coboconk. Cedar Nook Cottages are just north of Coboconk.
Late fall right through to ice up presents some of the greatest Muskie and Smallmouth bass fishing of the year in the Kawarthas Northumberland region of Ontario. Your opportunity to truly catch a legend awaits right here. Come see for yourself!
1. It’s beautiful & the fish are biting!
Fall fishing in the Kawarthas Northumberland region is one of my favorite times of the season. Not only is the fishing spectacular, but the sheer beauty and fall colors have made their appearance in full. The leaves have turned and begun to fall. The nights are cooler, the air is crisp and the fish are feeding up in preparation for winter.
2. My favourite fall focus is on trophy Muskies and Smallmouth Bass.
These two species are without question my favorite target from mid-September right through to ice up. Why you might ask? Well the answer is this. Not only are they aggressively feeding during this time, but they are much more likely to be susceptible to simple angling techniques in areas that are much more obvious and easier to access. I keep my techniques very simple during this time and the results are always very good.
3. How to target Smallmouth Bass during Fall Fishing.
When targeting Smallmouth Bass from late September through November my approach is simple. During this period the fish within the region tend to school up on shallow rocky points extending out from the shoreline. Points close to deep water. Fall equals BIG smallies. Fish at this time of year feed heavily on crayfish and minnows in preparation for the cold winter months. I always start my search right on the bank in as little as a foot of water. Early morning “walk the dog” style topwater baits are a great option. I will fish them very slowly and in a color pattern resembling the local forage. In most cases white will do the trick. When the water is really starting to get 60°F or lower, nothing beats the steady cadence of a suspending jerk bait. I will allow for very long pauses between jerks to allow enough time for the fish to commit to the bait. The pause is the key. This is a great time for the shore angler to take advantage of some great accessible shallow water fish! Check out the “Fish From Shore” fishing locations on the Kawartha’s Northumberland website and catch the fish of a lifetime! Below are a few lake recommendations and examples of baits I suggest you try.
4. Lake Recommendations for Smallmouth Bass Fall Fishing
Dalrymple, Rice Lake. Stony Lake
5. Tackle Recommendations for Smallmouth Bass Fall Fishing
A White Jerkbait is a great minnow imitator. Remember to allow for long pauses between jerks to trigger strikes. Don’t be afraid to experiment with your cadence though! The fish’s reaction will dictate the amount of time between twitches.
A walk the dog style topwater bait in shallow water first thing in the morning can be a great way to trigger big fish to strike. The same rule applies during this time of the year. Slow and steady wins the race.
6. How to Target Muskies in Fall Fishing
When targeting Muskies from late September right through until Ice-Up, my approach is even more simplified. They are packing on pounds before winter as well and quite literally can be found in the same areas as the Smallmouth–Rock and/or weed points with close proximity to deep water. While I will shy away from top water presentations during this period, I will lean heavily towards a suspending/neutral buoyancy type bait that will allow me to impart a jerkbait type presentation triggering bites in the exact same manner as I would with the Smallmouth. It is during this period that I lean heavily on large profile soft plastic baits. Large swimbaits and water dwelling rodent imitators are a favorite for me as well as large Tube style baits that have been rigged weightless so that I can fish it in the upper portion of the water column instead of the bottom. Long pauses are key! Fish slowly and the fish will come. The Muskies within the region this time of year are feeding heavily! They are opportunistic, meaning no bait is too big. This is the time to increase in size and hang on for the fish of a lifetime! Below are a few lake recommendations and examples of baits I suggest you try.
7. Lake Recommendations for Muskie Fall Fishing
Balsam Lake, Pigeon Lake, Cameron Lake
8. Tackle Recommendations for Muskie Fall Fishing
A heavy leader is an absolute must and will ensure you land your fish of a lifetime. I prefer Fluorocarbon leaders made from only the finest and strongest components.
Large swimbaits slow rolled are a great local forage imitator and trigger big bites!
Water dwelling rodent type baits are exceptional this time of the year as they present a big meal to big opportunistic fish!
Large profile casting tubes are an absolute staple for me during the cold water periods. Fished like a jerkbait with grewat hang time and long pauses trigger some of my biggest bites of the year!
Author: Chris Huskilson Reach Chris on Facebook: Chris Huskilson Or Twitter: @CHuskilson
If you’re interested in tasting more of 19th century history, check out the Maryboro Lodge in downtown Fenelon Falls, home of the Fenelon Falls Museum.
Have paddled the Trent Severn Waterway or “Shared the Chair” at Parks Canada’s Lock 34?
The Kawartha Lakes is the Houseboat Capital of Ontario. Your houseboat adventure is calling! Get the details here.
The Kawartha Lakes are a gorgeous area to explore by bike. Get ideas from Kawartha Lakes Tourism and then check out detailed route maps via Kawartha Lakes Cycling Club.
Hidden Gem: Shopping!
Looking for a unique shopping experience? You *must* check out “Curious?” at 10-B Water Street. This is your fine art, home décor, body products, jewellery, pottery, toys, bedding, and generally everything wonderful and unique store. Curious? Just take a look at their great posts Instagram @CuriousFenelon.
Eats & Treats
If you want the best view in town, get a patio table at The Perch Restaurant and enjoy a great lunch, snack, or dinner while you’re there.
Fenelon Falls is a big little Butter Tart Tour destination with four tour bakeries! Visit their website to download the map & make your sweet tour plans. Here are the four stops in Fenelon Falls:
1) A quick walk or bike from Lock 34 is Sweet Bottoms Coffee Shop. They have some of the best coffee around.
