A Winter Ice Fishing Wonderland

Frozen for about 1/3 of the year, Algoma Country has a wealth of ice fishing opportunities on waters big and small.

Best Tactics and Practices for Catching Walleye, Pike, Trout, Yellow Perch & Whitefish



Ice and snow are a given for the people of Ontario who live in the tourism district known as Algoma Country. From the Manitoulin Islands in the east to Nakina in the west, Algoma Country is located in the heart of Ontario and along the northern edge of the snow belt.

Safe ice is generally set up by early December and anglers can almost guarantee the ice fishing season will last through March. Ice and snow locks up Algoma Country for clearly a third of the year. In this part of the world when the weatherman hands you lemons, you make lemonade or lemonade sickles as the case may be.

Ice fishermen target a host of species in Algoma Country all winter long. The trout fishing season opens January 1 and with that milestone come opportunities to target both brook trout and lake trout. Walleye, northern pike, yellow perch and whitefish are also plentiful and common targets for winter fishermen.

TROUT TACTICS

Anglers after either brook trout or lake trout will find that tip-ups baited with live minnows dominate the winter ice fishing scene. Most tip-up fishermen favor a coated braid that doesn't absorb water as the main line attached to a 6 foot leader of 10 to 15 pound test ultra clear fluorocarbon line. At the terminal end either a No. 2 single hook or a No. 6 treble hook and just enough split shots to sink the bait completes the tip-up rig.

Brook trout favor shallow water and are most commonly found along rocky shorelines and near the tips of rocky points. Brook trout are most often caught in water 10 feet deep or less.

Lake trout favor deeper water in the winter time and typically spend their days in the deeper basins of the lake. To locate lake trout seek out water from 40 to 150 feet deep, using electronics to confirm the presence of fish.

WALLEYE TACTICS

Walleye can be caught through the ice readily on tip-ups baited with live minnows and also by jigging with leadhead jigs, jigging spoons and jigging/swimming baits. Ontario law allows ice fishermen the luxury of two lines per person. Most anglers after walleye will set out a tip-up with one line and jig nearby with a second line.

Points that taper into deeper water and the mouth of tributary streams are prime spots to search for winter walleye.

NORTHERN PIKE

The tip-up is the most common fish trap used to ice northern pike across Algoma Country. Again, coated braid makes for the ideal main line for tip-up fishing. At the terminal end a six foot leader of 25 to 40 pound test fluorocarbon line helps to insure against "bite offs".

A No. 2 treble hook baited with a 6 to 12 inch sucker minnow is considered standard equipment for winter pike fishing. Black bottom bays with 6 to 15 feet of water and plenty of cabbage weeds are great places to set out tip-ups for winter pike.

YELLOW PERCH

Yellow perch are found in most of Ontario's inland lakes. Ice fishermen target this species by using small jigging spoons tipped with either the head of a minnow or a wax worm for bait.

Aggressive feeders, perch bite well all winter long. Usually these fish are found near bottom and often on mud flats where they feed on aquatic insects like mayfly larva.

perch fishing411 tacticsIce fishermen traveling to Algoma Country can expect a mixed bag in most instances. Yellow perch and walleye are often caught from the same places making the chances for a “fish fry” about as close to guaranteed as it gets on the ice! (Photo credit: Mark Romanack)

WHITEFISH

Relatives of the trout family, the lake whitefish is abundant on literally hundreds of Ontario lakes. Like lake trout whitefish favor deep water during the winter months and are commonly found in 40 to 150 feet of water.

Jigging spoons tipped with the head of a minnow are the most common lure used to target whitefish. A growing number of anglers are also using jigging/swimming lures like the Jigging Rapala produced by Rapala and the Shimmering Minnow produced by Moonshine Tackle.

These baits are small in size, but heavy enough to fish in deep water. Let the bait free fall to bottom, then reel up the slack line and jig near bottom. Every few jigging strokes, drop the rod tip and allow the bait to crash bottom.

ICE FISHING RESOURCES

A number of resorts and businesses in Algoma Country remain open in the winter and cater to ice fishermen. Some businesses to check out include:

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