It’s no secret that Canadians love their winter recreation - and when we think of the most popular Canadian activities we instantly think of hockey, but for a fisherman, the best cold recreational activity is ice fishing. Due to its northern temperatures, Canada has no shortage of great ice fishing lakes but we have put together a list of the top nine to help you narrow down your potential fishing spots.
Best Lakes for Ice Fishing in Canada
An hour north of Toronto, Ontario, Lake Simcoe is home to the Canadian Ice Fishing Championship and quite possibly the most popular ice fishing location in North America - in fact, more people fish on Lake Simcoe in the winter, between January and March, than the rest of the seasons combined. But don’t let the idea of a crowd deter you, with 280 square miles of fishing space, it’s still possible to find a secluded spot to drill your own holes if you don’t want to take advantage of one of the thousands of huts you can rent. The lake is stocked each year with plenty of trout and whitefish to add to the already large population of yellow perch to be caught, while the occasional catch of a northern pike is not unheard of.
Just an hour south of Saskatoon, Lake Diefenbaker is full of record breaking fish of all sorts including whitefish, pike, walleye, burbot, perch, and rainbow trout. The whitefish frequently grow beyond 10lbs and with a world record 48lb rainbow trout, this is a great spot if you’re looking for a big catch. Satisfying both quality and quantity, people catching upwards of 50 fish in a morning are also fairly common in the peak season months of January and February.
3. Lake of the Woods, Ontario
Near Kenora, Ontario, the Lake of the Woods, also known as the The Walleye Capital of the World, touches the US border with 65,000 miles of shoreline and includes a plethora of resorts that cater to the ice fisherman’s dream. The lake is generally ready for ice fishing endeavors in December with the season ending in March. Many resorts offer transportation to heated huts with pre-drilled holes to maximize your fishing potential, but you can also choose to drill your own holes or bringing your own hut to fish for the walleye, northern pike, smallmouth bass and muskie that are found in the lake.
Where to Visit Near Lake of the Woods: Kenora
Straddling the border between Alberta and Saskatchewan, Cold Lake gets the privilege of being one of the best ice fishing lakes in two different provinces. It is one of the deepest lakes and offers the opportunity to fish for northern pike, walleye, yellow perch, burbot and whitefish. The only problem with Cold Lake is that it is so massive that it may not freeze over until later in the winter season, usually later in December or even January. That means the best times to head out for ice fishing on this windy lake are in February and March.
Deep in the Kluane National Park near Haines Junction, if you’re brave enough to face the true weather of the Great White North, Kathleen Lake offers a large amount of trout fishing in February and March. Being out in the park, there are a lot of other recreational opportunities including cross country skiing, dog sledding, snowshoeing and snowmobiling. You are able to take your own huts out onto the ice but they must be removed by the end of each day, so if you are planning a longer trip, plan to have space to store your hut overnight.
Where to Visit Near Kathleen Lake: Haines Junction
6. Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan
With the peak of the season being in March, Tobin Lake, a few hours northeast of Saskatoon, is a great spot for catching large fish. The lake is 40 miles long and 16 miles wide, which gives a lot of space for the winter anglers, but the best spots may be harder to find. Resorts around the lake offer heated huts as well as full tours to help you find the best spots for fishing for both the monster pike and walleye. The current All Tackle World record walleye was caught here in 2005 and weighed 18.3lbs and the largest known northern pike was caught here at 38lbs.
With 10lb fish being caught daily and 12-14lb walleye being caught on a weekly basis, the Bay of Quinte offers some great walleye ice fishing opportunities from December through February. While the spot is known for its incredible walleye population, the bay also has northern pike, bass, perch, and sheep head to catch within its waters. Surrounding businesses in Prince Edward County, about 2 hours east of Toronto, offer packages including guided fishing and lodging.
Where to Visit Near Bay of Quinte: Bellville
Ice fishing in the Northwest Territories is an experience many don’t have the opportunity to have, so if you make the trek to the Great Slave Lake, you’re in for an adventure. There are guided tours offered out of Yellowknife, NT from December until May as the lake is frozen in this cold territory. With the greatest depth in North America at 2,014 feet, trout that can grow up to 60lbs and many trophy trout are caught even close to the shorelines. The lake also features northern pike and arctic grayling, so whatever the catch, it’s sure to be a great fishing experience for any angler wanting to make the trip.
It’s without a doubt that Canada holds a great many destinations for ice fishing adventures that extend far beyond this list, so bundle up and get ready to make some incredible catches.
This article was written by Kim Cowan.