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Snowshoe to Ice Fishing Success

Today’s sturdy, modern snowshoes aren't big, bulky nor cumbersome and you can wear them with any kind of footwear. They're so practical you'll forget you’re even wearing them! • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Snowshoe to Ice Fishing Success

Strap on a pair of snowshoes and walk to your favourite Northern Ontario fishing hole

When you're eleven years old, what is better than catching fat, sassy Northern Ontario walleye and tasty jumbo yellow perch on a sunny, warm, mid-March spring day?

The answer is catching them after you strap on a pair of snowshoes and walk to your favourite ice fishin' hole.

That is what my grandson, Liam and I did on the weekend and he is still talking about it. Not the fish, necessarily, but the hike across the snow-covered lake on our modern webbed feet.

Like much of North America we've enjoyed record amounts of snow this winter in Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country. And with the warming temperatures of late, it has made for some tricky travelling. The ice is still plenty safe enough, heck, there is more than three feet of the stuff, but if you're not running a snowmachine, trudging through the deep snow can tire you out quickly, especially if you're pulling a sled or toboggan weighed down with ice fishing rods, reels, sonar units, auger and tackle.

Even with a snow machine, the deep wet white stuff is taxing. So, what is an angler to do?

"I've got a great idea," Liam said, grinning from ear to ear. "Let's put our fishing gear onto the sleighs and pull them with snowshoes."

Who says you need an expensive snowmachine to access the best fishing spots on your favourite lake in Northern Ontario? Liam Whetter snowshed over four-foot-deep snowdrifts to easily access this spot where the walleye were biting. And getting there was fun. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Hmmm, I thought, maybe the kid's onto something here. I mean, even if it didn't work out as well as his young mind had pre-determined, at least we'd have some fun in the glorious Northern Ontario outdoors.

Which is the long and the short of how we found ourselves, after driving thirty kilometres down the ice road on Lake of the Woods, strapping on our snowshoes like a pair of modern-day Dangerous Dan McGrew.

And lest you think these were the old-fashioned wood shoes with the curved up tips and moose hide webbing, better think again!

We were wearing the new modern shoes that you can buy at any of the big box hardware stores or fishing tackle outlets. Made of extremely lightweight hollow aluminum tubing, they're neither big, bulky nor cumbersome. And you can wear them under any kind of footwear. As a matter of fact, once you snap them under your boots and start walking, you forget you're even wearing them.

I have to confess, as well, that I was shocked at how well they supported us on top of the snow. Liam and I barely sunk an inch or two down and it felt like we were walking on pavement. I was reminded that we weren't, however, when one foot popped out of the binding that I had failed to tighten securely and my leg sank down into the waist-deep drift.

Now, picture the scene: I am in the middle of Lake of the Woods with one leg fully supported on top of the snow, while the other one is buried in sugar almost up to my waist. And there is an 11-year old wise guy rolling with laughter in the snow.

Kids just have no respect for their elders these days.

Within no time at all, however, guided by my handheld GPS unit, Liam and I arrived at the tip of the underwater point we wanted to fish and soon had our holes drilled and lines set up. And we were catching walleye and perch with relative consistency and ease. Fast enough and big enough that most anglers would be pleased. So, guess what the wise guy suggested next, with a big grin?

"What da' ya' say we start runnin' and gunnin', Grandpa?"

For the uninitiated, "running and gunning" is what we do in our boats during the open water season and on our snowmachines and 4x4 quads in the winter, hitting dozens of different locations over the course of a day.

But on snowshoes! Was the kid crazy?

No, but it does tell you how much fun you really can have when you open up your mind to the possibilities and start thinking again like a kid. The truth of the matter is, sturdy, modern, lightweight, aluminum snowshoes let you access not only the well-known, popular fishing spots across Northern Ontario but so many of the virgin, untouched, picture-postcard backcountry lakes that rarely see another angler. And it is so remarkably easy to do.

In fact, when I dropped off Liam after our first day of snowshoe fishing success, and we made plans for the next morning, I said to him, "Do you want me to put the snowmachine in the back of the truck tomorrow?"

He hemmed and hawed and thought about it for all of 30 seconds and replied, "No, let's just take the snowshoes."

Sometimes you need an 11-year old kid to tell you how to really have fun ice fishing in Northern Ontario.

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