Winter Bounty Awaits Adventurous Anglers on Shallow Bays of Lake Superior

The Canadian north shore of Lake Superior provides incredible opportunity for the adventurous ice angler. Yet the coastal waters see very few fishermen in winter, despite the bounty that awaits. Find out why there is snow better place for ice fishing than the Lake Superior region around Thunder Bay.

Gravel Bay near Schreiber

One of the finest multi-species ice fishing spots on the north shore of Lake Superior is at Gravel Bay, near Schreiber, Ontario about a two-hour drive east of Thunder Bay.

This popular fishing spot has added distinction in that it is located in the proposed Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

Battling lake trout Lake Superior ice
This large, sand bottom bay on the Great Lake shore is a staging area for steelhead , and also holds lake trout, lake herring, perch and whitefish. The crystal clear water allows for sight fishing opportunities from inside heated shacks or ice tents.

Gravel River Resort, located about 200 km. east of Thunder Bay and 45 km east of Nipigon, on highway 17, caters to winter anglers. It has up to half a dozen ice shacks for rent, depending on ice conditions. The resort has also has rooms and a restaurant.

Accommodations and places to eat with home cooked meals can also be found down the road in Schreiber, Terrace Bay and Rossport.

Conservation Areas Offer Easy Access

If you want an ice fishing experience closer to the urban experiences of Thunder Bay, there are two Conservation Areas managed and maintained by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority (LRCA) at Little Trout Bay and Silver Harbour that are excellent staging areas with easy access to the frozen waters in shallow bays of Lake Superior. The $2 daily per vehicle fee or the $30 Explorer card (annual pass to all LRCA Conservation Areas) is a cheap price to pay for an excellent winter fishing opportunity. 

Note, you will have to bring your own portable ice fishing shelters.

Close up Superior steelhead

Little Trout Bay Conservation Area

Close to the U.S./Canada Pigeon River border between Ontario and Minnesota, Little Trout Bay offers fishing for steelhead, lakers and even the odd brown trout. The bay itself is easy to access thanks to the Little Trout Bay Conservation Area maintained and managed by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority. Most anglers at Little Trout just walk out and pull a sled. Jigging with Hopkins spoons or white tube jigs accounts for most fish. The majority of lake trout are caught in 40 to 60 feet of water, but rainbows and browns tend to hold in shallower water, closer to shore. There are also bonus whitefish to be had. Always be mindful of ice conditions on the bay, as it can vary in thickness.

Silver Harbour Conservation Area

Just 20 minutes east of Thunder Bay, off Lake Shore Drive, an incredible lake trout fishery can be enjoyed via the Silver Harbour Conservation Area. This access is owned and maintained by the Lakehead Region Conservation Authority. Many ice anglers walk out on the ice from the boat launch and fish within a couple hundred yards of shore. Ice shacks and tents usually dot the ice here. Anglers can catch lake trout, steelhead and even the occasional salmon. The water is so clear that in a darkened tent or ice hut, you can sight fish and watch the trout hit.

For those who prefer to venture out further, a snowmobile or ATV can help you access rich lake trout grounds in the deeper water of Bays End. This is one of the most untapped lake trout fisheries in the world, with both size and numbers of fish. A twenty-pound trout is possible, but the average is about 5 pounds. Jigging one ounce silver and red Swedish Pimples or Krocodile spoons in 80 to 100 feet of water is the ticket. At the far end of the bay, steelhead and jumbo whitefish are caught in 20 feet of water or less. Jigging, with a quarter-ounce bucktail “jig-fly”; or a fire tiger Jigging Rapala; accounts for most fish.

For the enterprising angler, there are brook, lake and rainbow trout opportunities available on some nearby inland lakes. The best bite is from late January to the end of March.

For more information on these ice fishing locations contact:

Lakehead Region Conservation Authority: 807-344-5857

Gravel River Resort: Ray and Betty Laukkanen 807-887-1842

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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