If you’re new to the idea of ice fishing, are looking to introduce a friend or are trying to get the kids involved, the fast-approaching Family Fishing Weekend in February is a great opportunity, where Canadians can enjoy licence-free fishing across the province.
Hugging the shores of Lake Nipissing, which is famous for its ice fishing, North Bay is a great location to start your family fishing trip to Northeastern Ontario.
When the lake freezes over, Lake Nipissing becomes a winter village of ice huts and bungalows dotting the shoreline. Most bungalows are outfitted with the comforts of home: propane furnace, propane lights, cooking utensils, a table and chairs, bunk beds, heated private washroom, and 10" drilled holes are usually included.
For your convenience, here is an article listing a round up of Lake Nipissing’s ice fishing operators.
Like any sport, there are rules. Before you venture out on the lake, you should be aware of the fishing regulations set in place by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry to protect the environment and ensure safety to anglers.
Rules and Regulations
To get you started, download the MNRF’s Take a Kid Fishing handbook, which provides you with fishing how-to’s and safety tips.
A valid fishing licence is required to be able to fish in Ontario, and you have to know and follow the rules set within the Fisheries Management Zone you’re fishing in. For instance, North Bay and Lake Nipissing are categorized under FMZ 11, which requires anglers to register their ice huts and remove them by March 31.
Whether it’s for walleye, northern pike, lake trout, muskie or smallmouth bass, you can fish with two lines, as long as you have an unobstructed view and stay within 60 metres at all times of any line or tip-up.
Lake Conditions and Safety Tips
Beyond staying in the loop with current trends and regulations, it’s a good idea to contact a local lodge operator or bait shop for lake conditions. The Ontario Ice Fishing Report provides weekly updates on lake conditions and species, with persons to contact.
As a general safety precaution, the ice should be 4” thick before you walk out on the lake. Snowmobiles and ATVs need at least 8”, and vehicles need at least 12” before it’s safe to drive on. Always be extra cautious on river and stream ice, and be on the lookout for open water.
You should also make yourself knowledgeable on the procedures to take in the case of someone falling through the ice, like carrying waterproof matches and spikes in your pocket.
Most of all, don't let the cold keep you inside. There are many ways to ensure your day can be an enjoyable one, like dressing properly, having a shelter to protect you from the harsh elements and bringing a folding camp chair to keep you from sitting directly on the freezing ice and snow. While it’s important to stay moving to keep warm, nothing beats a hot cup of cocoa and roasted hotdogs on an open fire.
Remember, the most important thing about ice fishing is enjoying the outdoors and making memories with friends and family. Catching a fish is the bonus.