When the weather turns cold, most outdoorsmen pack up their gear and head home — except for ice fishermen. These intrepid anglers look forward to the cold, dark months of winter, when the skies turn gray and the waterways freeze solid. It is a harsh experience, but true ice fisherman can hardly get enough.
Not every fisherman can easily transition into one who relishes the cold life on the ice; you need nerve, grit, and the proper equipment. Most of all, you need to know where to go. Here are some of the top ice fishing spots in North America to help you find the icy bliss you crave during your winter trip.
Minnesota has a reputation for its less-than-balmy winter weather; lacking the mountains of many northern states, Minnesota is open to blasts of bitter arctic wind crossing the border. Fortunately for ice fishers, the extreme cold sturdily freezes most Minnesotan waterways, making for excellent winter fishing conditions throughout the state. Ice fishing is so popular among these northern dwellers that it is nearly a codified rite of passage, and hundreds of ice fishing resorts welcome visitors throughout the cold-weather months. If you are planning a trip, I suggest you look into reservations at any of the following:
- McQuoid’s Inn
- Adrian’s Resort
- Angle Outpost Resort
- Cyrus Resort
- Voyagaire Lodge
A state surrounded by freshwater lakes, Michigan should be an unsurprising addition to this list. Indeed, the abundance of frozen water in and around the state makes for nearly ideal winter fishing opportunities. As long as you are prepared with the proper ice fishing tools, you could easily spend weeks on the Michigan ice reeling in walleye, yellow perch, smelt, northern perch, and more. The quality of conditions on the Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Eerie, and Lake Superior, depends entirely on the severity of winter; you might have more luck planning a Michigan fishing trip to smaller bodies of water, like Crystal Lake, Grand Traverse Bay, or Lake Cadillac.
One of the emptiest states in the Union, Montana is beautifully wild — which is precisely what many ice anglers expect during their winter fishing trips. Glacier National Park is stunning during the warm weather months, but when the temperatures turn, the abundance of frozen freshwater lakes and rivers makes the wilderness a winter fishing wonderland. Nearby Flathead Lake is probably the most popular ice fishing destination in the state, but other bodies of water, including Fort Peck Lake, Hebgen Lake, and Canyon Ferry Lake, boast a wider variety of fish prime for catching.
One of the most popular Canadian provinces for cosmopolitan Toronto and uniquely beautiful Niagara Falls, Ontario is also popular among outdoor enthusiasts, especially during the cold Canadian winter. Winter fishing, as well as hiking, skiing, and other cold-weather pursuits, are wildly popular around Ontario’s many bodies of water. In particular, Ontario’s Lake Simcoe is perhaps North America’s top rated ice fishing destination. Here, the Canadian Ice Fishing Championship takes place every year, with hundreds of avid anglers vying for the coveted prize — and perhaps some tasty fish to take home, as well.
Cold and desolate, the province of Saskatchewan is prime ice fishing country. For more than half of the year, Saskatchewan’s rivers and lakes are covered with thick ice, allowing the fish below to grow big and the most intrepid anglers above to enjoy the winter fishing trip of a lifetime. Still, it usually takes a trek to reach the best ice fishing spots in the vast prairie province, but to cut back on your prep time, here are the places you can’t miss:
- Piprell Lake
- Tobin Lake
- Diefenbaker Lake
- Lac LaPlonge
- Hunter Bay
The French-Canadians have been plumbing their frozen waterways since they first watched the American-Indians drop lines into icy lakes before colonization. In Quebec, ice fishing is equal parts sport and leisure activity, and most anglers bring along a wondrous spread of food and beverage to keep them warm and happy while they wait. Just minutes outside Quebec City, the region of Bas-Saint-Laurent offers ideal conditions for comradery, competition, and delectable consumption: Lake Temiscouata and Lake Pohenegamook are perhaps the best. To the southwest, you can find smaller, more isolated spots, including a handful of lakes around the mighty St. Laurence River.
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