Are you looking for a new outdoor adventure to try this winter? If you like to exercise, sun and fresh air then ice fishing might be right for you. There are numerous easy-access ice fishing options around Peterborough & the Kawarthas.
Ice fishing during the pandemic? Please click here to see how to reduce your risk while ice fishing in Peterborough County
For anglers new to this sport I recommend picking a nice sunny day with low winds for your first outing. Two lakes that are close by and have easy access to the main fishing grounds are Rice Lake and Chemong Lake both within 20 minutes of Peterborough. Perch, bluegills and crappie are the species you will be fishing for and there are lots of each species in both of these lakes to keep you busy. Most public boat launches make great winter access points with free parking along the side of the road. For live bait and a great selection of ice fishing tackle, be sure to drop into Bridgenorth Sports & Marine and talk to Frank Latham for any current ice fishing reports. He’s open Friday, Saturday and Sunday over the winter months and he’s more than willing to help you find all the necessary gear to get you on the ice and hopefully into some fish too. BEL Rotary Park on the west side of the Bridgenorth Causeway is one of the best access points for Chemong Lake. For Rice Lake, I usually use the boat launch at the end of Paudash Street in Hiawatha just down the road from the Old Railway Stop Restaurant & Gas Bar.
For those willing to make the longer trek Jack Lake in Apsley is one of the best crappie lakes in the Kawarthas. There is a great access point at the end of Jack Lake Road. Parking can be tight on weekends, but most weekdays only a handful of locals will be there. It is about half a kilometre to the main fishing grounds, but each year some kind-hearted local(s) usually plow a path on the ice which makes the walk a lot easier. Be sure to stop into Stones Live Bait just south of Apsley on highway 28 for fishing information and tackle.
Tools of the trade
The basic fishing necessities for a day ice fishing include:
- Sharp 6” hand auger
- Ice skimmer (to remove slush from your hole)
- Light action 18-24” ice rod/reel combo spooled with 6-10 pound monofilament fishing line
- A handful of lures for each species you are after
Don’t skimp on clothing when you get dressed for a day on the ice.
Breathable clothes and layering is a must; you’ll be surprised how much you sweat while trekking out to fishing grounds or while hand drilling holes. If you stay dry you’ll stay warm. If I do I start to get cold while out on the ice, I just hand drill a couple more holes to get that warm blood flowing again.
Now that you’ve got your gear and clothing arranged, time to head out for some fun.
If I’m new to a body of water I’ll often set up my holes in the general vicinity of the permanent huts on the lake, respecting other anglers and setting up no closer than 100 feet from them, further if possible. If there are no huts on the lake try main lake points and islands. If you have a hydro-graphic map try mid-lake humps or steep drops near deep holes. Navionics makes a great app that you can put on your GPS enabled mobile phone. Their boating application includes hydrographic data of the entire Trent Severn Waterway and several smaller lakes too.
Be sure to venture on the ice with caution and good sense, especially after mid-winter thaws. You need 4”-6” of good clear solid ice to walk safely, anything less and don’t take your chances. When in doubt use a spud bar or drill lots of holes on your way out.
Hard-Core Ice Angling Option
For the more adventurous souls that want a fun and exciting ice fishing outing, I suggest looking into the Kawartha Highlands for a unique back-country adventure.
Many of these lakes have Lake Trout, Rainbow Trout, Brook Trout and Splake. I recommend this type of outing only for those with lots of ice fishing and winter back-country experience.
To help narrow your search from the hundred or so lakes in the Kawartha Highlands I suggest using the online search tool created and maintained by the Ontario Ministry of the Natural Resources and Forestry called Fish ON-Line
It is pretty simple to use and with a few clicks, you can find individual lake information including other fish species in the lake and the current fishing regulations (which are very lake-specific in the Kawartha Highlands). One of my favourite search tools is the “Stocked Water Body” search where you can pull up the latest stocking summary which includes when and how many fish where last stocked in each lake.
Although you are not required to have an Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) trail permit while travelling to a fishing destination along crown or public land, the OFSC maintains these trails all winter so it would be a good idea to support them and purchase a permit before using the OFSC trail system.
It can be extremely rewarding hiking or snowmobiling miles into the bush, finding that remote lake and fishing it for the first time. Be forewarned though, stocking is no guarantee of success; you still have to put in the sweat-equity before you are catching fish with any regularity.
If you have a passion for fishing and an adventurous demeanour then ice fishing is for you. With these tips, patience and some luck you too can enjoy some icy fishing success this winter.
This blog was originally published 2016. Updated in 2021.