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.
The 2012 ice fishing season is off to an amazing start here in northwestern Ontario. Unlike our friends in more southerly areas, there is lots of ice and snow to play on up here. We’ve had some great days on the lakes with some really big fish caught already.
Walleye and Lake Trout get most of my attention during the winter but we get other great species like pike, whitefish, bass, specks and other trout as well.
One of the coolest fish I’ve seen hit the ice so far this winter is this Rainbow Trout that my buddy Greg caught.
The MNR stocked these fish a few years ago and needless to say, they’ve grown to an impressive size!
We’ve been getting good numbers and sizes of walleye from Lac Seul and Minnitaki Lake. The morning and evening primetimes have had noticeably better action than mid-day. We’re getting fish in classic wintertime spots like prominent points, humps and bottleneck areas in and around the main lake basins. Depths of 25-to-30 feet have been best. Hot baits are Lindy Darters, jigs/minnows, Jigging Rapalas and Rattlin’ Flyer Spoons.
Lake trout are one of my favourite fish and there’s no better time than during ice fishing season to catch big lakers. I have the same philosophy with lakers as I do with muskie – I’d rather catch fewer big fish than a bunch of small ones. Luckily a couple of my buddies feel the same way, so we set off on a hunt for big lakers last week. We landed multiple fish over 30-inches, including 4 over 35-inches. I'll let a few of the pictures do the rest of the talking!
This is my good buddy Mike with one of the biggest lakers I’ve ever seen hit the ice. A beautiful 38-incher.
Here’s Mike releasing another big lake trout. Congrats buddy!
Another nice lake trout for Greg.
Turns out Mike was on a big fish hunt… check out this FAT 41-inch pike!!
Rounding off the great multi species action from the past couple weeks are small mouth bass, splake and whitefish.
Big hump-back whitie that slurped down a Lindy Slick Jig.
In other news, be sure to check out the new Ontario OUT OF DOORS. I’ve got an article in there about a fly-in trip I went on back in September to Richter Lake, north of Nakina, Ontario.
Check out this video I made from the trip too.
Keep up-to-date with all my ice fishing reports by visiting the Lindy National Audio Fishing Reports page. Click on the National Audio Fishing Reports logo on the top of the Lindy page, then click on Ontario on the map, and then click my name/picture. An up-to-date audio report that I recorded will play, giving you the details on what's happening on the ice.
Be sure to check back soon for more ice fishing action here in NW Ontario.
Cheers and good fishing!
With Canada Day 2011 in the books, that means we're solidly in the summer stretch of the 2011 season. You know it's summer when the walleye are in the main lake basin, big muskies are on the prowl, lake trout are in 70-feet, the cabbage weeds are at the surface and water temps are over 70F.
There's been big changes in walleye location over the last couple of weeks on Lac Seul. Most importantly, they have arrived in large numbers on their summer haunts in and around the main lake basin. Reefs, humps and islands in the big water are holding fish. Looking back, the last couple weeks have been some of the best walleye fishing of the year. High volume days and big fish too.
I had a great time with Wendy and her husband, Rob, from Winnipeg. As usual, lady luck came through and Wendy landed two 28-inch walleye.
Clayton Johnson from Illinois shows off a nice walleye while his nephew, Gage, unhooks another one in the background.
Tim Rowley from Acton, Ontario took his buddies money two days in a row.
Happy guests at Moosehorn Lodge!
The best depths on the main lake basin structure has been 18-24 feet. Vertical jigging with 1/4 oz Lindy Jigs has been catching all the fish. Hot colours are glow, chartreuse, orange and pink. I really like the googly eyes on these jigs and also how there's never any paint covering the line tie!
Not to be overlooked is the weed walleye bite that is also happening on Lac Seul right now. Drop a jig and minnow in 8-12 feet in front of a weedline and see if you can count to 10 before getting a bite. For the most part there are high numbers of fish in the 14-18 inch range in the weeds, but don't be surprised if a trophy makes an appearance as well.
The muskies continue to hit the Beckman net as well. Had a chance to fish with Brett Ericson from Thorne Bros. last week. Thorne Bros. is the premier muskie shop in the US and they also specialize in custom rod building, ice fishing and much more.
We had a 1 hour window where were we moved 5 muskies and caught 2 of them, including my first of the season. A 46-inch fish that ate a top-raider.
Fast forward a week and I had the chance to fish with a couple good buddies as well as my wife for an evening hunt. It was a picture perfect night for muskies and Dave 'iced the cake' with this chunky 49.5-incher. Congrats Dave on your PB muskie!! This fish ate a double 10 bucktail on the figure-8.
I had a chance to fish lake trout last week on Big Vermilion Lake for an afternoon with Rich and Matt from Chicago. These guys are a laugh a minute and we had a fun afternoon jigging up lakers out of 70-feet.
