In Canada, we have an almost endless supply of beautiful lakes. In winter, though, some of them take on special significance: when the word “spectacular” doesn’t necessarily apply to the scenery (although it definitely could), but rather to what you can catch at the end of a fishing pole. Whether you choose a DIY approach with your own hut and auger or a luxury trip at a remote resort, these are some of Canada’s most spectacular spots for ice fishing.
Lake Memphrémagog, Quebec
This cold, deep lake in the Eastern Townships — which also butts up against Newport, Vermont — boasts a healthy supply of brown and rainbow trout, salmon, pike and perch, and is generally fishable from Christmas until the end of March. Just don’t fish too deep because the lake is supposedly home to a monster named Memphre, who is said to resemble the Loch Ness monster.
Bay of Quinte, Ontario
On Lake Ontario, close to Belleville, the Bay of Quinte is one of several spots in both Canada and the US to be called the “walleye capital of the world.” Predictably, the Bay has lots of walleye, along with large- and smallmouth bass and pike, with the season running from December to February. Four areas in particular to check out are Trenton Bay, Belleville Bay, Telegraph Narrows and Hay Bay.
Lake Simcoe, Ontario
Billed as the “ice fishing capital of Canada,” more people fish on Lake Simcoe in winter than all other seasons combined. Just 90 minutes north of Toronto, the “most famous ice fishery in the world,” is stocked with trout and whitefish, along with a healthy population of yellow perch. There are thousands of huts available to rent, but there’s lots of space for your own hut, too.
Lake Nipissing, Ontario
To stay super warm and cozy as you fish for walleye on this large Ontario lake, rent an ice bungalow complete with bunk beds, propane furnaces, lights and barbecues and (best of all) a 24-hour heated, lit toilet facility. After all, if you don’t have to leave the ice, you’ve got a lot more time to fish.
Lake Superior, Ontario
The world’s largest freshwater lake, Superior isn’t as popular with anglers as other lakes in the country, but that’s to your benefit if you choose to explore its many shallow bays. Black Bay, close to to the city of Thunder Bay is a great spot to find big, tasty perch. Both Little Trout Bay and Silver Harbour conservation areas, also near Thunder Bay, provide easy access to the lake although you’ll have to bring your own shelter.
Lake of the Woods, Ontario
It’s dubbed the “walleye capital of the world” by some and even though this moniker has also been applied to the Bay of Quinte, Lake Erie and a bunch of places in the US, you can definitely catch a whole pile of walleye here. Located near Kenora along the US border with Minnesota, you can can catch lake trout and pike too, as well as the occasional muskie.
Lake Winnipeg/Red River, Manitoba
The third largest lake that’s entirely in Canada, Lake Winnipeg boasts fabulous walleye fishing, thanks to the fish that migrate in the fall to the southern end of the lake at the mouth of the Red River. Alas, apparent mismanagement of a commercial fishery on the lake has reduced the average size of the walleyes that anglers are hauling in, but numbers still seem healthy.
Lake Athapapuskow, Manitoba
There’s a reason the walleye is the provincial fish of Manitoba (and, for that matter, Saskatchewan). Located south of Flin Flon, Lake Athapapuskow is a great spot to bag trophy-sized fish. It’s not just walleye that reach mammoth sizes, either, Lake “Athapap” was the home to a once record-holding 64-pound trout.
Tobin Lake, Saskatchewan
A reservoir formed by the E.B. Campbell dam, Tobin Lake was where a record-sized walleye was caught in 2005 that weighed more than 18 pounds. In February and March, huge Northern pike make their appearance. In fact, the largest pike caught weighed all of 38 pounds. And even if you don’t manage to catch a walleye or pike, you can also land perch or sturgeon.
Last Mountain Lake, Saskatchewan
Northwest of Regina, Last Mountain Lake is considered one of the best ice fishing lakes in western Canada. The north end of the lake is the prime fishing location, where you can pull in walleye, whitefish, northern pike, and yellow perch, as well as a large carp population. Also enjoy fishing for burbot, a long, eel-like fish that’s well-known for its ugly appearance and surprisingly tasty flesh.
Lake Diefenbaker, Saskatchewan
A great spot for trophy fishing, the whitefish in Lake Diefenbaker can grow to more than 10 pounds. You can find quantity as well as quality during peak season in January and February
Cold Lake, Alberta
Located along the Alberta/Saskatchewan border and the only lake in the area where you can catch lake trout, Cold Lake is so deep that it often doesn’t freeze until late December or early January, making February and March the best times to fish. Whitefish, pike, walleye, burbot and yellow perch are also available, although walleye can be elusive. Cold Lake is popular enough as a fishing destination that it even has a jig named after it: the “Cold Lake Special.”
Kathleen Lake, Yukon
Deep in Kluane National Park near Haines Junction, you’ll find the best fishing on Kathleen Lake in February and March. If you get tired of hauling in Lake Trout, you can also go snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or simply sit back in the evening and watch the Northern Lights dance overhead.
Great Slave Lake, Northwest Territories
Having the greatest lake depth in North America, Great Slave Lake has a long, long fishing season, running from December until May. You can take guided tours out of Yellowknife. Bring your fighting spirit, trout can grow up to 60 pounds. You can also pick up Arctic greyling, northern pike and whitefish.