Here is a trick question for you. What special event occurs this week right across Ontario?
If you said, Valentine's Day, you would only get part marks because the real highlight -- better make that "reel" highlight -- is Ontario's Free Family Fishing Weekend that starts one minute after midnight this coming Saturday morning (February 18 2017) and runs straight through until one minute before mid-night on Monday night (February 20 2017).
Sounds like Cinderella at the ball, doesn't it?
Sounds like Cinderella at the ball, doesn't it?
That is three full days Ontario residents -- as well as all other Canadian residents -- can enjoy fishing anywhere in the province without having to buy a licence or an Outdoor Card. So, if you've always wanted to learn how to ice fish or introduce a friend to the fabulous sport, this is the weekend to do it.
Indeed, I like to think of Ontario's Free Family Fishing Weekend as a risk-free trial period when folks, who may otherwise be confined to the urban jungle, can get outdoors and discover what many of us already know. Nothing compares to fishing in Ontario.
Ditto, Canadian residents in other provinces, here is your chance to visit Ontario for three days and enjoy the phenomenal ice fishing opportunities the province has to offer licence free. As a matter of fact, with Valentine's occurring the day before, what better gift to give your best girl or guy than a surprise winter getaway to one of Ontario's fabulous lodges or resorts.
And the timing couldn't be better
Indeed, let's be honest, this winter has been colder and snowier in most parts than normal, but all that is quickly changing and the weather forecasts are promising absolutely gorgeous conditions.
As a matter of fact, I was out ice fishing on my home lake, Lake of the Woods, in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset County the other day and the sky was as blue as a robin's egg and I could feel the soothing warmth of the sun beating down on my jacket.
You can tell that Spring is on the way.
Even better yet, the walleye and yellow perch are feeding ravenously. It is no surprise, either because I've always considered that mid-February kicks off the start of the best ice fishing of the winter. So, talk about a fun and affordable way to hook into some of those fish.
And talking about fun ways to catch fish, check out the Events List that highlights many of the ice fishing festivals, clinics and activities the various groups, communities and organizations have planned for you.
I would, especially, recommend taking the family to one of the many ice fishing derbies because these are typically "hoot-and-holler", fun-filled-events. Indeed, in almost every case, the holes have already been drilled for you so you don't need an auger. And most of the events are timed for the middle of the day, to take advantage of the beautiful spring-like conditions.
There is also, usually, plenty of warm food and refreshments for the kids, as well as prizes for the biggest and smallest fish caught. And since most of the derbies are confined to relatively small, cordoned-off sections of the lake, they're social events where you can always find plenty of folks willing to lend a hand and offer advice. Everyone stands an equal chance of winning.
In addition, at several of the organized events you can learn about proper ice fishing techniques and ethical angling, as well as how to protect fish and fish habitat while using our natural resources wisely.
By the same token, however, if you already consider yourself to be a seasoned angler, you don't need someone else to do the planning for you. Take on the leadership role yourself and organize an ice fishing party this weekend for your family and friends, especially, the younger folks and unlicensed newcomers who may never before have caught a fish through a hole in the ice.
This is your time to shine in the winter sun. So, get out there and drill a bunch of holes, supply the rods, reels and tackle and get a big wood fire going on shore around which everyone can roast hotdogs, toast marshmallows, tell tall tales and otherwise relax, while waiting to run after each other when the next tip-up flag goes flying.
Talk about a great way to spend some quality time together as a family enjoying Ontario's great outdoors.
The rules are pretty simple, if you're a Canadian resident, you can fish for free this weekend anywhere in Ontario and enjoy all of the benefits you otherwise would if you had bought a Conservation licence.
With more than 400,000 lakes, rivers and streams and almost half of the freshwater on Earth, we have the greatest fishing adventures on the planet right here in Ontario.
And you can enjoy them all -- licence free -- traveling the natural way, this Ontario Family Fishing Weekend.