A Beginner’s Guide to Ice Fishing in Canada
Ice Fishing in Canada
Ice fishing is an old tradition in Canada that began long ago. Back then, natives used wooden decoys and wood, bone, or ivory spears to catch their fish in the winter. The gear and techniques may have changed, but the idea is still the same!
The ice fishing season begins as early as late October in some parts of Canada and often lasts well into April. As long as there’s a solid layer of ice on the lakes, it’s ice fishing season!
If you’ve never gone out on the ice before, you must be properly prepared.
Read on for our beginner’s guide to ice fishing in Canada!
Play by the Rules
Each Canadian province will have different ice fishing laws and regulations that you will need to follow. Most of them require that you get all of the right paperwork in order before you go out on the ice.
For example, in Ontario, you need a valid fishing license. There is no specified “ice fishing” license, so if you got one earlier this year for dock or boat fishing, you’re good to go.
You also may need to register your ice hut, depending on the fisheries zone you’ll be fishing in. If registration is required, make sure your registration number is displayed on the outside of your hut. Note that many beginners forgo the ice hut because it can be a big investment for a new hobby.
Make sure you know the possession limit before you start reeling in your catch. The possession limit refers to the number of fish you may keep, not to the number you may catch. The limit may vary by type of fish.
In addition to laws and regulations, you should be aware of general safety rules that all ice fishermen (or anglers) should abide by.
If you’re not sure how thick the ice is, don’t take the risk of breaking through. If you’re riding an ATV on the ice, only take it across ice that you’re certain is at least 6 inches thick. Other anglers and employees at local bait stores can offer some guidance if you’re unsure.
Beginners should never ice fish alone. Experienced anglers often use lead ropes and ice cleats to keep themselves from drowning, but this is never advised for people who are new to the ice.
Get the Right Gear
Because this guide is meant for beginners, we’re going to keep the gear list on the simpler side. Serious anglers may opt for high-tech and heavy-duty gear because they’re out on the ice more than once a week. If you’re just getting a taste for it, our list will suit you just fine!
Fishing Gear and Bait
First of all, get yourself a good camping chair. Ice fishing can take several hours.
You’ll need an ice auger to break through the ice and a medium-sized scoop to break loose ice chunks out of your hole.
You should also invest in an ice fishing rod and ice fishing line, as run-of-the-mill equipment won’t perform as well in such low temperatures. In fact, the fishing line you’d use on a nice summer day would become very brittle and snap.
The rest is fairly standard fishing gear. You’ll need hooks, weights, and, if you so choose, a bobber. You can use corn, maggots, worms, or shrimp for bait.
Clothing and Safety Gear
When you’re going ice fishing, think waterproof. There tends to be a layer of ice melt on the surface of the ice. Invest in rubber-lined boots and a waterproof snowsuit that leaves enough room for a few layers of fleece underneath.
You’ll also want a hat, sunglasses, and a nice smear of sunscreen to protect you from the UV rays that are bouncing off the ice and back into your face.
Finally, you’ll need to bring rope, ice awls, and safety flotation devices. Hopefully, you’ll never have to use them.
Know the Best Techniques
Get to know your lake before you head out. Scope it out from the shore and become familiar with both the shape and size of the lake.
You don’t have to venture out far to find a good fishing spot during the winter. As temperatures decrease, many fish stick to shallower waters that aren’t as cold. Find a spot a few yards out from the shore and drill your first hole.
You want to extend enough line that it’s only about a foot off of the lake floor. Jig the bait a few inches at a time to attract bottom-dwelling fish and lure them closer to your hole. If you haven’t gotten any bites in 20 minutes or so, feel free to move a little further out and drill a new hole.
When you’re fishing with a partner, you may want to put a few yards of distance between your holes. Don’t wander out so far that you can’t help quickly in an emergency, but don’t stay so close that your lines tangle. When your vision is limited by ice, it’s easy to think you’ve got a big one on the hook only to find that your line has gotten tangled up with your buddy’s!
Amp up Your Ice Fishing Game with ATVs or Snowmobiles
If you’ve started to get the hang of ice fishing and find that it’s the perfect way to spend a weekend, why not give your feet a break and invest in an ATV or snowmobile? As long as you’re aware of the density of the ice, they’re a safe and fun way to travel across the lake!
If you have questions about any of our new or used equipment, contact us today! We’re happy to help you get the most out of this winter season.
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