2) Kawartha Shortbread is also here in Fenelon Falls, baker of the 1st place butter tart in the 2017 “Best of the Best” Taste-off!
3) Little Pie Shack is cute, pink, and sweet – a must-see for any Butter Tart Tour aficionado!
4) Last but not least, Eganridge Inn, Country Club, and Spa has it all, including butter tarts!
Savour the Seasons
The Fenelon Falls Fair is an annual event in early August. Check out this website for 2018 dates as they become available.
Fishing Tips from Local Pro Chris Huskilson
Lock 34 at Fenelon Falls connects Cameron Lake and Sturgeon Lake. Fishing is great all-year long. But for many species (Walleye, Perch, Bluegill, Crappie) fishing is most productive in spring, when the fish are fresh off the spawn and looking to feed. The biggest Muskies and Smallmouth Bass are typically caught in the fall.
The Fenelon Inn is right downtown, and Eganridge Inn, Country Club, and Spa is halfway between Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon. (Don’t forget that they are also a Butter Tart Tour stop!) There are some parks and cottages farther afield too.
Lindsay is on the beautiful Kawartha Trans Canada Trail. Most of this trail is based on old rail lines, which means it is relatively flat and great for riding and hiking. In 2017 we met up with an Ontario By Bike tour group going from Lindsay to Peterborough along this trail, and they were loving the route. Many of them had been on all the guided tours that year and ranked this as #1 or #2! The lookout from Doube’s Trestle Bridge is stunning!
Watch this all-season video of the beautiful Kawartha Trans Canada Trail.
The Victoria Rail Trail is another great rail trail that stretches north from Lindsay into Kinmount.
The Wilson Boardwalk runs from the picturesque Old Mill ruin north to Wellington Street. The stone ruin is the remnant of the Old Mill that was built in 1869, destroyed by fire in 1978.
The Old Mill Park is also right beside Lock 33 of the Trent Severn Waterway. Back in 1844, this was the first timber lock completed in the entire waterway. They still use timber today, and this lock features a unique double gate system that allows smaller vessels to transit without using as much water.
Just north of Lindsay is the beautiful Ken Reid Conservation Area, home to migratory birds and a great diversity of wildlife. This is a beautiful spot to explore at any time of year!
Are you feeling the need, the need for speed? Head to the Lindsay 500 for some go cart racing!
Pane Vino Trattoria & Wine Bar offers a modern interpretation of Italian cuisine. Built upon strong relationships with local farmers, the menu features locally-grown ingredients from within the region.
Elm Creek Chocolates is where you’ll discover “an old world style chocolatier, a creator of tasty, melt in your mouth, Belgian Couverture Chocolates.” ‘Nuff said. They’re located at 73 Kent Street West.
ShirLee’s Bakery is a family-run business located in the heart of Lindsay. The bakery has been in Lindsay for over 100 years, though it has changed names & hands a few times. Pies, tarts, brownies, cookies, buns, bread – it’s all here, fresh & baked daily!
Performance & Fine Arts
You can connect your arts experience along the Kawartha Lakes Arts & Heritage Trail! Full details are here.
During the summer months Lindsay hosts free “Concerts in the Park” at the Frank Banks Gazebo in Victoria Park on Wednesday evenings form 7pm and Sunday afternoons from 2pm.
Art on Kent is a co-operative exhibition space funded by member artists. Touch base with them to see what this month’s exhibit is. Stop by to enjoy the exhibit, and check out the for-sale artworks, artist’s cards, reproductions, and smaller gift items!
CJ’s Gallery is a seasonal gallery that showcases the art of CJ herself and selected other artists.
Boat over to Wolf Island Provincial Park. Located right between Lower Buckhorn Lake and Lovesick Lake, this park is accessible only by water. There is easy access from Lock 30 (Lovesick). Note that the park has no facilities and trails are not marked. Washrooms are available at Lock 30 when the Trent Severn Waterway is open.
Experience the largest known concentration of Aboriginal rock carvings in Canada at Petroglyphs Provincial Park. These carvings are considered sacred, so photography is not permitted. That means you must be here to see them! Petroglyphs Provincial Park is on the north-east end of Stoney Lake (just east of Lower Buckhorn Lake), and the park also features McGinnis Lake, which is a meromictic lake. In most lakes, the surface and deep waters mix with one another at least once a year. In a meromictic lake, however, the surface deep waters do not intermix. These unusual lakes create unique colourations and extremely low-oxygen habitats. There are only a handful of these lakes in Canada.
• Kawartha County Wines is just a short drive up County Road 36 from downtown Buckhorn. Once there, you’ll be dazzled with the largest variety of premium fruit win in the province, many of them award-winning! There is also a wide variety of preserves and other tasty locally-sourced fare.
Savour the Seasons
• Buckhorn features one of Canada’s largest privately-owned, retail art galleries. The beautifully situated Gallery on the Lake has 15,000 square feet of original fine art, sculpture, glassware, pottery, and jewellery from Canada’s top artists. At any time of year, it is a treat to immerse yourself in their stunning collections. You could go home with your new favourite piece of art, and you can also pick up some gorgeous art cards and smaller gifts to remind yourself of your visit or to share with friends.
• Experience “Rock the Locks”! Every year on the last weekend of August Buckhorn celebrates the Trent Severn Waterway with classic cars, vendors, music, a petting zoo, horse and buggy rides, and an ARTivity Zone. Get details here.
• Find one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted treasures at the many seasonal arts and crafts shows hosted at the Buckhorn Community Centre. Check out their events calendar here for upcoming show dates.