Drive past a good fishing lake in Kawarthas Northumberland during the winter and chances are good you’ll see a smattering of ice huts out on the water. Ice fishing puts a unique twist on familiar activity, and it’s accessible to participants of all ages. The biggest challenge for some people is knowing how to get started, so we’ve put together a handful of options to help make it fun and easy.
The best place for a newbie to try their hand at ice fishing is at the OFAH Family Fishing Weekend. This annual tradition takes place over the Family Day weekend (February 16-19 in 2019) and allows fishing without a license, making for a convenient and affordable outing. Equipment is provided through the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters’ TackleShare program. All holes are pre-drilled, and prizes are dished out to keep young fisherfolk engaged. Ice conditions are checked regularly leading up to the event to ensure a safe experience for the 1,000 expected participants.
If this event sounds intriguing, shuttles depart regularly to BEL Rotary Park north of Peterborough and experts are on site to demonstrate the tools of the trade. Chemong Lake provides an excellent habitat for perch, bluegill, and crappie, so odds of landing a catch are good. Just note if you’re having a very lucky day on the ice, all regular license limits must still be observed.
Rice Lake also offers terrific ice fishing – it even got the thumbs up from fishing legend Bob Izumi. Elmhirst’s Resort got in on the Family Day festivities last year too, but if you’re tied up that weekend Elmhirst’s can help arrange equipment throughout the season. Couple that with their luxurious cottages and you have all the makings of a memorable winter getaway.
Golden Beach Resort’s ice fishing package is a pretty sweet deal. Booking a weekend with them gets you access a two or four-person heated ice hut, all the necessary equipment, and five hours of fishing time. Oh, and a two-bedroom lakeside condo with a gas fireplace to retreat to with the day’s catch. It’s a good setup for beginners and pros alike — you can even arrange to bring your own ice hut.
Wherever you’re heading for your next ice fishing expedition, the usual winter rules apply. Dressing in layers is highly advisable, as you’re likely to warm up while getting established then cool down as you wait for a bite. Never assume ice is safe. If you’re not going with an experience guide, then remember ice should be a minimum of 15-20 cm thick. It’s important to gauge that thickness regularly as when moving from location to location. If you’re coming from a distance, it’s best to check on the conditions with local fishing authorities before making a long trek.
Outside of Family Day weekend, of course, anyone between the ages of 18 and 65 will need a license. Details on how to get one can be found here. Get some tips from local pro Chris Huskilson’s more thorough equipment recommendations. Hope the sun’s shining and the fish are biting for your first ice fishing expedition!