Despite some chilly days, spring is here, and the last of our ice fishing season is too. How has your season been this year?
Steady and productive at your favourite lake, full of adventures to many new waterbodies, full of new fish species, and hopefully personal bests? I really hope you answered "yes" to at least one of these, and that some of my articles these past winters have lead you to new adventures in Northeastern Ontario!
Where to Go – Follow the Ice
But luckily for you, the ice fishing season is far from over! Northeastern Ontario stretches far to the north, where winter lasts weeks (and sometimes months) longer than in the communities to the south. Within a four-hour drive north of Greater Sudbury and North Bay you can reach Timmins and the surrounding area. These communities are surrounded by many lakes, awaiting your arrival to test your skills.
Use the list below as locations and lodgings to consider, or see a full listing by location here. Operators are also great people to ask about ice conditions or local knowledge:
- Timmins – Horwood Lake Lodge, Hampton Inn by Hilton, Holiday Inn Express
- Cochrane – Best Western Swan Castle Inn, Cochrane Station Inn
- Kirkland Lake & Area – Saul Outfitters, Microtel Inn & Suites
The later ice season is a great time to look for northern pike, which are starting to put the feed back on. Water flows are typically increasing beneath the surface, along with increased fish movement across all species. This underwater awakening spikes the primal nature of these apex predators that roam beneath the water’s surface.
Top meals for northern pike include smelts, cisco/herring, lake whitefish, and perch. As a general rule of thumb for all fishing practices – if you can locate the bait, you can generally locate the fish.
Water Features to Look For
Some areas to focus on in the later portion of the season include lake inlets which include rivers, streams, drainage courses, and current breaks located beneath the ice. These areas bring a steady a flow of warmer, high oxygenated water, insects, debris, and often baitfish all together in one place.
The warmer water temperatures allow the larger predatory species' metabolism to increase, in turn increasing their appetites. There is nothing better than finding a location with a school of northern pike on the feed and devouring every presentation you lay below the ice surface.
Technique & Presentation
Techniques that are preferred for luring in these schools of aggressive northern pike include a combination of still lines, tip ups and jigging. A larger lively minnow or chub is always an excellent choice to place on a tip up. One method that has often produced above-average fish includes herring with a cut belly on a dual hook rig beneath a tip up. This presents a non-intrusive easy meal for a pike cruising through the current and along the break lines – I know if I stumbled upon a perfectly good piece of pizza it would be hard to resist!
One of my favourite ways to target a fish through the ice is by jigging, and pike are very well known for ferocious strikes that almost pull the rod out of your hand. Some artificial baits to try include a Williams Whitefish Spoon, any Vibrating Bait, or a Paddle Tail Swimbait. Any of these presentations are very likely to trigger a northern pike’s predatory instincts. Read here for more ideas of what to have in your winter tackle box.
So don’t jump the gun and pack up all your gear just yet! There's no rush, as many of our favourite species don't close until the May long weekend. Extend your fishing season by making the trip up north for the late ice season that many people miss out on. There are many species available to target in these northern waters other than northern pike. Zone-specific regulations should be referenced prior to booking any trip or fishing a new lake.
Do some research, gather a group of friends, call one of the many outfitters operating in Northeastern Ontario, and enjoy the remaining days of this year’s ice fishing season!