Let me open this blog post up by saying I’ve never been much of an ice angler.
As a kid, dad and I would trudge out onto the barren blanket of the snow-covered, iced-over lake, either spud or drill a couple of holes with the dullish hand auger, and essentially sit in our two designated spots for the entire time. Every now and then, either dad or I would get a bite and hopefully put our intended quarry on the ice.
Most of the time, however, we’d be jigging randomly, not really knowing if there were fish below us and if there was, how deep were they or what was their attitude. That normally ended up in fishless days or at best, with very few caught.
Through time, my ice fishing trips faded away. I felt that with the amount of open water fishing I do, it would be a nice break.
Since then, I had only been out on a couple of trips, both with mediocre success.
Around mid-January of 2022, I decided “that’s enough” and I wanted to dip my toe back into the world of ice fishing, so I called up Kevin Lavers of Merland Park Cottages to see what was happening in the Picton area of the Bay of Quinte. He’s always in tune with the Walleye fishing on “the bay”. After a quick chat about the Walleye fishing being mediocre at that time, he told me that there was a bit of a Pike and Perch bite going on Lake Ontario. That piqued my interest even more so.
LAKE ONTARIO PIKE & PERCH
With that, a few days later I met Kev at his place and we headed out to the big lake for a shot at some Pike and Perch.
We met up with a buddy of Kevin’s named Jay Pickerel… yeah that’s right, and we were soon into dropping our baits down into a couple of holes in a nice, comfy, portable ice hut.
Now, remember how I explained my youth when ice fishing. “IF” we fished out of a hut, it was a big wood “permanent” hut which sat in one spot pretty much throughout the winter. Mostly though, it was dead in the nasty wind. The portable huts now though, let me tell you, they’re a lifesaver. And the best part is they’re easy to move if you need to relocate to find fish. BTW, a heater in a portable hut is like putting jam on a peanut butter sandwich. Such a pairing!
We caught a nice bevy of eaters in both Perch and Pike on Lake Ontario
Kevin, Jay, and I ended the day with a few Pike and some bonus Yellow Perch. All in all, a fun day. The highlight was watching a Pike come in on the LiveScope, stare down my jigging spoon, refuse it, then turn towards Kevin’s spoon, and eventually slam it! And since we were fishing only around 8 feet of gin-clear water, Kevin also watched the fish bite his presentation directly down the hole.
SMALL LAKE WALLEYE
For this Walleye outing, good fishing buddy Sean Gleeson and I headed up to his cottage for a “boy’s weekend” to try our hand at a bit of ice fishing. We’ve only “attempted” the hard water Walleye fishing there a couple of times before so we really didn’t have much past experience to work with.
Our plan was to latch a portable hut to a snow machine and hit 4 or 5 of our better summer Walleye areas (I grabbed an SD card with a Quickdraw map out of one of our boats and put it in our portable Garmin ice unit).
As the morning started out, Sean wanted to run the snowmobile around a bit to warm it up and break a trail down to the lake. Problem… lots of light, powdered snow… lots!
Lots of snow during the winter of ‘22
That’s a problem because we had to run two people on the machine, and we had to pull a fully loaded portable ice hut (which weighs 125lbs without the fishing gear).
That test didn’t go well.
The machine constantly wanted to bog down through the snow and right to the ground. We thought if we could just get to the lake, we’d be set. Unfortunately, the lake had about 8 inches of slush under a thin upper crust of ice.
The snowmobile was left parked in the driveway for the remainder of the weekend.
That said, we have caught a few Walleye in front of Sean’s cottage during the open water period so that’s where we set up (by late morning due to all the screwing around we did).
Nothing was happening at mid-day, however, just when that magical Walleye time hit (about an hour before sunset), we caught our first Eye on a tip-up with a minnow. Biggest fish of the trip, a perfect eater.
By the time night fell upon us, we had 3 more “just keepers” we caught on jigging spoons tipped with minnow heads. Enough for a nice Walleye snack. Incidentally, we caught all of those fish due to the LiveScope unit set up between our holes.
Up to the cottage for a nice feed-bag of pork schnitzel, some red wine, and a couple of brewski’s… night-night, out like a light!
The next morning I decided to get up before daylight and scoot back down to the hut (we left it anchored overnight) but could only scrounge up some small Walleye that were “just under” that self-imposed keeper size.
Sean joined me later and was just in time to join me in catching a tough little Muskie that came in and took a look at both of our offerings before I coaxed her into hitting my spoon (looked like a big Walleye on the Garmin… typical of my luck on that lake!!!).
Maybe Muskie video here
RAINBOW TROUT: SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR ME
Pete’s “mayhem” Rainbow Trout… these things do get squirrely with these underwater rockets!
My next couple of trips took me north of the city of Belleville to a small, non-public accessed lake with buddy Jeremy Foote. Jer is a fishing nut and is always in tune with what’s happening in the fishing community. He showed me pictures from the past of some gorgeous Rainbow Trout and offered to take me out, so I finally accepted. I wanted to try the LiveScope out on these babies for sure!
In short, we had two separate trips, both of which were successful for a few fish. And YES, the LiveScope came through with flying colours!
On day one we set out in front of a shoreline point. The first fish of the day was on a tip-up. Once we started to see fish moving, we noticed they were coming in close to the bottom at 20+ feet but wanted to rise up to investigate or hit our offerings. We put our baits up enough to be able to see any fish around them and then work them either up or down accordingly. This worked great as we caught a few fish including the great sequence in the video below.
Day two about 3-weeks later was even more interesting.
We set up near the same point as day one but much shallower. Jer had fished there the weekend before and caught a bunch in that exact spot. After lots of jigging, scanning, and no fish, I said let’s take the LiveScope and start searching.
I asked Jeremy if he knew of any deeper water and he said “yup” and pointed us in the direction of 30+ feet. He punched a hole, and immediately after I dropped the LiveScope transducer in, I saw two trout swimming about 2-3 feet under the ice, approximately 25 feet away from us. NOTHING was deep. I quickly grabbed a rod and dropped a small plastic bait on a jig down about 5 feet (which was a few feet under the ice) to see if anything was happening and within a couple of minutes, smack, it must have been one of the bows that we saw.
Pete and Jeremy Foote hold a nice pair of “stocker Rainbow” in both the male and a female version
We grabbed all of the gear including the portable shelter, re-setup shop, and proceeded to catch trout, 5-7 feet down in 30-35 feet of water. So much fun and so cool being able to figure things like that out with the aid of a fish finder! Had I still been ice fishing like dad and I used to way back in the day, I can guarantee you that I would not have seen or caught any of those high-riding fish.
Note: Had I dropped down a traditional transducer while scouting on the above search mission (which we also have on our portable), the only way I would have seen those roaming fish was if they literally passed directly under my transducer in the hole.
However, on day one of the Rainbow fishing, a traditional or a LiveScope transducer would have worked since the fish were relating to the bottom.
My conclusion here is simple. With all the modern-day technology to keep ice anglers warm, to be able to punch a hole through 12” of ice in mere seconds via a lithium-powered electric auger, as well as to the effectiveness of using electronics to aid and entertain us, I think I’ve returned to the game of ice fishing… she sure ain’t what she used to be!