Ontario’s Top 5 Ice-Out Species and Where to Find Them

From Atikokan to Temagami, Rainy Lake to Kenora, these are the spots anglers should be checking out this spring.

All over Ontario, ice has been pulling away from shore and signs of early spring are upon us. Up north, where it’s usually a guessing game as to whether the walleye opener will arrive while ice is still taking over, this year seems to be in the clear. 

Anglers everywhere are eager to no longer be walking on water, and can’t wait to launch boats. Guides and outfitters alike are chomping at the bit as this time of year adds the kind of excitement that can only be found after a long, cold, restless winter. 

Lake trout, pike, walleye, crappie, and smallmouth (yes smallmouth) can be found all across Ontario, but if you’re after quality, quantity, and open seasons, these are some of the places I would recommend visiting in the province.

LAKE TROUT 

lake-trout-photo

These fish are a favourite among anglers year-round, their daring darts with your line add the right amount of adrenaline to any fish fight, and their power and size will leave you wide-eyed. During the lake turnovers (the thermocline changes at different times across the province) you’ll have the opportunity to catch these giants of the depth in sometimes less than 5 feet of water. Can you say fly fishing? 

Northern Pike

northern-pike-photo

A lot of anglers discount pike because of their willing appetite, but northern pike is not to toy with come spring. Large specimens cruise shallow water looking for opportunities to stuff their bellies with unsuspecting fish. Sight fishing for these fish has added excitement to the entire experience, as does fly fishing. You don’t HAVE to travel to northern Ontario for pike, but they sure make a fun distraction. 

SMALLMOUTH BASS 

smallmouth-bass

Depending on where you are in Ontario, the smallmouth bass is open year-round and offers immediate ice-out opportunities for anglers. You don’t have to fish reds to catch these fish, you can move off to deeper edges to find cruising bass looking to stock up on meals before their spawning season. 

CRAPPIE 

Northern Ontario isn’t known for its crappie population, but if you’ve ever stumbled across photos from Pine Sunset Lodge, or Jeff Gustafson’s spring fun on Lake of the Woods, you’d be amazed by the quality. Crappie is speckled across northwestern Ontario, the trick is finding a guide that knows a thing or two about where to find them! 

WALLEYE 

walleye-photo

When we say ice out fishing, walleye doesn’t typically come to mind for those from southern Ontario, as ice in the south is typically off long before walleye season reopens, this is not the case for the north. As mentioned above, fingernails take the brunt of outfitters' stress of whether or not they’ll have either a) safe enough ice or b) open water for walleye fishing come opener. And what a time to be fishing walleyes! 

HOW TO PLAN YOUR TRIP 

There are lots of resources out there for people wanting to plan their trip to the north, be sure to check out Ontario’s Sunset Country, Superior Country, Algoma Country or Northeastern Ontario Tourism sites. 

Once you’ve had a look at some options and know what fish you’d like to chase, be sure to take a quick look at the regulations before you book. With the uncharacteristically early spring, ice-out may be off by a week or two on some of the species above opener this year, such as walleye. If you call outfitters and guides, they will be more than happy to help you plan and work out a trip that suits you best. 

About Alyssa Lloyd

Alyssa Lloyd is a photojournalist based out of Kenora working with Ontario's Sunset Country. The outdoors has been the center of her work and personal life for as long as she can remember. As an angler, Alyssa spends most of her time time chasing multiple species on both conventional and fly gear. 

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