Well, from the look of things around town, the decorations and lights are going up quickly, so I guess the Christmas season is officially upon us.
And I am betting that if you have a Northern Ontario ice angler on your gift list, you are scratching your head right now, wondering what in the world you should buy them. Gotta confess, too, that we can be the most difficult folks to please. Especially the angler who seemingly already has everything he or she needs. So, where do you start?
Well, let me put on my Santa hat and give you some inexpensive, bullet-proof suggestions for the ice angler, who can open up his or her present Christmas morning and be fishing with it in the afternoon.
The first recommendation is a class of lures called horizontal glide baits that are pure gold. The Rapala Jigging Rap is the most well known in the category, but the Freedom Lures Turn Back Shad, and the Acme Lure Hyper Glide and Hyper Rattle, are top drawer products as well. In the smallest sizes, these lures are deadly for black crappies, yellow perch, speckled trout, and rainbow trout. In the mid-range sizes, on the other hand, they are ideal for walleye and whitefish from Lake Nipissing to Lake of the Woods, while the biggest models are knock out winners for lake trout and northern pike.
Northern Ontario ice anglers can also never own too many flash spoons. The Williams Wabler, Mepps Little Wolf, and Acme Kastmaster are my three wintertime favourites. Because they are weighty, they fall quickly down the hole. But when you lift them up briskly, pause, and then let them flutter back down, they sparkle, dart erratically, and attract fish.
And just like the horizontal glide baits, smaller spoons are best for attracting panfish and tough bite walleyes, while the larger models trigger lake trout and northern pike.
While we're talking about lake trout, which are probably my favourite fish to target in the winter, it's hard to imagine any lure over the years putting more trout on the ice for Northern Ontario anglers than a 3 1/2- to 5-inch tube jig. My two favourite tube makers are Bass Magnet and Angler's Choice but as long as it's white, pearl or silver in colour, you really can't go wrong.
You will put a big smile on your trout angler's face on Christmas morning, too, if you wrap up some custom poured 1/4- to 3/8-ounce jig heads made with premium ultra-sharp Gamakatsu hooks. Most ice anglers don't splurge on themselves when it comes to tube jigs, but they should, because a quality head will increase the number of hook ups by at least 25%. I order my winter supply from Domo Custom Tackle in Windsor, Ontario and they are as sharp as a nurse's needle.
Oh, boy—talking about sharp, the hottest trend in finesse winter fishing right now is using tungsten ice jigs to catch the biggest black crappies, yellow perch, and bull bluegills in the lake, river, pit, or pond. Tungsten is almost twice as dense as lead, so a tiny tungsten jig will weigh the same as a lead jig almost twice its size. And because they are considered to be premium, most tungsten jig makers like VMC's Tungsten Tubby, Acme's Pro Grade Tungsten Jigs, and HT Enterprise's Marmooska Tungsten use razor-sharp Japanese hooks to complement the bite-size nuggets.
Finally, here is an ice fishing gift idea that I guarantee will be met with smiles this Christmas morning. Buy the angler on your list a gift certificate from the local bait shop, entitling them to pick up 5, 10, even 20 dozen or more live minnows over the course of the winter. They don't have to buy them all at once—perhaps a couple of dozen each weekend, or every time they go fishing—but when they do, they'll smile and think about your savoir-faire. And if by chance, they don't use up all the bait by the end of the winter—shame on them—they can always pick up the balance as soon as the spring walleye, perch, and crappie seasons get underway.
Not one of the items I've listed will set you back more than $10.00—but when you see how brightly your ice angler's face lights up this Christmas, you'll be glad you purchased more than just one for them.
Remember to love where you live and shop local.
Happy fishing—I mean, shopping—everyone!