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The Season of Ice Begins


As I look out to snow covered fields, frozen puddles and the distinct quiet that winter brings; I look forward to the coming of ice fishing. It’s always anticipated, if for no other reason than change. Change is as much a part of Canada as the game of hockey. Change means different seasons and different ways to approach living. Just like living, different seasons means a different way to approach fishing and with the approaching winter, that means fishing through the ice.

Ice fishing, I believe, is the great equalizer. There is no such thing as a forty thousand dollar walleye auger, or maybe I should say a walleye ‘fishing machine’ ice auger. An ice-fishing tent is a nice comfort, but on all but the coldest days, it isn’t necessary. An ice fishing rod is neat to play with and works well inside an ice-fishing tent, but again, they’re not necessary. A cooler isn’t necessary to keep the catch cold, just pile up some snow and ice and deposit your bounty.

What is necessary is your enthusiasm to bundle up, embrace the day and head out on an adventure. Take the friends, take the family, take the neighbors pet. Plan around fun and commit, commit, commit to going out. Trust me, once you get out there it’ll be great. Minus five or even minus ten is very comfortable on a sunny winter day. Most days are calm and quite pleasant and when the fish are biting, it’s all good.

Speaking of fish, not all fish get going at the same level come winter. Typically, early ice fishing for trout in the potholes is reliable with reasonable fishing throughout the day and good fishing morning and evening. Walleye fishing is sporadic during the day, unless you fish the deep ends of prominent drops, which do have a habit of producing some daytime bites. However, low light usually brings up a short, but intense walleye bite. Pike fishing is reasonable and whitefish fishing is good.

I typically have two early season targets. The first is brook trout. They’re in shallow going through their spawning motions. This happens in every single lake they live in. All you have to do is find a gravel bottom and fish right over top of it. I regularly fish in two to eight feet of water and if I’m not seeing fish in minutes, I’m moving. Really. That’s the joy of fishing for brookies, I will see every single fish that comes by and when they’re spawning, a lot come by.

The set up for brookies is simple. A small piece of dew worm, trout worm or maggot put on the end of a small hook or even a small fly will catch fish. Use light line and more fish will bite. My preference over the years has been to rely on the strength of four-pound test. I feel it gives me the biggest bang for my buck. It has reduced visibility because it’s thin, yet it’s strong enough to handle most every brookie, so long as I don’t horse the bigger ones up.

When it comes to brookie fishing, there will be a lot of catching, a lot of seeing and a lot of ‘there was a big one below my hole, but just as it was getting interested, a wee little brookie darted in and took my bait’. Believe me, where there are mature spawning brookies, there will be an armada of little ones hanging around eager to eat up the eggs, plus the bait on the end of the line.

I recently started ice fishing with tiny, size fourteen and sixteen bead headed nymphs for brookies and I’ve had some success. Usually I’ll catch a few or more right off the hop, but the longer I stay with the flies, the wiser they get, prompting me to either change up or move. But this technique is one of my standbys for a completely different fish, the northern pike… No just kidding, I’m talking about the lake whitefish.

While it seems that there is a population of lake whitefish anglers that swear by and stick to wireworms to catch their quarry, there are few that give thought to the idea that a nymph like fly would do the trick just as well. I’ve been using bead headed nymphs for whitefish for years and their effectiveness is beyond impressive. Where I’ve had fussy whites look over a wireworm several times before committing to strike or flee, the nymphs, especially the smaller varieties, in size 12 or smaller are almost always taken.

Whites are another great fish to pursue at first ice because they are shallow, like to hang around weeds and are fairly easy to catch. Again, the fishing is all visual, and seeing them glide in to take a look at the hook is a lot of fun. They also grow quite large with two and three pounders being common and four pound plus fish being a welcomed, but not necessarily an unexpected, bonus.

Again, I use four pound test for whites, but I do this, not by spooling up the entire real with four pound test. Instead, I’ll tie a three foot section of four pound to the end of my main line, much like a fly angler does by attaching tippet to the end of their leader.

With the ice-fishing season about to get underway, I look forward to getting reacquainted with both the brookie and whitefish. Both provide great fishing at this time of year and the chance to walk out on the ice and catch a few is just too good an outdoor adventure to pass up.

Previous Fishing Articles
(1) It’s OK to Be Little Bitty
(2) Exploring Tundra Waters
(3) The Jewel at First Ice
(4) Fly Fishing Bucket List
(5) Guided or DIY?
(6) Pond Power
(7) Caddisflies
(8) In the Good Old Summertime
(9) A Southern Escape
(10) Springtime in Alberta - Can Thrill You to the Bone
(11) Sunny Day Rainbows
(12) New "Fishing" Year Resolutions
(13) Five Fine Places to Find Trout
(14) Catfishing Revisited
(15) Discover Squamish, an Outdoor Playground
(16) Falling for Cutthroat
(17) New Water and Old Friends
(18) My McLeod
(19) Temperature and Trout
(20) On the Road Again
(21) Tips That Will Make You a More Successful Fly-Fisherman
(22) 5 Ways to Catch Your Trout
(23) The Difference Maker - Reading Trout Stream Waters
(24) Rollin’ on the River
(25) Windy Day Pike
(26) Cures for Cabin Fever
(27) Snowbirding with a Fishing Rod
(28) Alberta’s Spring Creek Browns - Blessings and Curses
(29) A day on our foothill streams
(30) Fly Fishing Crowded Waters
(31) Fly Leaders
(32) In the Zone
(33) Learners Permit
(34) Flies of Summer
(35) Selecting the Right Boat
(36) The Italian Job
(37) Making a difference
(38) Pass the Salt
(39) Hopper Time - Fly-fishing’s Second Season
(40) Pike on the Fly - Fishing New Waters
(41) Fall brings the big walleye out
(42) Hoppertunity Time
(43) Becoming a Better Dry Fly Angler
(44) Make Your Own Fishing Adventure
(45) Early Season Fly Fishing
(46) Walleye Logic
(47) Fly Fishing in the Desert
(48) Grammy’s Fish
(49) Top 10 Trout Lures
(50) All I Want for Christmas – Neil Waugh's Yule Tide Fishing Gifts Wish List
(51) Muskies - The Ultimate Predator
(52) What to expect when fishing the West Coast
(53) Tips & Tricks for Fall Fly Fishing
(54) There’s No Place Like Home
(55) A Golden Opportunity
(56) The Observational Trout Fisherman
(57) Un-matching the Hatch
(58) Alberta Super Bugs
(59) Glass is Back
(60) The Bull Trout of the Athabasca
(61) Speed Kills
(62) Entering the Twilight Zone
(63) Old Man River
(64) The Pink Salmon of the Squamish River
(65) Small stream BT fishing
(66) Fly fishing beyond Trout: getting started
(67) In The Walleye Zone
(68) Zoo Trout
(69) Fly Selection for Beginners
(70) Fly Fisher's Christmas
(71) New Waters
(72) Big Bad Burbot
(73) Looking Back
(74) Out of Africa
(75) Finding Success on Crowded Trout Streams
(76) Mountain Peaks, Fast Streams, Fall Colours And Rocky Mountain Whitefish
(77) The Browns of Autumn
(78) Fly-Fishing Pike Through The Seasons
(79) Walleye Town
(80) River Fun - One Bite At A Time
(81) Fly Fishing Larger Rivers
(82) Going With The Flow
(83) Becoming A Better Fly Fisherman
(84) Swinging The Fences
(85) A View From The Aerie
(86) Dixieland Delight
(87) Atlantic Salmon - The Fish of 1000 Casts
(88) Do It Yourself Pink Salmon
(89) Montana's Cool Missouri
(90) Pretty Is As Pretty Does
(91) Toothy Critters
(92) Hard Water Lakers at Cold Lake
(93) Top Ten Flies
(94) Northern Exposure
(95) Home Water Lessons
(96) Chicken Of The Sea
(97) Sealing the Deal – How to Ensure You Land More Fish
(98) Deep In The Heart Of Texas
(99) Keep It Up!
(100) River Fishing for Fall Walleye
(101) After the Flood - A look at Southern Alberta rivers and streams one year after the 2013 flood
(102) Reindeer Lake - A Diversity of Opportunity
(103) Hawg Holes
(104) Saltwater Salmon
(105) Early Season Dry Fly Fishing
(106) Down a Lazy River - A Fly-rodding Adventure on the Lower North Saskatchewan
(107) The Fly Fishing Season Ahead
(110) Bright Fish from the Land of Silver
(111) Canada's "Other" Salmon
(112) Fall Walleye
(113) Wet Flies
(114) Versatility the Key to Success
(115) Grayling of the Boreal
(116) Teaching Kids To Fly Fish
(117) Size Matters
(118) Fly Fishing Small Streams
(119) Chasing Winter Whites One Lake At A Time
(120) Manitoba's Fishing Jewel
(121) The Twelve Gifts Of Christmas
(122) The Point Of It All
(123) Fishing With Friends-Big Weather Seizing The Day
(124) Fall Fly Fishing
(125) Personal Pontoon Boats 101
(126) Big River, Big Fish
(127) Bottom Bonanza
(128) Fishing Small Flies
(129) So Many Choices, So Little Time
(130) Four Seasons of the Bow
(131) Favourite Lakes - Some Like it Hot
(133) Trout Hunting New Zealand style
(134) Don’t Leave Home Without Them – 10 Lures That Should Be In Everyone’s Tackle Box
(135) Edge Walleye
(137) Smallmouth Bass – An Oft Overlooked Challenge
(138) Four Corners – Four Waters
(139) Chasing Pothole Trout
(140) Springtime Stoneflies
(141) The Torrents of Spring
(142) Drift Boat Fly Fishing
(143) Bust Them With Bait
(144) Cure the Winter Blues with a Good Book
(145) Hot Strategies for the Cold Months
(146) Cutthroat: The Angler's Trout
(147) Terrestrials
(148) Fly In For Fishing Fun
(149) Rocky Mountain High
(150) Reading the clues
(151) Where the Trout Are The art of locating feeding trout in rivers and streams.
(152) K.I.S.S. and Tell Fly-fishin
(153) Fly Fishing 101
(154) To Catch a Big Halibut, or Ling Cod
(155) The Bountiful Bones of Ascension Bay
(156) Grayling in the Eye of the Beholder
(157) Fly Fishing for South Fork Clearwater Steelhead
(158) Manitoba's Red River - North America's Catfish Capital
(159) Eliminating the Spook Factor
(160) Trust Your Electronics
(161) The Most Important Hatch of the Year
(162) Early Season Nymph Fishing for Trout
(163) Finding Success for Ice Trout
(164) Walleye can be Humbling
(165) The Secret to Landing the Big One Finally Revealed
(166) Winter Flyfishing
(167) North Saskatchewan River - An Underutilized Fishing Gem
(168) Hot Fall Pike Action
(169) Tips and Tricks to Save the Summer Slow Down
(170) Reading Trout Stream Waters
(171) Frequently Asked Questions
(172) Streamer Fishing for Larger Trout
(173) The Lure of Big Walleye at Last Ice
(174) Deep Water Perch
(175) Post Spawn Brookies
(176) A Fisher's Life
(177) The River's Last Stand
(178) The Big Ones Come out at Night
(179) Coho on the Coast
(180) Chasing and Catching Halibut
(181) Summer in the Mountains
(182) Peak Walleye Season
(183) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
(184) Last Ice Rainbows
(185) The Burbot Event
(186) Tackle Matching
(187) Ice Fishing Strategy #2 - Going Light
(188) Ice Fishing Strategy #1 - Location
(189) The Lure of Brook Trout
(190) The Shallow Water Hunt is On
(191) Hot Backswimmer Action Happening Right Now
(192) Fishing Among Giants-Pursuing Lake Sturgeon on the Prairies
(193) Adventure at Davin Lake Lodge, Northern Saskatchewan
(194) The Vesatile Plug
(195) Bead Head Flies, Plugs and Shot and other Spring Favorites for Pothole Trout
(196) Planning your Upcoming Angling Adventures
(197) Good Fishing at Last Ice
(198) Maximize the Odds - Use Multiple Presentations
(199) Daily Fish Migrations
(200) Fish Migrations - Following the Spawn
(201) Lake Whitefish - An Ice Fishing All Star
(202) Pick Your Favorite Brook Trout Lake...and Go Fishing
(203) A Look Ahead to Great Trout Fishing
(204) Wrestling White Sturgeon on the Fraser
(205) The Fun in Ultra Light
(206) Flyfishing and Leadcore Lines
(207) Embrace the Spirit of Adventure
(208) Never Stop Learning
(209) Ice Fishing is Getting Hot
(210) Jigging through the Ice
(211) An Ice Fishing Unsung Hero – The Setline
(212) Rainbows on Ice
(213) The Season of Ice Begins
(214) Red Hot Fall Pike Action
(215) Hitting it Right with Water Boatman
(216) Facts On Cats
(217) West Coast Adventure
(218) June Walleye Frenzy
(219) Aerated Lakes are Big Trout Factories
(220) First Fish of the Year Pothole Rainbows and Browns
(221) Northern Exposure
(222) Sometimes There is More to Fishing Than Catching Fish
(223) Early Season Pike On The Fly
(224) Man Overboard
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