Huts Out: Ice Fishing in Ontario’s Cottage Country

We recommend reaching out to the local ice fishing guides, hut rental operators, or accommodation operators on the lakes you wish to fish before heading out to ensure the lake is safe for travel.  

The recent cold temperatures across the great Canadian wilderness will see hundreds of lakes and rivers finally start to freeze. Once the ice is safe (see below for safety tips), it’s time to head out for some epic Canadian winter fun. Grab your fishing license and get ready to yell “fish on!”

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While fishing in the warmer months generally involves a wide range of equipment such as a boat or canoe, electronic fish finders, rods, reels, nets, etc., ice fishing at its purest involves only an up-to-date fishing license, an axe or auger to make a hole, some fishing line, and a lure or bag of minnows for bait. (You’ll also want to wear a lot more clothing than you do in summer, especially as wide-open lake expanses can be windy on any given day.)

Ice Smarts

The first priority to consider? Make sure the ice is SAFE. Ice quality and thickness should both be considered; while 5 inches of solid, new ice can be sufficient, at the end of the season 6 or 8 inches of bad ice may be dangerous. Outdoor Canada provides a valuable ice advice safety page here.  (The best way to find out about current local ice conditions is to contact an area bait and tackle shop from the listings below.)

What To Take

Once you have your license sorted (a requirement for fishing in Ontario unless you’re under 18 years old), next you can source a few items to make your fishing adventure more fun. The bare essentials are few, but there are many ice fishing specific tools and equipment you can use. Specialized rods for jigging, tip-ups and winter bait and lures are all helpful in the quest for that icy lunker, and a local bait and tackle shop will have everything you need. Outdoor Canada also provides some basic ice fishing tips here.

What To Fish For

The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources has a Fish On-Line website that is searchable by region or lake and provides information on fish species and specific regulations for the region.  You can also find some helpful tips on species and tourism operators on the Fish The Edge pages of our website.

Hut Fun

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Not interested in being exposed to the elements and cold on a frozen lake? There are many outfitters and resorts across the region that rent fish huts and equipment to make you feel right at home. Collapsible, tent-like fishing shelters can also be purchased that will provide protection from the elements while you concentrate on landing the big one. Other equipment that can make your experience more enjoyable include powered ice augers to make short work of cutting a fishing hole, electronic fish finders to give you a leg up in finding the perfect location, and portable heaters or quick burning fire logs for warmth.

New to ice fishing and want to learn what it’s all about? Follow the steps in this article and consider heading to the Explorers’ Edge region of Ontario for Licence-Free Family Fishing from February 19-21, 2022 – no need for any member of your family to have a licence! You can also take a guided ice fishing tour and discover why this long standing winter tradition is as popular as ever.

There are many local outfitters and bait and tackle shops that can outfit you with gear and provide tips and insights on where to land the best fish. Here is a partial list to get you started:

Almaguin Highlands
Eagle Lake Narrows Country Store South River
Magnetawan Bait & Tackle Magnetawan

Photo Credit: Wag’s Wigglers

Buchanan’s Ace Hardware Port Loring
First Choice Bait & Tackle Trout Creek

Bitemee Bait & Tackle Gravenhurst

Gravenhurst Bait and Tackle Gravenhurst
Outcast Fishing & Convenience Huntsville
Purk’s Place Bala
Ullzwater Bait Utterson 

Parry Sound
Diver’s Nook Parry Sound

E & R Tackle & Bait Pointe au Baril
Key Marine Resort Britt

Taylor’s Ice & Bait Parry Sound

Across the region you can find ice hut rentals, and many area resorts offer overnight or weekend ice fishing packages. Check these listings for an idea of what is available:

Almaguin Highlands
Sand Lake Cottages and Inn Kearney

Bondi Village Resort Dwight
Muskoka Shores Cottages Utterson
Muskoka Stay N’ Play Tours Bala

Prime Time Fishing Huts Minett
Sopher’s Landing Marina Gravenhurst

Parry Sound
Rock Pine Resort Cottages Pointe au Baril

To plan your stay in the great Canadian wilderness, click here.

Winter Is The Big Catch In Explorers’ Edge

Bill Farnsworth Headshot

Guest Blogger: Bill Farnsworth
Bill Farnsworth is a freelance writer who has lived in Muskoka for more than 30 years. When not writing, Bill can be found cycling, running, paddling and trying to keep up with his two adventurous boys. 

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