The most important thing about ice fishing is patience. Well, preparedness and then patience. The bulk of ice fishing is sitting and waiting. You go out onto the ice, you drill a hole, drop in a line and hook, and wait for a fish to take the bait.
Start with a stick-to-your-ribs sort of breakfast. You’ll be spending time on top of a frozen lake and a hot and hearty breakfast will help keep you warm. Speaking of warm, check the local weather forecast so you can prepare accordingly. The day we went out with one of the guides at Blachford Lake Lodge, it was a crisp and sunny -30°C. Dressing for the weather in this case meant pulling on both longjohns and snowpants in addition to all our normal winter gear.
Our guide, Sebastien, is a volunteer at the lodge from France. He loads up a sled with an ice auger, fishing rods and hooks, and a cooler of bait. By the end of January, the ice on Blachford Lake is about 3 feet thick, but always check with staff before you go out. We clear away some snow from the ice’s surface and Sebastien revs the auger the way you would a lawnmower. Pointing the auger perpendicular to the lake, he drills down until he reaches water. The fishing hole measures about six inches in diameter – too small to fall through, but just big enough to pull out a tasty Lake Trout or Pickerel! After clearing away any slush with an ice skimmer, you’re ready to go.
Ice fishing rods are different from fly rods; they’re quite short as you won’t be casting. In fact, some of the “rods” are just a stick with twine wrapped around one end. Once you tie on a hook and attach some bait, grab a seat or make yourself comfy in the snow and lower the hook down to the water.
There’s no magic to ice fishing. You could catch a fish in the first five minutes, or it could take you five hours. You’ll want some snacks and something warm to sip on. Not to mention, a good buddy to entertain you with some stories. Don’t be too disappointed if your fishing expedition doesn’t yield much – at -30°C the fish, like most humans, are happy to hunker down and stay out of the cold. But if you get lucky and feel a tug on your line, haul that fish up before he gets away!