2013 Ice Fishing Season Begins With Trip To Ontario’s North Country

Wil WegmanWith no signs of winter weather producing safe ice in southern Ontario anytime soon, my friend Gerry Heels and I were happy we had made plans to walk on hard water long in advance. It seems these late winters have now become the norm, so we booked our train tickets to northern Ontario and planned to spend six days ice fishing a couple of hours north of Sudbury over New Years.

Gerry Heels
During the winter months, Gerry’s (above) camp is only accessible by Via Rail.

Fox

After an all-nighter on the busy Via Rail, we un-boarded and pulled all our gear with a small sled into the bush and over to Gerry’s cabin. Gerry has been coming up here since childhood and I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed several winter trips over the last few years. This was the first time though to spend New Year’s here. After saying hello to the resident camp fox we got settled into the cabin and worked on the ski-doo’s for a bit before heading off to our first lake of the trip. Here brook (speckled) trout were the main target and we brought a couple 14 inchers home for dinner that night

Near camp, there are no less than a dozen lakes to pick and choose from.... the furthest of which is an hour and a bit away by ski-doo. Trails are not groomed by any stretch, but they are used and maintained by the occasional snowmobiler, so are in pretty good shape. Several times we choose trails that had not been travelled yet this season, so we had the thrill of breaking thru a foot of fresh virgin powder on route to our next lake.

Each night our routine would be the same ... pull out the maps and decide where we would fish the next day and what species we would target. One lake has only splake and we have done well there before, so that was our next stop on day two.

Wil
A small HT chartreuse football head and Trigger X minnow fooled this splake for Wil.
He used a Polar Lite HT Rod and 4lb test to land this hard fighting fish.
Below Gerry shows one of his two rainbows caught in another nearby lake.

Rainbow Trout

On the third day we fished a smaller lake that had both speckled trout and a few rainbows but during my visits here have never seen any of the latter.  I set up in front of my favorite beaver house where I had done well before, but alas that beaver had been so busy recently, that there really wasn’t anywhere I could fish without getting hung up in one of his submerged branches. When I went to check out how Gerry was doing, I was pleasantly surprised to see two gorgeous rainbow trout on ice that smashed his More-silda spoon.

On our fourth day we made a long trip and had to cross over large Meteor Lake to reach a smaller one for brook trout. We weren’t sure if the ice was ready yet here so if not then we couldn’t access the other lake. This Meteor has a short winter season from Feb 15 to March 15th for lake trout- so we couldn’t fish it on this trip. We have in the past though and I wrote about the fishing here in the recent winter issue of Ontario Out of Doors Magazine. After we saw a snowmobile track across the lake, we were somewhat re-assured but we still choose to drill a couple of test holes ourselves just to be safe.  Here the standard 8 inches was present so we continued on.

After cutting thru the bush towards the small speck lake, we were somewhat dismayed to see the snowmobile tracks continue and sure enough, there were already two anglers there fishing before we arrived.  Even more disheartening- they had set up exactly where we were planning on fishing- in front of a beaver house and the adjacent main point. Seeing as how there really weren’t too many other prominent features to fish, we decided to let the two guys enjoy the rest of the day without us and to move on to another lake instead. These two anglers would be the only ones we would encounter on our entire trip ... and having the lake entirely to yourself is the rule not the exception.

Ah- but our plans to fish elsewhere changed suddenly when on our trek back thru the cut in the bush, Gerry’s track broke off from his ski-doo. One machine was down.  We had no choice but to pull it off the trail and leave it for the night- knowing that my small Tundra Ski-doo couldn’t pull it all the way back to camp. We unhooked Gerry’s sled and he sat in it behind mine, pulling it back to camp.  It was a tricky deal but we made it and secured another more powerful ski-doo for the next day from a friend and his wife who are the only full time residents in the area.

The next day was more or less devoted to hauling the broken ski-doo back to camp, but we did manage a few hours of brook trout fishing. Fortunately the sled was just large enough to fit the ski-doo and although the angle was rather top heavy, it was stable and secured well with straps.  The drive back to camp was longer than usual, but all went without a hitch and we were ready for more fishing the following day. 

Snow

Trail

Brook trout were our choice once again and the fish did not disappoint ... at least not for Gerry as his hot More-silda spoon once again produced some gorgeous specks.

Splake
The same More-silda spoon also provided plenty of splake action.

Lowrance Elite Ice Machines
Without our reliable Lowrance Elite Ice Machines (shown above) fishing these remote
lakes would not be as productive- or as much fun.

The weather for the duration of our adventure was almost perfect.  We had just one day of bright sun and blue skies that started off at a cool – 32 C that morning. Most days were a very comfortable -10 or so with a little snow here and there to keep the trails fresh. For the rest of the trip we explored different lakes and enjoyed the ride into each one of them. As mentioned, the trails on several were seldom used and there were times we would have to clear fallen trees and limbs to see our way thru. 

Wil Wegman

The snow and snowmobile conditions were perfect too- even though the freshly fallen snow made it virtually impossible to avoid having snow-dumps (released from overhanging evergreens) fall down on you as you drove along some of the tighter trails.

Gerry

Carrying an axe, extra straps and a host of other safety and survival gear is paramount when travelling by snowmobile in Ontario’s remote north-country. Having two well maintained snowmobiles for travel also allows added security in case one breaks down.

Gerry

Lake

Now that the trip is over, it is good to hear that ice is finally forming on Lake Simcoe and by this time next week I hope to be out walking the frozen waters of Lake Simcoe. Until then though - it will be a busy week- with three ice fishing seminars to host-one on Jan 8th- Tuesday evening in Vaughan, then at Fishing World in Hamilton on Wed evening and across the 401 to Ottawa’s Le Barons on Thursday night.

Wil Wegman - Focus On Fishing