I pull out my camera when I see my uncle Terry’s jigging rod bent sharply with the protests of a good-sized fish. After a spirited tussle, a buck splake of at least three pounds is flopping on the ice. Terry proudly hoists the dark and brilliantly coloured hybrid for a photo. Just as I’m starting to zoom in on the gorgeous fish, it flips out of his hands and does a perfect swish back down the hole. Terry plunges both hands into the icy water but comes up with nothing. My good-natured uncle shakes it off, starts jigging again and is sure to remind us how conservation-minded he is by quickly releasing the first good fish of the day.
By early afternoon the warm March weather and cloudless sky has Terry’s buddy, Les, and my dad and I donning sunglasses and slathering on sunscreen. Despite the intense sun we manage to catch more than enough lake trout and splake for dinner. Our success, and the prospect of another sunny day on the ice, inspires my aunt Carol and Les’s wife Denise to join us the next day.
I suppose with this weather we should have made an earlier start but it’s probably 10:30 a.m. before we are dropping our lines off one of the several rocky islands in the four-kilometre-long lake. It was a long and lovely ride past cabins, houses, and ice shacks along Dunlop Lake to pick up a wide, groomed trail over an undulating landscape before winding through a narrow bush trail to the lake.
Lake Trout Clinic
Terry and I catch a few small lake trout early on but Denise puts on a clinic. While we are soaking in the sun and waiting for bites on our still lines, Denise is jigging a white tube incessantly and landing a procession of trout well into the warm afternoon. What has been a particularly long and cold winter makes spending time on the sunbathed ice with friends and family even more enjoyable.
I’m lucky to have family in Elliot Lake, but all anglers equipped with snowmobiles and ice fishing gear have a choice of bed-and-breakfast, hotel or lodge accommodation where they can step out of their room and jump on their sleds. This snowmobile-friendly town has more than 150 kilometres of groomed snowmobile trails within the city limits. Of course it doesn’t hurt that there are nine townships within the city limits of Elliot Lake with close to 40 stocked lakes containing brook trout, rainbow trout or lake trout. Add more than 30 self-sustaining native lake trout lakes within town and the only problem visiting anglers may have is deciding where to fish.