(originally published to Helium writing site, now gone)
Ice fishing is where fish are caught in the conventional way with lines and hooks or spears but through a hole in the ice on a frozen lake or river. Typically, anglers sit on stools on the ice. If they are there for any length of time, they will tow a heated cabin, often with bunks and other amenities, to their favorite fishing spot. They might even sit in their warm portable huts to fish. The ice huts become villages like a trailer park. Ice fishing is popular in Canada, the northern parts of the US, and across much of northern Europe. Sometimes called hard-water fishing, the sport is most popular in Canada.
Canada has plenty of lakes in just about every part of the country. Many of the lakes are deep and the fish are large and aggressive. People come from all over the world to ice fish in Canada. Quebec and Ontario have some of the more accessible lakes. Ontario has more than 200,000 lakes and a greater number of fish species than the rest of the country. The Prairie provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta have over 200,000 lakes and beautiful scenery. British Columbia offers good trout and salmon fishing. Trout is caught across Canada. Walleye fishing is very popular due to their aggressive nature and excellent taste. Muskie and pike also have a spirited nature.
While seasoned fishers in Canada often shun the portable huts, they are becoming increasingly popular, especially among tourists and occasional anglers. These shanties are dragged or carried onto a lake by an all-terrain vehicle (ATV), truck, or snowmobile. They range from a cheap plastic tarpaulin draped over a wooden or metal frame, to a small cabin of heavy, water-tight material with heating, bunk beds, and cooking facilities. Anglers often leave them on the ice for the winter. Many local authorities now have rules such as dates the huts have to be removed by at winter’s end. The more permanent structures that might be used year after year have wheels and can range from little more than bunks and heating, to structures like a mobile home with full size beds, bathroom, stove, and satellite television.
Specialized fishing equipment is needed for ice fishing. An ice saw is needed to cut a hole in the ice. A skimmer will clear new ice as it forms, while a heater can be used for this purpose too. These are essential on the Canadian ice where temperatures can be minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and a hole can quickly ice over. Anglers use fishing rods with brightly colored lures to help attract fish, and of course bait is needed too. Tip-ups are often used, where a flag attached to the line tips up when the fish are biting. This means the line can be left unattended for a while. Spear fishing is practiced too, although it is less common than a fishing rod or tip-up. Native Canadians were spear fishing experts. These days, a flasher is often used to locate fish and get depth information. Underwater cameras are used to see the fish and how they react to a lure.
One of the greatest dangers of ice fishing is the risk of the ice breaking up. Minimum ice depth for walking should be four inches, although many anglers will walk on 2.5 inches. A sled such as a snowmobile needs 5-6 inches, while a car needs 7-12 inches and a truck 14-16 inches. In the late winter, ice can become soft and the recommended minimum thicknesses may not be enough. An additional hazard on some of the larger Canadian lakes, especially the Great Lakes, is off-shore winds breaking up the ice, leaving anglers stranded on large floating islands of ice.
Resorts throughout Canada have lodge accommodation and offer ice fishing tours lasting a day, a weekend or a whole week. They can provide the tackle and equipment, licenses, heated huts, and transportation between the lodge and the huts. Take plenty of warm clothing as it can be frightfully cold out there on the ice in winter. A great advantage of ice fishing is that you don’t get seasick.