The days are quickly getting shorter and evening temps are dropping fast. These autumn elements prompt hardwater enthusiasts to think of the winter to come and the joy of ice-fishing. For many people ice fishing is a very social event times that are shared and spent with friends. As the holiday season approaches, ice fishermen begin to long for the ice to form in Northeastern Ontario, hoping to be able to start ice-fishing early in January. Lake Nipissing, all 214,000 acres of it, is only about a 3 hour drive for about forty percent of the population of Ontario.
As soon as the ice is safe, Callander Bay (Southeastern section of Lake Nipissing) is soon covered with ice fishing shanties and bungalows. Overnight stays in ice bungalows provided by local outfitters such as Rob Hyatt’s Lake Nipissing Ice Bungalows are immensely popular up here! Comfortable sleeping quarters situated right on some of the best ice fishing grounds in Callander Bay can provide an on the ice base camp for those ice fishermen who prefer to move around or a social hub for those who rather stay put.
One of the great benefits of staying right on the ice is you can fish when you feel like it. You are able to sleep, eat or fish at your leisure. Now depending on how many of your friends snore, you might want to sleep in shifts! Many of the huts have ghetto strike indicators made of a wooden dowel and a spring door stop where you could set a simple hand line with a split shot and a minnow on a hook. This is as basic a rig as there is but if you can multi-task, you can cook dinner or play cards with your friends while still fishing.
You can bring your own auger to drill holes outside your ice bungalow where you can set up various types of tip ups. In Ontario each person can use up to two lines while ice-fishing. So you can jig with a rod while keeping an eye on the flag or whatever type of strike indicator there is on your tip-up. When the flag goes off, you better get ready to run. That’s why it’s a good idea not to set up your tip-up too far away unless you enjoy sprinting! On Nipissing, many homemade tip-ups can be spotted but for those of you who are tight on time and are dangerous with tools in your hand, HT makes just about every kind of tip-up imaginable from the ever popular Windlass to the Balance Tip-Up which incorporates your ice fishing rod & reel combo as a tip-up!
Lake Nipissing offers one of the most diverse fisheries in Northeastern Ontario. In Callander Bay, popular target species include Walleye. Whitefish, Perch, Northern Pike, Herring (Ciscoes) and even Burbots. Number one on most people’s hit list and taste buds would be the largest member of the Perch family, the Walleye. Walleyes are plentiful in Callander but please be aware that there is a slot size in place. Please make sure that you check the slot size, daily and possession limits with the local Ministry of Natural Resources office or the outfitter that you are renting from. Our friendly MNR Conservation Officers frequently patrol Lake Nipissing checking for fishing licenses and enforcing the slot limits!
Although there is very little that can compare with a feed of freshly caught and cooked Walleye filets, Perch is really close. In terms of dinner fare, the lowly Burbot (Ling) is probably a close third in that race. Not the prettiest fish caught through the ice but this close freshwater relative of the Atlantic Cod does not disappoint at the dinner table. It has firm flakey white flesh and is commonly referred to as “Poor-man’s Lobster” Please see a simple recipe at the end of this article!
A frequent catch on Lake Nipissing is not even a fish but a member of the amphibian family, a Mud Puppy. A Mud Puppy is a water bound salamander that will voraciously attack your live bait offerings, especially at night. Don’t fret if you happen to catch one; they don’t bite and are harmless. Use a glove to grab it if you don’t like the feel of their slimy skin. Gently unhook it and release it back down the hole. Grown macho men have gone scurrying for a chair to perch upon merely at the sight of these cool critters.
The best and most successful fish catching presentations on Lake Nipissing often involve live bait or some form of jigging. Most outfitters readily have live bait, notably minnows, available and if you find yourself short of any tackle; it is worth the drive into North Bay to visit North Bay Outfitters. This relatively new tackle shop is extremely well stocked and should be able to supply you with anything you might need to catch fish for your dinner. Artificial lures that are worthwhile having in your tackle box for your Callander Bay trip include-
For Perch: McGathy’s Slab Grabbers, Jig A Whopper Rocker Minnow, Force First Strike Minnows, HT Marmooska Tungsten Jigs, Jig A Whopper Zebra Jigs, Slim Rat Ice Jigs and X Zone Pan Slammers
For Walleye: Force Quick Strike Minnows, EGB Spoons, Force Chatter Spoons, Salmo Chubby Darters, Williams Warblers, Fin-tech Knuckle Ball Jigs and X Zone Swammers
To put the odds in your favour, if you own an ice fishing sonar unit or flasher, make sure that you bring it with you. Electronics are your eyes beneath the water! Knowing that there are fish around can make all the difference in the world when it comes to catching or not catching fish.
Plan a fun-filled ice fishing adventure to Lake Nipissing and in particular Callander Bay to create some exciting new fishing memories!
Poor-man’s Lobster (Burbot Recipe)
- 1 lb. Burbot (Ling) backstraps, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 qt. water
- 1/4 c vinegar
- 2 tsp. salt
Add salt to water in saucepan. Stir well. Bring to a full boil. Add vinegar. Let it come to a full boil again. Slowly add Burbot chunks. Let it come to a full boil and boil for 2 minutes. Drain. Serve with melted butter and salt and pepper.
Some useful links for planning your Lake Nipissing adventure: