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.



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


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. 



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. 


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! 



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! 


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. 

Recommended Articles

5 Places to Shore Fish

Fish’n Canada shows you where to go shore fishing in Ontario.

Ontario Brook Trout

Fish these 10 sweet spots.

3 Great Ontario Walleye Destinations

Karl of Extreme Angler recommends must do walleye lakes in Ontario.

Lake of the Woods

10 Facts You Didn't Know

Dive and Rise Muskies

Ontario offers the best muskie fishing anywhere—and fall is the prime time to catch your fish of a lifetime.

Top 10 Ice Fishing Lakes

Every kind of fish and experience—Ontario ice fishing is some of the best in the world.

Top 5 Flies for Smallmouth Bass

The inside scoop on bass flies from the hosts of The New Fly Fisher.

Top 5 Baits for Smallmouth and Largemouth Bass

What baits do you use to target bass? Find out why these 5 are the best!

5 Keys To Canadian Muskies

The fish of 10,000 casts; an elusive predator fish with legend and lore.

Exclusive Video

How To Zero In On Lake Trout

Long Nose Gar

A Fish for the Bucket List

Wasi Lake Fishing

Fishing at Booth Landing Camping & Cottages

Fishing & Family

5 Reasons Why Fishing With Family Rocks

Fishing Carp

German Fishing Superstar Babs Kijewski Visit Ontario

Goulais River Muskie

A Hidden Gem for Ontario Muskie

Five Brook Trout Flies

What flies to bring when fishing for brook trout.

Steelhead of the Upper Ganaraska

Known to most trout and salmon anglers as one of Ontario’s most popular fishing destinations.

Accessible Paradise

Fish Noganosh Park for Monster Pike & Feisty Bass

Muskie Myths Part 2

Baits and Lures You Should be Using

Bobber-Whacky Magic

Don't Say Good-bye To The Bobber