You've probably heard about Lake of the Woods - with over 65,000 miles of shoreline and over 14,500 islands, it's a spectacular lake. The Canadian side of Lake of the Woods offers many different points, drop-offs, flats, and island chains. The structure combined with the variety of fish makes it a great place to go ice fishing. There are healthy populations and trophy fish in many different species. Fish for walleye, lake trout, crappie, northern pike, whitefish, or perch. You may catch the occasional muskie or bass too. Use a light rod for crappie or perch using 2 to 4 lb. test and a medium action rod for trout, walleye, whitefish, and 6 to 10 lb. test.
Type of fish available to fish:
Like in the summer, walleyes can usually be found on Lake of the Woods under the ice. Most times you can readily catch your limit. It's so nice to taste fresh walleye in the middle of the winter. Many fishermen will say only use a gold jig or a pink one. As within the summer, though, use what's biting. If you're fishing for 20 minutes without a bite, changes colours or you may have to change areas. One strategy would be to have two different approaches on two different holes. Use an aggressive or noisy hook like the Lindy Rattl'N Flyer Spoon in one hole and maybe a simple jig and minnow on the other.
The lake trout season starts January first and by then, fishermen are usually chomping at the bit to get out there and fish. Lake trout is often the most popular species of fish to catch during the winter. Often trout are caught using tube jigs, buzz bombs, and sonars. Lakers in the area average 6 to 18 lbs with some even heavier than eighteen pounds. Lake of the Woods has many places to fish for lake trout. Some of the resorts in Nestor Falls take their guests to Lake of the Woods for crappie fishing and also have them fish for lake trout on Crow Lake. Winter is the best time to fish for lakers. For more lake trout ice fishing tips, read this article by Gord Pyzer in In-Fisherman.
Crappie is another great-tasting fish that can be found on Lake of the Woods. Crappie fishing becoming quite popular due to their readiness to bite and slab status. Hay Island is a popular place with crappie fishermen around Nestor Falls.
Huge northern pike cruise around Lake of the Woods. A cisco or large sucker minnow are often used to catch the big ones.
One of the most underutilized fisheries on Lake of the Woods, perch are readily found and you can easily catch your limit.
While not the highest sought-after fish, there are plenty of whitefish on Lake of the Woods.
Places to stay:
While some of the resorts in Sunset Country close for the winter there are quite a few that stay open for ice fishing. The following resorts on Lake of the Woods are open in the winter:
Crawford's Camp - Sioux Narrows - 888-266-3474 or 807-226-5646 - Open year round - Guided trips and snowmachine rentals available.
Crystal Harbour Resort - Sioux Narrows - 888-589-6056 - Open year-round. Restaurant. On OFSC trail.
First Nation Guide Service & Lodging - 807-484-2969 - Open year-round. Guide Service.
Lakeview Lodge - 807-484-2102 - Open year-round. Located on Crow Lake just across the highway from Lake of the Woods.
Lecuyer's Lodge - 807-484-2448 or 800-201-2100 - Open year-round - 3 10'x20' ice fishing bungalows, three large insulated pop-up ice tents. Snobear and skidozer track machines for ice fishing trips. Restaurant/bar open except December & April.
Muskie Bay Resort - Nestor Falls - 877-228-2076 or 807-484-2332 - Open year-round - Ice shack rentals and Guide Service available.
Super 8 Kenora - Kenora - 800-800-8000 or 807-468-8016 - Open year-round.
Ice Fishing Guides:
In addition to the guides that may be available at your resort, there are also some independent guides available to help you get on top of the fish this winter. Contact:
Jeff Gustafson Outdoors - Kenora - 807-466-7102 or 807-543-3741
First Nation Guide Service - Nestor Falls - 807-484-2969
Native American Adventures Guide Service - Lake of the Woods - 807-407-9000
Ice Hut Rentals:
Heated ice huts, or ice shacks as Canadians call them are available to rent from some of the resorts. Many ice shacks are right off the ice roads so, if you aren't snowmobiling, you can drive right up to the ice hut. You can also rent or bring a portable ice shack too if you prefer to head out on a snowmobile and pick your own spots and drill your own holes. Of course, on a nice sunny day, nothing beats sitting outside by the hole, enjoying the sun and the view of the lake.
Things to know about ice fishing on Lake of the Woods:
- You are allowed two poles each while ice fishing, unlike in the summer when you can only fish with one rod & reel. If using a second hole, you can also use a tip-up.
- You need an Ontario Fishing License and Ontario Outdoors Card.
- You must adhere to Ontario Fishing Regulations. There are many exceptions to Zone 5 Regulations, make sure you are familiar with them all. Download the Zone 5 Regulations here. In 2018, the MNR introduced new regulations for FMZ 5.
- At all times you must be within 60 m (197 ft.) of any line or tip-up you are using when ice fishing and you must have a clear and unobstructed view of the lines being used.
- Any spring-loaded device which sets the hook for an angler may not be possessed within 30 m (98 ft.) of any waters.
- Check the weather before you go out. It might be a sunny day when you leave, but things can change quickly. Be prepared with the right clothing and equipment.
- Check the ice conditions.