Somewhere on a Frozen Ontario Lake
Let us set the scene. A very frosty scene. Your breath in the air has become a muscle memory and feels no more out of place than your footsteps. Creating individual sinkholes through layers of crisp, dry pearl-like snowflakes hiding the inevitable grey slush beneath. These layers cover the entire world during the cold months, allowing you to forget that the warm green mists of spring have ever existed.
The walls around you are weathered, having protected fishers from the elements for the past 30 years. This tent was your grandfather’s gift to your mother and father when they too set out to sit atop frozen lakes to spend their winters the same way their parents did. It might not be holiday movies by a lit fire, covered in old blankets drinking tea. But there is a coziness, or better yet a sense of satisfaction and camaraderie that exists here. Even more so, there is the importance of upholding traditions for something that started out of necessity and now exists for pleasure, community and connection to the past.
Origins of Ice Fishing
Fishing itself began around 40,000 years ago. The prehistoric method for acquiring nourishment has managed to feed the world. It has since been adapted as a hobby for fishing enthusiasts around the world but remains a way of life for many. It is a skill passed down from generation to generation, from elders to young ones who will pass along the skills one day as well.
Since the invention of fishing, there has been an incredible level of advancement. And today a short visit to YouTube will lead you down rabbit holes of sport fishing, primitive fishing techniques, survival fishing methods, boats, lures, rods, etc… and finally, ice fishing.
Ice fishing began in the subarctic regions of the world and was first employed as a food-gathering method by first nations peoples. Ojibwe peoples were the first to chip away at the thick ice of Northern Canada to reach through to the impossibly frigid waters below in search of fish. Their success in this endeavor began the tradition of ice fishing in Canada. In the beginning, ice fishers used spears to catch fish during the winter, much like the techniques used during the rest of the year. But over time they constructed small wooden rods and gill nets that could be left unattended, allowing for other work to be done while the nets trapped fish. Over time, the rods became shorter, the line became thinner and the art of ice fishing grew.
Ice Fishing Today
Today we use a wide array of gear and techniques. Graphite rods, battery-powered depth finders, gas-powered augers, insulated lightweight tents, propane-powered heaters… The list goes on, but one fact remains true: if you have a hole in the ice and a tool to catch fish with, you can go ice fishing.
Whatever pulls you to ice fishing, there is tradition being upheld by ice fishers around Canada. Whether they learned from their grandparents who learned from their grandparents. Or they took up the interest themselves and will pass it along to their children, there is a sense of connection that makes ice fishing so much more than a hobby. For many, ice fishing provides a deep sense of connection to their heritage and is a way to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors, their parents and their tribes and deepens the passion for ice fishing. The same feeling we get when we sit around a fire and feel the sudden urge to share deep meaningful conversations seems to exist in the world of ice fishing.
There is no better way to spend a cold, sun-filled day in the winter than outdoors with loved ones and friends, carrying on the traditions of ancestors. Aside from ice fishing for sport or pleasure, it is still an essential skill for providing food in certain parts of Canada.
Ice Fishing in Ontario
The fishing season in Ontario is never-ending. If you are willing to change with the weather and to follow the fish that are in season, you can fish to your heart’s content all year long. Though it will look a little different in the winter, the experience will hook you. During the spring, summer and fall you can fish everything from Walleye to Perch, but during the Ontario winters, the fish are still abundant. Some favourites like Walleye, Lake Trout, Pike and Whitefish are among the list of fish that drive ice fishers in Ontario to brave the elements and make their way to their favourite fishing spots to use a careful combination of patience and skill (sometimes synonymous for this passion) to catch their prizes.
Incredible Ice Fishing Destinations in Ontario
You don’t need to travel far to go ice fishing, in fact, we guarantee that wherever you are right now is closer to an ice fishing spot than you think. If you live in a large city centre it can often be appealing to escape to the country to experience the outdoors, but if you aren’t able to this winter, fear not, you can ice fish right in the city or town you are from. For example, the city of Owen Sound hosts a large collection of ice-fishing huts right in the harbour of Georgian Bay every winter. Hamilton: a large city west of Toronto sees ice fishers fill the inlets of Lake Ontario, nestled up against Bayfront Park from December to March. While ice fishing is accessible no matter where you live, here are some amazing locations for ice fishing in Ontario.
Kenora, Ontario: Lake of the Woods : The Lake of the Woods area is well known for its beautiful scenery and is home to some incredible ice fishing destinations. The Grace Anne II Winter experience is one way to live out your ice fishing dreams in Ontario. Offering guides luxury overnight ice fishing huts and access to saunas, this resort is not only in a beautiful location, but it might be the best way to get someone who is less cold weather inclined out ice fishing.
Wikwemikong Tourism, Manitoulin Island : Wiikwemkoong First Nation located on beautiful Manitoulin Island is home to Wikwemikong Tourism, an indigenous-owned company that prides itself on education-based, cultural tours around Manitoulin Island. During the winter, they offer wooden ice fishing huts on Lake Huron equipped with pre-drilled holes and heaters. Fish for Rainbow Trout, Pike, Cisco and Whitefish, or hike the beautiful snowshoe trails that look out at the Georgian Bay and Killarney Mountains.
See you on the Ice
These are only a couple of the MANY ice fishing options available across this beautiful province this winter. There are so many areas to explore from your hometown, to your best friend’s pond, to a GuidED experience in Northern Ontario. With everything available to modern ice fishing lovers, you can pursue this way of life from the comfort of a semi-permanent ice fishing hut, equipped with a full kitchen and cots, or you can bundle up and sit out on the open ice in the Northern Ontario sun. GuidED encourages you to visit some of these locations or to blaze your own path and find a new place to ice fish. See for yourself how special ice fishing can be!