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Ice Fishing Forecast Part Two

Gord Pyzer, shown here with a beautiful Northern Ontario walleye, says conditions are coming together perfectly for the start to the ice fishing season. • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Ice Fishing Forecast Part Two

This week's focus is conditions in Northeastern and Southern Ontario

Will ice anglers be pleasantly surprised this winter? Keep reading to find out.

It just keeps on getting better.

Last week I reported on the early ice conditions in the Northwestern and Northcentral parts of the province and the fact that they are shaping up to be epic. This week, let's take a look at how things are coming together in Northeastern and Southern Ontario.

"I just got back from hunting deer in the Mattawa area," says North Bay ice fishing fanatic, Mat Koprash, "and I was thinking about how the weather is lining up for us to enjoy a quality winter. We have had single-digit temperatures in early November and ice is forming fast. If we can continue to avoid heavy snowfall and highly fluctuating temperatures for a few more days, I think we are in for a stellar ice fishing season."

mat koprash ice fishing perch

Mat Koprash is all smiles thinking about the way the current ice fishing season is shaping up.  We’re betting he has jumbo yellow perch from Lake Nipissing on his mind. (Photo credit: Mat Koprash)

Koprash is quick to point out that ideal late fall and early winter conditions include stable sub-zero Celsius temperatures with minimal amounts of snow and rain. Heavy snow and copious rains weigh heavily on early ice causing it to sag and buckle, allowing lake water to flow up through the cracks creating slush on the surface.  The lack of early season snow and rain so far this season, however, is allowing for the formation of a stable layer of black ice on the surface of many Northeastern Ontario water bodies.

mat koprash ice fishing perch

(Photo credit: Mat Koprash)

"Once a lake has achieved five to ten inches of black ice," says Koprash, "I am more than happy to see some snow accumulation for insulation and travelling needs. The blanket of snow acts as a buffer to the underlying ice layers that continue to accumulate as the season goes on. It also provides protection from mild and rainy conditions. I really hope to see 24 inches of black ice this winter with 8 inches of packed windblown snow on top of it."

Another reason Koprash likes the way the upcoming ice fishing season is shaping up is because last winter's fluctuating temperatures threw the fishing for a loop, especially for lake trout.

ice fishing lake trout

Mat Kroprash says warm temperatures and rain last year made for challenging lake trout fishing, but this season is shaping up to be excellent. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"I was able to get the perch to co-operate last winter on Lake Nipissing using a silver/blue Williams Ice Jig," says Koprash. "And the bite was on all season long. But the trout fishing was more of a challenge."

Further south on Lake Simcoe, perhaps the most famous ice fishery in North America, good friend John Whyte, says ice anglers may be in for a pleasant surprise this winter. He says that while the southern part of the province has experienced record-breaking warm temperatures this autumn, conditions are actually ideal for an excellent ice fishing season.

"Last season," says Whyte who publishes the highly popular Time on the Water Canada,"the middle of the lake didn’t freeze at all. It didn't affect the majority of ice anglers who typically fish for yellow perch, because the bays and shoreline areas still had enough ice. And the perch fishing was good for numbers of fish and size.

john whyte ice fishing perch

John Whyte says that ice anglers could be in for a very pleasant surprise this winter. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"Many whitefish anglers also discovered they could catch fish shallow, so there was plenty of ice in the popular areas for them as well. And the whitefish bite was excellent. It was the lake trout fishing that was hit the hardest. It was a much shorter season and the prolonged warm weather took its toll."

john whyte ice fishing whitefish

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Whyte went on to explain, however, that ice anglers may be pleasantly surprised this winter because the Great Lakes and large water bodies like Lake Simcoe remained much colder than normal this summer. As a result, we are heading into the ice-making season with a head start.

ice fishing walleye

High levels kept water temperatures down this summer, giving the ice making process a welcomed head start. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"The colder than normal water temperatures were due to a very late spring and much higher water levels," says Whyte. "With the extra water, it took more energy to warm up everything. I took surface temperature readings on Lake Simcoe the other day and they were running in the low 40-degree Fahrenheit range. That is a lot colder than this time last year.

gord pyzer ice fishing trout

Single-digit temperatures and low amounts of snow have combined to make for ideal early-season ice conditions in Northeastern Ontario. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

"It has also been an unusual fall, with the trees staying green throughout most of October, but then turning brown and falling quickly. The migratory ducks have also come through earlier. And the bass are bursting at the seams, feeding up ravenously, as most of the bottom food has been exhausted. I just finished producing a video on Kempenfelt Bay and I didn't see a single goby."

gord pyzer ice fishing lake trout

(Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Reflecting on what he is seeing, Whyte couldn't stop a smile from crossing his face as he contemplated the upcoming ice fishing season. Colder than normal water temperatures, chilly nights in the forecast, and a scarcity of food for all the lake trout, whitefish, yellow perch, and herring that are swimming around in the lake.

"Like I said," he chuckled, "ice anglers could be in for a very pleasant surprise this winter."

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