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.
I'll start this post off with the big news... I'm really excited to announce the purchase of a new boat! Ben Beattie Outdoors is now rolling in style with a 18.5-foot Alumacraft Tournament Series Tiller. The boat is powered by a 2010 Yamaha 90HP 4-stroke motor and also features a colour Lowrance GPS/Sonar unit.
Getting it wet for the first time.
Jigging walleye with Kelly.
It's a big, spacious tiller with lots of room for fishing out of. It's rigged with splash guards for backtrolling for walleye and come spring will have a bow-mount trolling motor for casting.
So far it doesn't have a name, but sometimes these things need to be earned. At any rate, it will be tough to top the name I gave my old boat! :)
On with the fishing report... I'll start off with - what else - muskies! It took a bit of work but the new boat got slimed in fine fashion. This chunky 47-incher slurped a top water bait off the surface at primetime. Textbook!
A real pretty fish for Bryon Cole - I just love the look of Lac Seul muskies.
These last 2 fish were part of a 4 fish night... ALL of them caught on top water!
As always a few nice pike are caught while chasing muskies. Most muskie nuts disregard pike as the lesser of the Essox family but who can argue with gators like these!
That's my good buddy Mike Willems who owns Silver Water Wheel Lodge on Lac Seul. The pike was his consolation prize after we watched his 50+ inch muskie hit on the figure-8 then throw the hooks on a thrilling boatside jump. We'll get em next year buddy!!
The walleye fishing remains excellent on both Lac Seul and Minnitaki Lake. Summertime patterns of catching fish on main lake basin structure is still holding up. All the typical stuff holds fish - humps, reefs, prominent points, steep drop offs, deep flats, etc.
My wife, Kelly, shows off a nice Lac Seul walleye and an even nicer baby bump! :)
Another walleye hits the Beckman net. Overall its been a great year for catching walleye in NW Ontario.
Fall is in the air up here. Water temps are slipping out of the 70's, the nights are getting cool, the days are getting shorter and there's a smattering of yellow on the birch and aspen trees when you look in the bush on your way across the lake. That means a couple things... moose hunting and fall muskie fishing are just around the corner. I'm also looking forward to some late season lake trout fishing on Minnitaki Lake. So much to look forward to in the fall!!
Coming up, I've also got a fly-in booked for an Ontario Out of Doors article that will come out this winter. Stay tuned for some pics from that trip and more.
Cheers and good fishing,
Summer has been kicked into high gear in Sunset Country with the opening of muskie season last Saturday. As luck would have it, my guests for the weekend were hardcore muskie guys!! We spent the mornings jigging walleye and after shorelunch we were throwing the big stuff till dark. Three 15-hour days on the water were just what the Doctor ordered for some big muskies and walleye. I'll kick this report off with a bang and show off the prize catch. My guest, Rocco, and his new personal best muskie. A monster 53.5 inch fish caught on Lac Seul.
Rocco just got home to Illinois and he's already emailing me about another trip in July. Can you blame him?? The experience of boating this fish is one that I'll never forget. Rocco put it nicely when he said, "We are bonded by 53.5 inches of muskie!".
The boys tied into a couple more muskies on their trip and some nice pike too.
Here's Jake with his first of the season.
Rocco with another one.
Rocco adds a 40" pike for good measure.
Jake's muskie hit a bucktail but Rocco got both of his on a Jimmy. They just couldn't resist the slow, enticing movements of that big plastic Jimmy tube!
The walleye bite continues to be strong on eastern Lac Seul. For the most part, I'm fishing within a few miles of Bear Narrows. As the walleye filter down from spawning areas they pass through this area on their way to the main lake basin. A prolonged east wind over the last couple of weeks has really helped to stack the fish up, especially on spots with an eastern exposure.
The best depths vary from day-to-day, but in general 15-feet is a good bet at this time of year. When conditions are warm, sunny and calm I'm still finding the fish will pulse shallow into bays to feed on mayfly nymphs. Overcast, with a good chop puts the deeper water bite into high gear. I've been checking islands and humps in the main lake basins but only with limited success so far. One thing is for sure, they're on their way and it won't be long until the summer structure is going strong.
Would you look at that? Mr. Rocco slams a beautiful 29" walleye!
Chicago John with a beauty!
The guide even gets lucky once in a while :)
Looking ahead, more of the same! Walleye and muskie will dominate the rest of the summer, with a nice side of lake trout, smallies and pike. Gotta love Northwestern Ontario!!
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.