A brilliant orange sun on the horizon illuminates a row of ice fishing huts

Ice Fishing in Kawarthas Northumberland

Now that the colder weather seems to be settling in for the winter, I can’t help but recall the questions I had when I first began ice fishing. The Kawarthas Northumberland region is an ice angler’s paradise! So many species! So little time it seems. The frozen lakes provide an exciting and affordable way to get into the sport of ice fishing. Not only is it a great avenue for new anglers to explore, it truly is a terrific opportunity to spend time with family and friends during the winter months. 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. During this “Family Fishing Weekend” the Ontario Government allows residents to fish license-free. The Ontario Federation of Anglers & Hunters hosts a Family Ice Fishing Day on Saturday (please check links to confirm scheduling). At no cost, families can use tackle, bait and prepared fishing holes! Full details are right here. Looking for accommodations? Try this handy 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.

  1. Get some great location tips for Peterborough & the Kawarthas on this webpage.
  2. For Northumberland County, get your tips & location recommendations here.
  3. If you’re headed to the Kawartha Lakes, check out local tips & guiding info here.

Dress Accordingly

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!

Chris Huskilson poses with his catch in an ice fishing hut

Ice Conditions

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 sight 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!

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