Double header for Matt and myself.
Rich with an over-slot lake trout.
Matt with a dark grey laker.
Looking ahead, more hot summertime action on Lac Seul. I'm looking forward to chasing more walleye, trout and monster muskies. Also looking forward to getting out for walleye on the deep summertime humps on Minnitaki. Minnitaki is another walleye factory in our system of lakes here in Sioux Lookout. Too often it lives in the shadow of Lac Seul, but every year some of the best days of the season happen on Minnitaki.
Cheers everyone, and good fishing.
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.
The ice is finally going off the lakes around Sioux Lookout and that means one thing - Ice out trout fishing. We literally followed the ice off one of the local lake trout lakes, dodging chunks and trolling the ice edge.
Fishing has been pretty good with most trout in the 24-to- 30 inch-class. Longline trolling various crankbaits has been catching most of the fish. I learned a new trick from one of the old-time guides too - trolling tube jigs. You read right, trolling tubes! They troll straight and look like a darting smelt. We were using 4" tubes with 1oz heads to get them down about 15-feet. Another bonus is that you can easily vertical jig the tubes if you mark trout stacked up on bottom. Very versatile!
Here's the proof, my first tube-trolled trout with local legend Merle Botham in the background.
To mix things up, we did some bushwhacking and walked into a small splake lake. Splake are a hard fighting hybrid between lake trout and brook trout that are stocked by the MNR. The action was fast and we were having a great time bringing in one splake after another. A no. 6 panther martin did some damage casting, while minnow tipped Lindy Jigs under Thill slip bobbers caught the rest.
A nice limit of Splake for the pan.
Walleye season opens in less then 2 weeks in NW Ontario. Opener should be outstanding on east Lac Seul with big fish stacked up in current areas. Gotta love late ice out years!
In the meantime I'm looking forward to getting out on Minnitaki to target BIG lake trout. Minnitaki has a low-density population of lake trout, meaning there's not a lot of action, but if you do get one chances are it will be decent size. It's the closest thing you can get to muskie fishing in the spring up here. Fingers crossed for a monster laker!!
Every year there's a period of time between the end of ice fishing season and the start of the softwater season when there's not much going on fishing wise in NW Ontario. No safe ice and nowhere to launch a boat. This is the perfect time to check out some fishing and hunting opportunities in other parts of Ontario.
First stop, Lake Superior Provincial Park for a day on the river chasing steelhead with my good buddy and fellow guide Graham Coulombe.
The walk in was about an hour long and the trails were still snow covered. Absolutely beautiful scenery though.
Fishing wasn't on fire but we had our chances. I hooked up first but the bright chrome steelhead jumped and spit the hook. We moved around a bit and fished a few other runs but returned to where I hooked up earlier. This time around my float popped under and I set the hook into a nice little buck that hit the bank for a photo shoot.
After that Graham broke off a good fish and that was it for the action. Great day with a good friend!
Next up was ice-out Lake Trout with another good buddy JP Bushey. Every year we gamble weather wise with the timing of this trip and this year mother nature got the best of us. Parts of the lake were still iced in and we battled high winds, cold, rain and snow. We ground it out a few hours each day and put a couple fish over the gunnels and lost a few others.
Here's JP with a Laker that hit a spoon behind a Dipsey-Diver.
The next adventure was a trip with my Dad and guide Steve Piggott of Angler's Way Guide Service on the Grand River for catfish. I was out with Steve two years ago and we had an incredible day with the cats so I was really excited to get my Dad out there. Once again, however, mother nature had other plans. It was cold, wet and really windy which made it almost impossible to hold anchor. We had a few pick-ups and Dad had a couple on but both of them came unpinned before reaching the net. That's fishing!
The only catfish picture of the day was of 'Muddy' who lives in a park in Dunnville.
Next up, time to put the rods away and grab the shotguns - the spring wild turkey hunt in southern Ontario is hands-down my favourite hunt of the year. My good friend Jotham 'Jocko' Dumesnil lives near Brantdord, ON and is a turkey fanatic. He hosts myself and our other buddy Rob each spring for a week in the woods chasing gobblers.
This year was no exception to Jocko's amazing track record of putting us on the long-beards! How about doubling up with Toms on opening morning? Sure!
We had action all week, seeing birds gobbling on the roost then flying down is a sight to see. It's a very interactive and up-close hunt which adds to the excitement.
In Ontario you are allowed to shoot two bearded birds during the spring hunt and I tagged-out with my second Tom on Friday.
A huge thanks to Jocko for another unforgettable hunt!
Back in NW Ontario the ice is almost off and I'm gearing up for some more ice-out lake trout action as well as spring pike. Walleye opener is just around the corner too. What a great time of year!!
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.