When Ontario’s lakes and waterways freeze over, anglers everywhere rejoice. Ice fishing season has begun! Some anglers embrace the solitude of the sport while others relish the atmosphere of camaraderie a hut on a frozen lake offers.
With an increase in millennials and families discovering the exhilaration of this winter activity, ice fishing is experiencing a rebirth of cool.
Have you tried it yet? No? What are you waiting for? Here are ten iconic Ontario destinations with outfitters and guides to whet your ice fishing appetite.
Photo credit: Wakomata Lodge and Resort
THE LAKES OF ALGOMA COUNTRY
Bordered by Lake Superior and Lake Huron, and speckled with countless inland lakes and rivers, Algoma Country is a year-round playground for passionate anglers and delivers big on hardwater action. Get the full experience from outfitted ice fishing to comfortable lakeside cabins at Wakomata Lodge and Resort on Highway 129. Just north of Elliot Lake, Dunlop Lake Lodge will customize a guided trip on Dunlop Lake or on one of the 30 surrounding lakes in the area, with everything you’ll need to reel in the big one, including shore lunch.
Ontario’s southernmost waters, Lake Erie is also the shallowest of the five Great Lakes and maintains the mildest temperatures. Because of this, Erie boasts the most abundant in fish populations, close to 50% of all the fish in the Great Lakes. Head to the inner bay of Long Point for great ice angling opportunities for yellow perch and northern pike. Operating out of St Williams, Bayside Ice Fishing offers heated shelters on the ice and will provide transportation to and from the hut, firewood for the wood stoves, live minnows for bait, and will start your fire and drill your fishing holes upon arrival. Nearby in Port Rowan, Jimmy Riggin’ Fishing Charters’ wooden ice huts are heated with propane heaters, plus you can warm up your lunch on a propane BBQ/stove. Rates includes your transportation to and from the hut, live bait and a parking pass.
We can’t talk ice fishing in Ontario without mentioning Lake Simcoe. It’s one of the most diverse fishing areas in the province with species like herring, yellow perch, lake trout, whitefish and northern pike calling these waters home. And because it freezes over completely in winter, Lake Simcoe is a go-to for the winter pastime. In fact, it’s often referred to as the ice fishing capital of North America. Operators abound during the ice fishing season with half day, full day or evening rentals, making it an awesome, family friendly add-on adventure to a winter getaway at Briars Resort. You’ll be treated to a ride to and from your hut, all bait and tackle and a on-call guide with First Nations Cultural Tours, based on Georgina Island. Plus, kids under 12 are free (with adult). Other great outfitters include Ride On Rentals, Tim Hales Fish Huts and Floyd Hales Fish Huts.
LAKE OF THE WOODS
This world class fishery sits in Ontario’s far northwest corner, where the pristine wilderness offers unmatched outdoor adventure in every season. Located just outside of Rainy River, on the south shore of the lake, Harris Hill Resort provides ice fishing packages that include cabin accommodation. Further north towards Nestor Falls, Muskie Bay Resort rents out heated ice houses along with sleds and gas. Or get in touch with Jeff Gustafson Outdoors for a fully guided day on the ice.
Bearing the namesake of our province, Lake Ontario is the last of the Great Lakes chain with an outlet to the Atlantic Ocean via the Saint Lawrence River. Just east of Toronto, along the Bay of Quinte and its many inlets, anglers are treated to a walleye world capital. You can also hook feisty pickerel, perch and pike with Fish Finder Charters out of Carrying Place or Sunset Cabins in Prince Edward County. Make it a day trip with Instagram-worthy Wilfrid Boutique Farmhouse followed by an evening relaxing in an outdoor barrel sauna (#fishtales). Or join 1,000 Islands Helicopter Tours for an epic, all-inclusive, guided heli ice fishing excursion out of Gananoque.
The Ottawa River flows through Canada’s capital and is teeming with crappie, perch, pike and walleye, so it’s a hot destination for urbanities itching to get out for some hardwater action. Start out with a Lumberjack breakfast at Flapjacks in Ottawa. Then join Oziles’ Marina & Tackle Shop for a half or full day of ice fishing around Petrie Island, just east of the city. Wrap up the day with Beavertail and a moonlit skate on the Rideau with the city lights and Parliament buildings as your backdrop. Doesn’t get more Canadian (don’t be surprised if you’re apologizing for saying sorry by day’s end). Further east in Rockland, Ottawa River Fishing offers weekend rental rates for luxury ice bungalows with indoor holes, kitchens, a generator and even satellite TV that can accommodate a group up to ten.
Appropriately named, Lake Superior is the largest of the Great Lakes, and the world’s largest surface freshwater lake. Its size and majesty has lured artists, adventure seekers and of course, anglers for centuries. There’s a plethora of great fishing spots along Superior’s coast, including the north shore, from Thunder Bay to Red Rock. Join Hamilton Baits and Ice Hunt Rentals or Bear Trak Outfitters on Black Bay in pursuit of the big perch. Shelters are fully equipped with a propane stove for cooking and wood stove for heat.
A short drive east of Toronto, Rice Lake is part of the Trent-Severn Waterway and boasts more fish per acre than any other Ontario lake. Species include bass, pickerel, muskie and some impressively sized carp. Get supplies like rods, tackle and bait from BJ Marina and Tackle in Bewdley. To make your ice fishing adventure part of a multi-day getaway, Golden Beach Resort in Roseneath offers an overnight package in a two-bedroom lakeside condo, heated ice hut rental, bait, lures, poles and licences available onsite.
Considered one of the best ice fishing destinations in Ontario, Lake Nippissing has a healthy winter fishery of walleye, perch, pike, and whitefish, with an equally lively village of ice fishing huts and bungalow outfitters. Located on the south shore, Lake Nipissing Ice Charters in Callandar is conveniently close to OFSC snowmobile trails. Snowfari Adventures in Powassan will set you up in comfortable two to ten-person overnight bungalows that even include private heated toilet facilities. You may even swing a signature – owners include retired NHL players Greg deVries and Todd White.
This large, northeast arm of Lake Huron is one of Ontario’s most cherished destinations for its sandy to rugged shoreline, gorgeous scenery and endless outdoor pursuits. The fishing is legendary here and winter doesn’t disappoint. Hook healthy salmon, sturgeon and pike with Collingwood Adventure Voyages at Collingwood Harbour on the south shore or Diver’s Nook out of Parry Sound on the northeast side of the bay.
IMPORTANT REMINDERS & HOUSE RULES
- Ontario strongly supports catch and release
- Before heading out, be sure to read these 10 tips for ice fishing safety
- Don’t drop a line anywhere until you’ve got your fishing licence
- Psst: Families can enjoy licence free fishing during the Ontario Family Fishing Weekend in February which coincides with the Family Day long weekend