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Start Planning Now For First Ice Action

As Gord Pyzer, shown here with a gorgeous Northern Ontario crappie explains, the early ice fishing bird catches the worm .
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Start Planning Now For First Ice Action

Northern Ontario ice anglers are going to receive an early Christmas present shortly: some of the year's best fishing!

It has been said that the only two things you can count on for certain are death and taxes. Well, I've got good news for you. There is a third certainty, and it is that the hundreds of thousands of lakes and rivers scattered across Northern Ontario are going to freeze very soon. And with the change of seasons, we're going to be given an early Christmas present: some of the year's best fishing.

There are plenty of reasons why the Northern Ontario ice fishing scene is so good as soon as you can safely venture out on to the hard water. One of the most important reasons is that the fish have been enjoying a holiday of late.

Since Labour Day, the boat traffic and fishing pressure on even the most popular waterways has diminished greatly, meaning the fish have settled down, chilled out, and bunched up around certain key structures and cover, in ever greater numbers and concentrations.

In addition, the feeding frenzy that walleye, sauger, northern pike, yellow perch, and black crappies undertake in the fall, to recharge their batteries in order to get them through the cold water months, doesn't suddenly come to an end the minute that ice covers your favourite lake.

As a matter of fact, it peaks.

ontario whitefish

Northern Ontario ice anglers are going to receive an early Christmas present shortly -- some of the year's best fishing. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

It is why the early ice fishing bird catches the worm.

Oh, and if you don't think it can’t get any better than this, consider the fact that you can zero in and pick out the specific locations where you are going to auger your first holes in three or four weeks time. Matter of fact, you can do it in the comfort of your living room or office, just don't let the boss catch you doing it.

The reason it is so easy to pinpoint the hot spots is because the fish will be where you leave them today, or where you left them last week.

Let me explain.

Fishing calendar periods aren't rigid. They are transitory. It's why you don't find the walleye, northern pike, or yellow perch in, say, an autumn location one day and a totally different winter spot the next. Instead, the fish drift, shift, coast and go with the flow, responding slowly and often subtly to ever changing water, weather and environmental conditions.

gord pyzer black crappie ice fishing
Since Labour Day, the fishing pressure on most lakes has diminished greatly, meaning the fish have bunched up in great numbers and concentrations. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Case in point: we're in the latter stages right now of what is known as the fall consolidation period. It's the time of the year when the fish are typically relocating from shallow shoreline locations to main lake structures like underwater points and sunken reefs that typically lie adjacent to the main lake basin.

As fall continues to wane and winter waxes, however, ever more greater numbers of walleye, perch and black crappies are going to crowd around these specific pieces of structure and cover.

Which makes predicting the best locations to fish at first ice so relatively easy.

Indeed, for the last month or so, I've made sure I've stuffed the same handheld GPS unit that I keep in my snowsuit to guide me around in the winter in my fall fishing parka. And every time I've tapped into a nice concentration of walleye, yellow perch or black crappies I have punched in the waypoint, labelled the species and saved it accordingly.

If you use a portable sonar unit that includes a GPS chartplotter in the winter, on the other hand, like the outstanding Humminbird Ice Helix Sonar/GPS, put it in the boat and punch in your late fall waypoints the same way.

Alternatively, you can take the Zero Line card out of the unit you have sitting on the console of your boat and insert it into your winter chartplotter and you're off to the races.

Failing all that, you can turn on the chartplotter in your boat, even if it is sitting in the driveway or stored in the garage, hit to "go to" waypoint button, and then write down the latitude and longitude of this fall's best locations. After that, it is a simple matter of manually entering the spots into your handheld GPS unit or portable sonar/chartplotter.

Ditto, if you back up and save your waypoints to your PC, which you should do on a regular basis. Simply open up the program, jot down the lat/long specifics, and then punch them into your winter GPS unit.

gord pyzer ice fishing black crappie

As Gord Pyzer explains, when ice covers your favourite Northern Ontario lake in the days ahead, you'll be able to drill your first ice fishing holes right over top of the fish. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Armed with this precise information, the fish can run, but they surely can't hide. And in two, three or four weeks' time, when solid ice finally covers your favourite Northern Ontario lake, river, reservoir, pit or pond, you'll be able to confidently drill the first ice fishing holes of the season right over top of the fish.

Of that, like death and taxes, you can be certain.

young angler fishing walleye

The reason it is easy to pinpoint the best places to catch walleyes at first ice is because they will still be where you left them yesterday. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

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