Winter fishermen are a special breed of outdoorsman, many of whom would not trade their sport for any other in the world. Just the thought of padding on numerous layers of clothing and sitting over a hole in the ice with a rod in your hand would send chills up most people's spines, but the cold weather does not deter these die-hards! This region is well know for it's cold, bitter winters, and the added comfort of a heated ice hut is often a welcomed treat to the weekend fisherman. Here is a run down of what Eastern Ontario has to offer this winter for the ice fishing enthusiast in search of adventure, as well as comfort.
Probably the most popular destination for winter fishing in the area is located in the Ottawa area, at Petrie Island
. A virtual "shanty town" can be seen along old highway 17. Located just off of Trim Road in Cumberland, Petrie Island offers a great variety of winter fishing opportunities. There are 12 heated ice huts available for rent, many of which are positioned at a selection of different water depths. Ice fishermen in this area of the Ottawa river regularly catch northern pike and yellow perch, as well as the highly sought after walleye. The Petrie Island Bait and Tackle Shop has all the necessary equipment needed for an enjoyable day on the ice, including a variety of different jigs, live bait, ice fishing rods and tip-ups.
According to the bait and tackle shop operator Claude Moreau, they have enjoyed a great season thus far, and his huts are always quite active. "The guys have been pulling in decent catches of walleye early in the morning and again around dark," says Moreau. "Some nice ones in the 7- to 8-pound range have also been landed," he adds. Other species fortunate anglers have been lucky enough to hook into include the elusive muskie, that are often caught while jigging for walleye or pike. Many of these specimens have tipped the scales in excess of 20 pounds. The muskie, however, cannot be legally kept at this time of year, so remember to release all muskie unharmed. The occasional sturgeon has also been landed at Petrie, but these catches are even more rare. Due to the fish's impressive size, sturgeon often prove to be difficult to land using conventional ice fishing equipment. To reserve your Petrie Island ice hut for the day or inquire about fishing conditions, contact Cluade Moreau at (819)841-0778.
For those interested in trout fishing this winter, the valley in the Barry's Bay area has two lakes that are increasing in popularity for the winter angler. Bark lake and Carson lake
both offer fantastic lake trout fishing, with both good quantities and quality lake trout being caught. Bob Sheard of Carson Lake Villas, operates ice huts on both lakes and is not surprised at the renewed interest in ice fishing on the two lakes. "Many of my clients, who in the past have traveled to the big lakes, now come here instead," says Sheard, and for good reason. It is rare that the ice fisherman go home empty handed from either of these lakes. Carson Lake has a thriving population of lake trout, with sizes averaging in the 2- to 3-pound range.
by comparison, has been producing some very large fish this year, some in the 8- to 10-pound class. Carson Lake Villas offers a great ice fishing package, which includes a comfortably heated ice hut, all the required tackle, and transportation to and from the huts. Sheard also offers an overnight package with lakeside cabin accommodations. To reserve your trip, contact Bob or Erika Sheard at 1(800) 218-0738.
Another new winter trout fishing destination has recently opened in the Outaouais region. In just a little over a one hour drive from the city of Hull, you'll find the Lake Simon
tourist district, near Duhamel. This region of Western Quebec has long been famous for its winter deer watching. Dozens of on-lookers flock to Duhamel each winter to observe whitetail deer feeding in plain view.
This winter, the Quebec government has introduced a special arrangement for deer watchers, who are also interested in the sport of ice fishing. A short distance from the deer feeding troughs at Duhamel is Lac de la Ferme
(Farm lake). This lake has been stocked with several million brook trout over the past few years, and is presently open for ice fishing. The best part is, it's free of charge. Although a Quebec fishing license is required, all valid license holders are permitted to keep 10 brook trout per day. At Lac de la Ferme, each ice-fisherman is also allowed to fish with five lines, instead of Quebec's usual limit of two lines per person. For those interested in bringing their family and making a weekend of it, there are cabins available for rent. For more information call: (819) 428-7931.
The Dumas Hunting and Fishing Club of Hull, held their annual ice fishing tournament on Leamy Lake recently. It proved to be another successful outing, with a good turnout. Leamy lake
is another destination offering a fine ice fishing opportunity in the Outaouais region. Northern pike and Lake trout are the two main species anglers look for. The Dumas club gathers regularly for ice fishing excursions on many different waters in the Outaouais. To find out more about winter fishing in this region, contact the club president Bob Lance at (819) 776-2794.
For the winter angler interested in trophy walleye fishing, one should look no further than the Bay of Quinte
. This famous winter walleye "Mecca", has been producing world class fish for many years. Located approximately 2 hours south of Ottawa, in the Belleville and Napanee area, Quinte is still holding up to its legendary reputation. With the onslaught of zebra mussels in the great lakes over the years, the Bay of Quinte has certainly felt the effects. The mussel infestation has resulted in increased water clarity and changing walleye feeding patterns. Although, most anglers have learned to adapt to the bay's metamorphosis, and continue to reel in the big ones.
Walleye over 10 pounds are almost commonplace on the bay, and good numbers of fish can also be found on most outings. One area of the bay to focus on this winter would be the narrows at Desoronto. Ice conditions can sometimes be unstable, but under safe conditions anglers will usually cash in.
Other areas to focus on in the Bay of Quinte, are the Bay bridge in Belleville, the Trenton area, and Point Anne on the shore of Big bay. Ice hut operators on the Bay of Quinte number in the dozens, and all basically have the same thing to offer. Some good packages worth looking into are offered by Baycrest Lodge and Marina, who offer overnight stays featuring housekeeping cottages, lodges and ice hut rentals. To make your reservation at Baycrest call (613) 476-5357. The Big Island Bed & Breakfast also offers several different ice fishing packages, including lodging, meals, and all required ice fishing equipment. Call Peter Robertson for more information at (613) 476-8468.
, in the Central Ontario Tourist District, is another ice fishing destination definitely worth trying out. Simcoe boasts some 5,000 ice huts each winter, and thousands of anglers in search of perch, walleye, lake trout and white fish. If large perch are your fancy, the Keswick area
is presently enjoying good perch action. Farrouk Motivala of Keffer's Fish Hut Rental has had many reports of "jumbo perch" hitting minnows in 15- to 23-feet of water. To make reservations call: (905) 476-4161.
If Simcoe whitefish and lake trout are your quarry, the Oro Station area of Simcoe has been looking great this winter. "There have been a few trout caught in the high teens and low twenties, and some whitefish landed in the 8- to 10-pound range," said Billy Campbell, of Apache Hut Rentals in Oro Station. To rent your ice hut in this deep water area of lake Simcoe, call (705) 787-0187.
Wherever you may decide to try your luck ice fishing in eastern Ontario this winter, remember to dress accordingly and that safety always comes first. As winter progresses in this region, it is wise to phone the ice hut operators in advance for an update on ice conditions. When March approaches, so too will the warmer weather. Ice may become unstable and thin, and also form large "pressure cracks" in some areas. The Ministry of Natural Resources dictates that ice huts be removed by March 15th, in most areas. By the end of March, the ice fishing season completely shuts down in our region, so enjoy the two months that remain, and maybe I will see you on the ice!
Before you pack up for this trip, check out Cabela's great deals on ice fishing gear