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Home Story Ice Fishing Is Easy In The NWT

Ice Fishing Is Easy In The NWT

Picture yourself in a cozy hut in the middle of a frozen lake, by a hole in the ice, poised to bring in a huge fish from the waters of the NWT. That’s when you truly understand why ice fishing in the Northwest Territories can be one of the most enjoyable winter or spring activities around.

 The period from late March through to early May is regarded as the best season in the NWT for ice fishing. Longer, sunny days help attract gargantuan fish up from the depths, although ice fishing huts and tents start to appear around lakes in the NWT as early as December. Many NWT’ers fish all winter long! Here, fishing season never truly ends.

Ice fishing is often thought of as a very intimidating and rigorous activity. It’s true that many outdoor survivalists count ice fishing as one of their most valuable winter skills, but this rugged perspective is not the only way people enjoy ice fishing. In fact, ice fishing can be a relaxing and comfortable way to pass the day before a night of chasing the world’s best Aurora, or an opportunity to listen to Indigenous cultural stories shared by your host. 

No matter when you go ice fishing, you can be sure you won’t lack comfort when you spend time out on the ice. Heated ice fishing huts keep everyone cozy. A cup of tea, bannock made on the stove or maybe even samples of fresh fish are never far away.

Cozy huts and ice fishing go together

Yes, ice fishing means you’re out on the windswept surface of a solidly frozen lake, but you’ll find this comes with an unexpected level of warmth and comfort. That’s because ice-fishing huts are homey and spacious — often with dedicated seating and warmed by a wood-burning stove or propane heater. Some huts easily seat six people, each one located by a personal pre-drilled ice-fishing hole.

Many lodges and operators provide ice-fishing tours for a few hours or longer. These excursions allow you to rest easy because your guides look after everything you need to make your NWT ice fishing experience a success.

They will take you out in heated vehicles to the lakes, where they have put up the cozy huts, often located minutes away from communities. They can also provide fishing rods, bait and warm clothing if you need it.

Get ready to ice fish

Experienced ice fishers say the best time to ice fish is early in the day and around sunset when fish head to their feeding grounds. That’s also when species like Northern Pike, Lake Trout, Walleye and the NWT’s iconic Whitefish, are the most active. 

If you are a first time ice-angler and don’t know one fish from the next, don’t worry: your guides will assist you with the skills you need to bring the fish of your dreams up through the ice.

They will show you how to jig, which is running a fishing line down through the hole in the ice. They will also make sure you have live bait or good lures for your line. These lures are usually orange, green and yellow, with bright metallic shine, that look like worms or live bait to fish.

Ice fishing is special

If you are already an angler, you will find ice fishing is a bit different. 

Today’s ice fishing rods are typically spinning rods from about 60 to 80 cm (24 to 36 inches) in length. You don’t cast them, but rather drop your line down through a hole that’s been cut with an auger (which looks a lot like a giant corkscrew,) and then wait for a hungry fish to strike.

Some ice-fishers like to use a device on their line called a tip up, which is not a rod at all. It stays on the ice above your hole, dangling bait beneath it with a flag — or tip up — above as a strike indicator. When a fish takes the bait, the reel turns and releases the line and the flag “tips up” to signal there’s a fish on the line.

Being prepared with the right ice fishing gear is easy. Ice fishing operators will almost always provide everything you need, and lodges that provide ice fishing experiences will also provide gear or have it for rent. If you’re attempting ice fishing on your own, any outdoor equipment supplier in communities across the NWT should stock ice fishing gear, as it’s a part of everyday life for many people in the winter.

Ice fishing is more than just fishing

Even if you don’t plan to stay out ice fishing all day, you will need to wear clothing that keeps you warm and dry, such as layered clothing, insulated boots, a scarf and hat, and waterproof ice fishing gloves.

Ice fishing operators are able to provide you with what you need. From the moment your tour begins, you’ll be in good hands. As an added bonus, you’ll get to experience riding out on the ice on a snowmobile or a Hagglund, an enclosed-track vehicle.

If you’re already an experienced ice-fisher, you can rent your own hut with everything you need to get out on the ice and start jigging.

So, get ready to sit back and enjoy comfortable, heated and even spacious ice fishing huts and discover why fishing season never truly ends in the NWT.

Top up a tour with ice fishing

Ice fishing packages begin running as soon as the lakes freeze across the territory, and many all-inclusive lodges and operators provide ice fishing day trip opportunities. You might like to try your hand at driving your own snowmobile on the frozen lake to ice fish for huge northern Pike or Ling Cod. You can look forward to fresh food if you catch a fish. As an added benefit, you can try snowshoeing along the shoreline.

After your ice fishing experience, a stay at a lodge can be the best way to watch the Northern Lights while enjoying the comforts and hospitality of the NWT. Every Northern host knows the value of a comfortable place to rest your head, especially after a day spent enjoying such a fun outdoor winter activity.  No matter your preference, most of the year you’ll find lots of ice fishing to be had.

If you’re in the NWT and looking to experience another one of the North’s iconic winter activities, don’t let visions of shivering over a small hole in the ice dissuade you from ice fishing. You can drop a line from the warm interior of an ice fishing hut in comfort and with good company. Just sit back and appreciate the NWT’s legendary fishing all year round.

Keen to make the catch of a lifetime? From the Arctic Ocean to a Barrenland brook, your fishing trip in the Northwest Territories will reward you with colossal fish, record-number catches, and an unbelievable story. Read more here to get the “who’s who” of fish species in the Northwest Territories.

It’s no exaggeration to say the Northwest Territories has endless opportunities for the best Northern and Arctic fishing in Canada. Be prepared to break a few personal records.


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