Lac Des Milles Lacs and Black Bay

Ice Fishing Hot Spots near Thunder Bay

If you enjoy the relaxing moments of ice fishing in the solitude of winter, outdoors writer Gord Ellis tells us where there are two hot spots close Thunder Bay that offer an unbelievable winter escape.

Lac des Mille Lac, A Winter Walleye Wonderland

Lac des Mille Lacs (near the small town of Upsala) has long been a favourite winter walleye destination for anglers in the northwest portion of the province.

The huge lake spans 59,583 acres and is located approximately 160 km. west (less than a two-hour drive) of Thunder Bay (directions here). It is a consistent producer and the winter walleye fishery has been booming for the past few years.

Ice fishing is good across the lake. In the shallow, ultra stained waters of Sawmill Bay - on the north shore of Lac - walleye are found on every point, shoreline and rock pile. The shallow spit at Sand Point is a popular winter spot.

Reservation Bay, Poplar Bay and Carp Island are other good winter walleye haunts. Jigging a one-quarter ounce Fireball glow jig tipped with a minnow is a proven technique.

Farther to the southwest, the deep, clearer waters around Pine Point provide good fishing. For much of the winter, walleye in this part of the lake will be holding on drops off in 20 to 25 feet of water. Winter walleye also set up on mid lake rock piles and around islands adjacent to deep water.

There is public and private access at Sawmill Bay, and several outfitters rent shacks including Sugar Shacks Ice Hut Rentals.

There is a special walleye size limit in place on Lac: Of a four fish limit, none may be under 13 inches and only one may be over 18 inches.


Corine Armstrong on first ice 660

Lake Superior’s Black Bay for Winter Perch

Winter perch fishing is also extremely popular with ice anglers. These days, the hottest perch spot in Ontario is found just 40 minutes east of Thunder Bay, on Lake Superior’s Black Bay near Hurkett (directions here). This huge bay has seen its perch fishery boom the past couple years. The average Black Bay perch is around 8 inches, but lots of jumbos in the 10 to 14 inch range can be caught here.

Black Bay is a fascinating place to fish, but there a few things to keep in mind before heading out. For starters, it gets very windy. Wind equals cold, even on mild winter days. Shelter of some kind is a must. There are a couple of outfitters who rent shacks on the lake, and they are a good idea if you’re not used to biting winds. Hamilton Baits provides ice shack rentals on Black Bay and all can be placed over fine perch grounds.

Black Bay jumbo perch
Davis Viehbeck proudly holds his catch of a Black Bay jumbo perch

You don’t need a lot of fancy gear to catch perch. I’d recommend medium light jigging rods and spinning reels matched with 2 to 4 pound test line. Have a selection of light panfish or small walleye jigs, in orange, yellow or gold. Small crappie tubes and tiny spoons work as well. Minnows are the top bait. It pays to have a good selection of sizes and no less than two dozen minnows per angler. Some form of electronics will also greatly aid in finding perch schools on this huge expanse.

If quality perch fishing on an unspoiled, almost pristine part of Lake Superior appeals to you, look no further than Lake Superior’s Black Bay, almost out the backdoor from Thunder Bay.

Come Stay and Play for a Weekend

Connect into Thunder Bay with fly, drive and stay options for great ice fishing close to an urban setting. There are 16 daily, direct flights from Toronto with Westjet, Air Canada and Porter and direct flighhts with WestJet and Air Canada from Winnipeg.

If you are planning a trip from Minnesota, Wisconsin or Michigan, it is an easy drive to experience ice fishing in a remote wilderness setting. Thunder Bay and the small communites close by Nipigon, Red Rock and Upsala offer choices for comfortable accommodations and restaurants with home style cooking or local culinary experiences sure to satisfy your appetite.

Ice Shack Rentals – Thunder Bay Area

Black Bay
Hamilton Baits – Call Gary Hamilton @ 807-857-1462

Lac Des Mille Lacs
Sugar Shacks Ice Hut Rentals - Call Archie Hoogsteen @ 807-624-7096

About Gord Ellis

Gord Ellis is a lifelong resident of Thunder Bay, Ontario and a full time journalist, broadcaster, professional angler and guide. He is the senior editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine, Canada's best read fishing and hunting magazine. Gord is a regular on CBC radio's Superior Morning and writes a monthly column on Ontario for the Northern Wilds magazine, in Minnesota. He has written over a thousand feature articles and columns for publications as diverse as Sentier Chasse Peche, in Quebec, the Financial Post and the Globe and Mail. He is a long time member of the Outdoor Writers of Canada and has won better than 25 national awards for his writing and photography. In 2018, Gord was inducted into the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin.

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