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With Tears in Their Eye's 2011

There they were standing on shore, tackle in hand, just staring at the ice. Between them and the ice was a gap of open water too deep to wade through. They looked up and down the shoreline for a possible bridge to the ice or firm footing but there was nothing in sight. Next they search for their cell phones to call anyone they knew who may have found a point of access. They won’t think twice about loading their equipment back in the car and driving an hour if only to spend one last day on hard water. Unfortunately the reports from around the lake were not good with open water everywhere. The message boards were full of questions about conditions on Simcoe and Lake Joe and any other popular lakes that might still have safe ice. The play ground was melting and there was nothing they could do about it. For many this truly is the saddest day of the year.  What makes it even more difficult to hang up the auger this year was the banner year that it was.

An early December cold snap helped produce some good early ice conditions for perch and crappy hunters. With the exception of heavy snow in mid January creating some deep slush on most lakes, an early February thaw and a deep freeze made traveling conditions perfect for walkers, snow machines; ATV’s and even some trucks. Unfortunately too many trucks found pressure cracks or thin ice again this year. Seemingly good ice conditions always brings out the risk takers and inexperienced ice travelers and a high number of snowmobile accidents causing serious injury and fatalities were reported on numerous lakes. It doesn't’ seem to matter the frequency of warnings or how we stress the importance of safety, there are always those who think they know better or simply played the odds too often or even that small chance that mother nature will play a trick at just the wrong time.Ice Community





The Economy and Ice Fishing:

By the winter of 2009, it was clearly evident that Ontario was not immune to the economic downturn felt throughout the rest of the world. Thousands lost their jobs, many suffered financial stress and it seemed we all simply wanted to save money wherever we could. Spending discretionary money on recreational activities became a matter of evaluating the cost of the activity vs. the enjoyment it delivers. From all indications the value of ice fishing was high as the winter of 2009 was very busy on our hard waters. With a reminder of just how much fun ice fishing was the newcomers from 2009 were hooked again and 2010/2011 saw even more ice anglers even though many were back to work as the economy began to recover.

DJI 2011

People from all walks of life took to our lakes in droves - perhaps in no small part because they realized that ice fishing can be one of the most inexpensive and enjoyable recreational pursuits to be had. In 2009 there were more people out of work so we saw more action on the ice during the week … which was followed by weekends when families got together on our hard waters for an economical and fun day of outdoor entertainment. Many adults realized that kids can indeed have fun when they’re away from their computers as they witnessed their children become hooked on ice fishing and the outdoors once again. We even wrote an article on how to prepare for a day on the water with the kids call Fishing with the Young and the Restless. In 2010 there may have been fewer weekday participants but the ice was packed on weekends and holidays.

There are other reasons more people are ice fishing. Better clothing, electronics, equipment, mobility, and information via social networking and message boards allow anglers to become better equipped and capable of catching fish and that equates to more fun.

Ice Fishing Lake Simcoe:

Traditionally, Lake Simcoe is always the most popular destination for ice anglers in Ontario because of its close proximity to Toronto and the most densely populated region in the country. lake simcoeAmericans living in Border States like Michigan, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania also love visiting Simcoe during the winter for our terrific perch fishery. This year was no exception and for most part the lake didn’t disappoint. Perch were prolific throughout all the traditional near-shore areas. perch in a bucket Many did report that average size was below their preferred ‘keeper’ range of 8-11 inches but these same anglers also told us that they would simply have to catch and release more perch in order to get a nice meal of those preferred keepers.

The trout and whitefish action was nothing short of phenomenal for many Simcoe anglers. Perhaps the average size of either was not outstanding but the sheer number of fish caught was excellent by any standard. What a tribute to the incredible work the MNR and its partners have done on this lake. For decades this ministry has stocked lakers and whities in order to sustain a fishery that was not capable of sustaining itself. But for the last three years anglers have been reporting at least as many natural spawn fish as stocked fish for both trout and white fish. 

Once again both wild lake trout and whitefish populations are becoming more prevalent around the lake. On the north shore of Simcoe in particular natural trout in the 2 to 6mattsu 15.5 pound laker pound year class dominated the catch. Not enough can be said about our “men and women in green” and what they have accomplished. This once doomed cold water fishery has regained a heartbeat and may be very close to a self sustaining cold water fishery. The natural spawn is producing so many fish that the stocking program has been reduced by 50,000 trout to encourage natural reproduction.

Of course some larger stocked trout and whitefish were still caught and it appeared that several trout in the 20 pound plus class were pulled through the ice again this year. Last year there was a 33 pound lake trout brought into a local tackle shop to be weighed and there are surely more fish like that to be caught. Anglers can easily tell the difference between a stocked fish and a wild one by checking for fin clips … without a clip; chances are the fish is a natural – or wild specimen not originating from the hatchery.

Other Ice Fishing Destinations:

Simcoe wasn’t the only destination that reported great fishing. The Bay of Quinte hailed to be the “walleye capital of the world” was busy all winter as more anglers took to the ice in hopes of catching one of the bays monsters. On any given weekend the ice was covered with anglers in spots from Trenton to Desoronto and again up Long Reach to Hay Bay. Many walleye over 12 pounds were reported but more importantly the quantity of fish seemed as good as ever. Guide services such as G2 Angling and Quinte Ice Fishing Team were busy all season and if you wanted to book a weekend you had to call early.

Georgian Bay from Severn Sound to Pointe au Baril had several hot spots including Parry Sound where the Lake Trout fishing just keeps getting better and the word seems to be spreading as this once abandon fishery has come alive with more hard water anglers every year. Point au Baril might just be the best walleye fishery in terms of numbers anywhere in the province as we experienced on the first stop of our Winter Walleye Tour. The best time to fish there is in the spring when you can choose between incredible walleye fishing or search for monster pike.

Great ice fishing destinations are dependent on more than just great fishing. As gas prices soar travelling distance becomes more of a factor. Points of access and parking are a huge problem on Lake Simcoe with up to 10,000 anglers every weekend and as the sport expands there’s no doubt it will be a problem everywhere. Local communities fail to recognize the huge economic impact a sport such as ice fishing can have during what is normally an off season.  

The End Marks a New Beginning:

As the shoreline ice melts away and you happen to see several guys standing on shore holding buckets, an auger, and some short rods, starring hopelessly out on the ice with tears in their eyes, share a kind word and remind them that there’s just enough time to get some household chores done before they can launch their boats again and begin a whole new fishing season. If the 2010/11 hard-water season was any indication of what the rest of the year has in store, then we’re in for a great year.

See you on the soft water

mattsu big simcoe laker

Shawanaga Bay walleye

Lippless trout crank

Ashley Rea

Jw good trout

Ryan Hare with grip and laker

Leon Malony

Mike Dobing 20 pounds

Ryan from G2

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