Today’s post comes from year-round multispecies angler and writer Ashley Rae of SheLovesToFish.com.
Over the weekend, I traveled from my home in the Ottawa area to visit Frontenac Provincial Park. Growing up in nearby Napanee, I had visited the park plenty of times in the past, but this would be my very first hike-in ice fishing expedition.
Winter is a great time to take to the trails to get into the serene and secluded lakes. The colder temperatures can mean less fishing pressure and even having the lake all to yourself. I can’t think of a better way to spend a winter day!
With a number of lakes located throughout the park, there are many year-round fishing opportunities. Northern pike, various species of panfish (black crappie, sunfish, yellow perch), as well as brook trout can be targeted in the winter. Please be sure to refer to the fishing regulations while planning your trip as they can change from year to year.
I typically spend a lot of time on walleye and panfish through the winter months, so I was anxious to make the journey and try my luck on the stocked brook trout lakes.
Joining me on this adventure was my fishing partner, Eric. Upon arrival, we stopped by the park office to pick up our passes and inquire about the trail conditions and ice fishing reports. The staff were very friendly and helped us narrow down our choices to a couple lakes.
To preserve the beauty and natural state of the park, no ATVs or snowmobiles are allowed on the trails. Power augers are not permitted on the lakes inside the park so we brought our hand auger and packed as light as possible for the journey in. Although we packed all our warmest winter clothing, we stripped our jackets and bibs off for the hike in to keep cool. Once arriving at the lake, we layered back up. I was able to stay nice and warm all day.
With a recent snowfall, the trails were a beautiful sight. Once we were off the main trail and onto the portage route, the only tracks in the snow we saw were our own.
We saw many animal and bird tracks as well, crossing over or alongside the path. We were able to identify turkey, fox, fisher, deer, and we also saw what we thought to be moose tracks on one of the lakes.
Without having bathymetric maps of the lakes, we studied the landscape to decide on where to drill our holes in the ice covering some deeper and shallower water. Bringing along a flasher, I was able to check the water depths and get an idea of what the bottom structure was like. I fished in a variety of depths but found the best luck in ten feet of water along a steeply dropping shoreline that quickly reached over 20 feet. Typically the trout push up shallower during low light and move out deeper during the day.
My first fish came to me on a 1/16 ounce silver spoon (called the Slender Spoon made by Custom Jigs & Spins) tipped with an artificial wax worm (Berkley Gulp! Waxies). It was such a treat to catch this stunning brookie in the unspoiled wilderness and was absolutely worth the hike in!
After landing this first fish, there was no reason to change up my presentation. I kept my spoon moving at all times by lifting it and allowing it to flutter back down. This is what gets the trout fired up. When spotting a fish on my flasher, I would slowly raise and quiver the spoon pulling it away. It didn’t take long for the trout to chase it up and strike.
I was jigging approximately three to four feet off the bottom. It’s a good idea to jig a few feet off the bottom as fish can see quite a distance in these clear water conditions. Live bait such as wax worms or locally bought minnows are popular among anglers as well as tip-ups and set lines placed in shallow water along the shorelines. Be sure not to dump any leftover bait back into the lake as it’s not permitted and can upset the aquatic ecosystem.
I’m so thankful we decided to head off on this hike-in adventure, and the gorgeous fish we got to witness were the icing on the cake. I look forward to my next visit and crossing more lakes off my bucket list.
Has Ashley inspired your own winter fishing trip? Licence-free Family Fishing Weekend is coming up (February 15-17, 2020)!