Winter Attractions Snowmobiling in Muskoka

Ice Fishing

Ice FishingEvery winter in Muskoka brings another season of some of the Province's best ice fishing. The six primary ice fishing lakes in the District of Muskoka usually have quite a lot of ice huts on them during this time of year, and for good reason. Lakes Muskoka, Rosseau & Joseph are home to healthy lake trout and pikerel populations. Lake of Bays also sports a healthy population in trout and pikerel, and speaking of pikerel don't forget about Three Mile Lake, then there is Skeleton Lake for whitefish.

Fish Caught!The point is, wherever you decide to go, the ice fishing is good. Ice Fishing years ago meant sitting in a freezing shack or modified tent, or worse still, just hunched over an eight inch hole in the ice as you are frostbitten by the unrelenting wind. With the growing popularity of this great winter activity things have changed.

There are huts with all manner of heat devices from propane and oil furnaces to the more classic wood stove, better fishing equipment and of course the all important fish finder. The best part is, you don't need to bring these things with you. There are many places in and around Bracebridge which will rent you everything you need to make your family's first ice fishing experience a good one.

Why not try ice fishing when you are looking for something new and interesting to do this winter? There is nothing quite like inviting a trophy-sized fish up through the hole to discuss what's on the menu for later on that evening!

With the advent of power augers, more sophisticated fish finders and GPS devices, ice fishing has evolved into a sport where one can really get pretty technical about catching the 'big one'. It is one of the few sports though that you can still get away with buying a spool of line and a bag of minnows and with a little know-how still have the same chance as someone who's invested a few hundred dollars.

It has long been rumoured that fish stocks have been depleted in the Muskoka lakes, but nothing could be further from the truth. Carefully management and stocking programs by the Ministry of Natural Resources and catch-and-release efforts by local and visiting anglers, all have contributed to a healthy population of game fish.

As they say, "Early to bed, early to rise, fish like heck and make up lies." Happy fishing!

ICE FISHING EQUIPMENT

There are two types of equipment that are used for ice fishing: either stationary lines, or jigging lines. The simplest form of stationary line is the set-line. A two to three foot slender willow or dogwood branch is anchored in the frozen slush so that the smaller tip is centered over the hole. After attaching a small elastic to your line by means of a couple of loops, it will be hung near the tip of your branch or twig. A minnow is then suspended under a sinker about one to five feet off bottom. If a fish hits, the elastic cushions the strike and pops off the branch. After the fish is landed, the elastic will hold the bait at exactly the previous depth. Floats can also be used to hold a minnow off bottom.

Boy with FishTip-ups provide the opportunity to move the bait as well as detecting a strike. Commercial tip-ups usually have a small reel to hold the line and a flag mechanism to indicate the presence of a fish. The best type to purchase are those that allow the reel to sit under the surface of the water. Some tip-ups manufactured by Windlass have a metal or plastic vane that catch the wind, jigging the minnow. These are very effective since they offer increased visibility and action of the bait under water. Another type of tip-up which is extremely sensitive is utilized inside ice huts. A balanced stick carved out of cedar is held in a wire cradle on the top of a wooden stand. The line on the stick is attached to a spreader which consists of a lead weight and two to three hooks. The spreader sits on the bottom and dropper lines are positioned at various depths off bottom. Any movement of the bait causes the tip-up stick to move indicating the presence of a fish.

Jigging equipment consists of a reel either spinning or baitcasting matched with a short rod. Rods are usually 24 to 32 inches in length and feature a variety of actions from light to medium heavy. Most ice fishermen use line in the range of 8 to 14 pound test. A good quality line is Trilene XL, Ultra thin, or Cold Weather. Since ice can be abrasive it makes sense to use line of approximately two pounds greater strength than you would use in warm water conditions.

SOME TIPS FOR THE BEGINNERS

1. Be Safe - Although on new ice you can fish on about three inches, by the end of the season six or eight inches of bad ice might not be enough. Check ice thickness and conditions before you go out every time.
2. Be Prepared - Bring some rope with you in case someone happens to go through, and remember to pack some food. Ice fishing can be a long process, and you're bound to get hungry. Other items you might consider bringing include a change of clothes, extra boots, a cell phone in case of emergency, and a first aid kit. Always get yourself set up before you put your first line down. If you can't grab the gaff hook to bring up that trophy that just bit right on because the hook is under your backpack, you are bound for disappointment.
3. Be Mobile - Ice fishing in a heated hut is great. The only problem is that if you only fish the holes in the hut you aren't going to catch many fish. This is why you normally see fishermen with a line down in the hut and a line outside. If you have a fish finder all the better. Some people have been known to move their outside holes up to a dozen times a day or more! Keep moving after the fish, and you will have a better chance of landing one.
4. Be Smart - Fish have a brain the size of a pea, and the average fisherman's brain is about a thousand times larger. A fish's stomach on the other hand is about twenty times the size of it's brain (on average), while our stomachs are pretty much even. Fish aren't intelligent creatures, but they do rely on a number of senses to fill their oversized bellies. These include, colour, smell, and yes sound. You might want to turn the radio down inside the hut for a better chance to land a trophy. Wash your hands in lake water and don't use perfumed soaps. Close the curtains on the fish hut and try to keep things as dark as possible inside. You will be surprised how much these simple things will help you to catch those fish.
5. Be Respectful - The Ministry of Natural Resources has strictly posted guidelines as to how many fish you are allowed to keep. They are always out on the lakes looking for those unfortunate people who dare to go over their quotas, and fines are not small. Beside it being the law, consider that the more fish you take out of the lake, the less will be there next time. The larger fish are not as good to eat as the little 'pan fryers' but many people keep these large fish. The problem there is, the larger fish are the breeders. The end result is no fish for anybody. Please respect the fish.

 

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