Making It Work
The first ice adventure of 2013 is in the books. My good buddy Graham came up to visit and do some ice fishing. Graham is no stranger to the area, having lived in Sioux Lookout for a winter in 2009. We checked out some of our old favourite spots and did some new stuff too.
We put our time into chasing lake trout, walleye and whitefish. We fished 4 different lakes and caught fish everywhere we went. Overall the bite was a bit tough and we had to work for every fish we caught. Some areas that were excellent this time last year just weren't holding fish.
The first thing we did was camp out for an afternoon on a Lac Seul walleye spot that's known for kicking out big fish. We didn't catch many walleye, but Graham did ice this big fat Lac Seul 'eye.
Over the course of the trip it seemed that walleye wanted smaller and simpler presentations. It was hard to beat a 1/8 oz jig and minnow, but I did manage to catch a handful on a Lindy Rattlin' Flyer Spoon.
On a day we decided to target lake trout and whitefish, that same Rattlin' Flyer Spoon was on fire for the whities! We put a hurting on some big-big whitefish. They'd hit it sitting still, they'd chase it and hit it while moving - I even had one intercept it on the free-fall.
Take a look at these monster 'humpback' whitefish!
After having fun with the whitefish we switched gears and targeted lake trout. When it comes to winter lakers, I love fishing soft plastics. It wasn't 5-minutes after putting on a white tube jig that this big laker inhaled it only 15-feet under the ice.
I marked this fish on my Humminbird ICE55 flasher - without that tool I never would have known this big laker was flying high in the water column.
What a great fish to break in my new 36" St. Croix Premier ice rod with.
Another day we made the trek into a backcountry lake trout lake that's about an hour south of Sioux Lookout. We broke trail into the lake no problem, but getting out was another story. Big hills, unpacked trails, sugary light snow and heavy sleighs meant everyone was getting stuck. After 2 hours of sweating, swearing and back-breaking pushing/pulling/lifting we were back at the trucks.
It's a good thing the fishing was on and everyone took home a nice limit of 3-to 4-pound lakers for the table.
It's a long winter here in northwestern Ontario so look for more ice fishing reports to come soon.
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.
Fire on Ice!
Fishing has been hot the last few days in Sioux Lookout! Great multi-species action and some big fish in the mix. Things are softening up with the sun and warm temps but the conditions are still excellent out on the lakes.
Went chasing trout and whitefish the other day and did pretty well. We found our fish in 40-60 FOW. I was expecting some action shallower ~ 20' but never found any. I also got some really neat underwater footage of my buddy Colin's lakers under the ice and coming up the hole. Keep an eye out for that video, and more, later on!
One of Colin's fat, smelt eating, trout. Small head, big body!
Also got into some crazy walleye action on Minnitaki! Big rewards for getting out of bed at 5am - we had hydrolic fishing for the first 2 hours of daylight! Once again the Lindy Darter dominated everything else, not even live bait could keep up. We fished from 24-32 feet of water on a nice gradual sand flat. It's a big funnel from the main lake basin towards a spawning river. Classic stuff and it didn't disappoint!
The great thing about Minnitaki is that you always have a chance at trout when you're walleye fishing in the winter. And wouldn't you know it... Colin and I drilled double header lakers - both on Darters! Both released after a photo.
A nice limit for the table
Surprise chunk smallie - they like Darters too!
Check back again soon, lots of ice fishing still to be had here in NW Ontario!!
Ben Beattie is a fishing guide and outdoor writer living in Sioux Lookout, in northwestern Ontario.