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.
Walleye Opener and a Big Laker!
Leading up to walleye season I was putting in as much time as possible going after big lake trout. Minnitaki lake has a low density population of trophy fish. I always compare it to muskie fishing - if you get 1 or 2 fish a day you had a good day, but chances are one of them will be big. That's my style of fishing - hunting hogs rather than going for numbers.
Friday was a 'textbook' day, one fish and it was big! 37" and probably the biggest lake trout of my life. This fish hit a blue/silver Rapala J-13, 125-feet behind a planer board.
Walleye Opener 2011
After finding out the night before opener that my guests had to cancel, I made new plans and fished with a buddy of mine. We launched the boat at 5:30 am and headed to one of the current areas in SE Lac Seul. With the late ice out I was anticipating finding the big girls still spawning in the current. The fish were there, and in good numbers, but the big females have definitely spawned and started to move out. Only a few of the males were still milty and the girls were skinny after dropping their eggs.
The numbers - 2 of us landed 80 walleye. Biggest was 27".
Lindy jigs and Lindy X-Change jigs tipped with minnows did all the damage.
Sunday we did some exploring and checked out some post-spawn areas. We found fish on most of the spots, but not in good numbers yet. The fish are transitioning from spawning areas and the bite should pick up as the water warms up and fish get more active.
Walleye season opens Saturday, May 21st - just a couple days away! It was a late ice-out here in NW Ontario, which means one thing... BIG walleye and lots of them in the current areas of east Lac Seul.
Here's a teaser from last year.
I've got my box of Lindy X-Change Jigs ready to go. Different sizes, different colours, all without having to re-tie. Very cool!
Another product I'm really excited about this year is the Frabill FXE Stormsuit. I've been wearing it since the ice went off and I can honestly say this is the best engineered and best performing all weather gear I've ever had on. They literally thought of everything in the design of this fishing outerwear system. Move over Cabelas and Bass Pro, there's a new standard in performance fishing outerwear. Thank you FRABILL for making such an awesome product!!
One more bit of housekeeping... I've got an amazing opportunity for a group of guys, or gals, who can pull together a last minute trip. I had a cancellation for June 1-5 and I would hate to see this slot go unused. This is a PRIME slot for BIG walleye and pike on Lac Seul. Plus, lake trout on Big Vermilion or Minitaki. I know this slot won't stay open long so get in touch with me asap for a truly remarkable fishing trip. There is a reason it's hard to book a trip in June.... it's awesome fishing!!!
Check back next week for my Walleye 2011 Opener Report.
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.