It's hard to believe, but we're already at the mid-way point of the 2012 ice fishing season. Normally mid-winter is the toughest bite of the ice season but we're still going strong with a lot of great days on the ice and big fish being caught. We've been having a relatively mild winter so maybe that has something to do with it. I wouldn't mind another deep-freeze though... we need to build more ice so we can fish into early April.
I'm going to start off this report on a bit of a sidetrack with some news and housekeeping from benbeattieoutdoors.com. First, you'll notice a new page on bbo.com - Videos. I really enjoy putting together videos of my adventures, so look for the Videos page to grow with content. In fact, I just made a new video of an exciting musky catch from 2 seasons ago while fishing with some good friends. Here it is!
Some other exciting news to share - I'm presenting a seminar on musky fishing at the Central Canada Outdoor Show in Thunder Bay. The show is at the Sports Dome and my talk is on Saturday Feb. 25th at 12pm. If you are in the area come on out to the show and lets talk muskies!
Alright, back to ice fishing. It's hard to beat the multi-species action we have at our doorstep here in northwestern Ontario. Who could argue with catching walleye, lake trout, whitefish and pike from the same hole?
Lake trout are my favourite fish to chase in the winter. They get big and fight hard, giving the best chance for some serious reel-peel on the ice. I have the same philosophy with lake trout that I have with muskie - target big fish! It often means catching less fish, but when you do get one it's well worth the effort. I'll start off with a few pictures of some really beautiful lakers.
Here's my buddy Mike with a beauty that hammered a jigging spoon and gave him an awesome fight.
This next fish crushed a Lindy Darter, 5-minutes after I dropped it down the hole.
Another philosophy from muskie fishing that I share with lake trout is the importance of catch-and-release. I let all my big lake trout go. There's nothing wrong with keeping a trout for the table, but I much prefer smaller fish for eating. Three-to-four pounders make great table fare.
Walleye fishing has also been excellent this winter with lots of action and some big fish in the mix as well. Here's a couple nice walleye from recent trips. Both fish hit a Lindy Rattlin' Flyer Spoon tipped with a minnow. That spoon has been my hottest bait this winter, catching every species under the ice.
While I don't often target pike during the winter until last ice, it's common to catch them while fishing for other species. Here's a trophy I landed while jigging for walleye.
One of the most underrated species we have here in northwestern Ontario is the whitefish. They are super fun to catch and when you land on a school of them the action can be non-stop. We do get incidental catches while chasing walleye and lake trout, but we also target whitefish too. Here's a few big hump-back monsters from recent trips. Notice the difference in colours between the first two that were caught on different lakes.
Believe it or not, but these big whitefish are smelt eating machines!
I also had the opportunity to fish at Brown's Clearwater West Lodge near Attikokan, Ontario with Ontario OUT OF DOORS travel editor, James Smedley. We had a great trip, exploring new water on Clearwater Lake, White Otter Lake and Grey Trout Lake. These waters are known for producing BIG lake trout, including the current ice fishing world record. James and I landed some really nice trout - no giants - but that's reason enough to go back again.
Here's a shot that James snapped of me with a nice Clearwater Lake trout.
James is an award winning photographer and outdoor writer from Wawa, Ontario. For more information check out his website www.jamessmedleyoutdoors.com
Here's James with a nice trout that he caught on the first day of our trip.
Another cool thing we got to check out on this trip was White Otter Castle. Hand crafted by Jimmy McQuat on White Otter Lake in the early 1900's, the Castle tells a story of one man's triumph and tragedy in the rugged Ontario wilderness. Read more about it here.
This is a picture of the Castle today, after restoration.
Coming up, there's still a lot more winter to enjoy here in northwestern Ontario. Believe it or not, the best ice fishing is yet to come! March offers the best action of the year and usually the nicest conditions too. Get in touch with me to book an ice fishing trip you'll never forget.
Until next time, good fishing.
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.