I love fishing. For me, it’s always been about getting out on my boat in the warmer months and enjoying the fresh air. But winters can be so long and I miss being out there. I’ve been thinking about trying ice fishing for the first time. I wasn’t sure it would be right for me, or even where to start. So I reached out to Bob Izumi, a Canadian professional angler, host of Bob Izumi’s Real Fishing Show, and all-around fishing guru to learn more. I asked him a few questions and he shared his tips on ice fishing for beginners.
I keep hearing about ice fishing. Is it growing in popularity in Canada?
100 per cent yes. Sales of ice fishing equipment have been increasing year after year. Retailers are carrying more ice fishing-related gear then they ever did before. Portable ice fishing shelters have seen a significant growth in sales and there are so many new models to choose from. Within minutes you can be set-up and fishing in warmth with a propane heater and some of the comforts of home.
Why do Canadians love ice fishing so much?
Fishing is a favourite Canadian past-time and Canadian winters are too long to spend all of your time indoors. Ice fishing provides a great escape. It’s relatively inexpensive and anyone can do it. It also makes lakes and rivers accessible to many people who don’t have a boat to fish from in warmer months.
What is the most important equipment to have when ice fishing?
Aside from a fishing license and a rod, an ice auger is a must. There are plenty of options to choose from, including manual, gas, propane, and electric. Manual ice augers are great and inexpensive if you’ve got someone else going with you who is looking for a workout. The key to any auger, regardless of type or size, is having sharp blades.
An ice fishing depth finder is also a big help in determining where to drill holes. They can help identify structure under the water, such as shoals and drop-offs and even show the depth the fish are at..
Lastly, depending on where you are fishing, you may need registration papers for your ice hut.
What is one thing you bring with you every time you go ice fishing that isn’t tackle?
It’s not what you might expect. It’s confidence: the confidence in knowing the ice and conditions are safe. Education and experience go a long way. I’m not the type of person that has to be the first one out there. Current of any kind stops ice from getting thicker. In other words, it creates sections of thinner, dangerous ice. I highly recommend you stay away from these at the early part of the season. Always check conditions before heading out and learn to recognize signs of danger. Playing it safe is my first piece of advice.
Dressing in layers and staying warm and comfortable is also extremely important. I wear a base layer of Columbia Omni Heat – it’s similar to thermal blanket technology – and then layer up from there. The temperature can change so fast if the wind starts up. Preparation is the key.
We hear about ice fishing mishaps every year and sadly, some are tragic. What are your TOP safety tips for anyone thinking about going ice fishing?
Be sure to have safety icepicks or ice-claws readily accessible. They can help you get out of the water if the ice breaks. It’s also a really good idea to let folks know where you’re going and when you plan on returning, just in case something happens.
There are so many beautiful and productive lakes in Canada, which are your top three for ice fishing?
It’s a tough choice, but I would say Lake Simcoe in Ontario for perch, whitefish and lake trout; Lake of the Woods in Ontario for pike lake trout, crappie, white fish, and walleye; and Lake Winnipeg in Manitoba for green back walleyes.
What’s the biggest fish you ever caught ice fishing?
I was fishing with Gord Pyzer in northwestern Ontario. We weren’t having a lot of success that day. We caught a few small ones and missed a few others. It was near the end of the day and we were on the shore with the fire going playing the waiting game when I saw the flag go up. I ran over to grab the rod and realized right away that we had something big. It was a monster pike and based on the measurements it was over 30 pounds. It’s always nice to end the day with a trophy fish.
Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to getting out on the water this winter and I will be taking Bob’s advice with me.
Do you ice-fish? What do you love about the sport?