You slip and slide your way across the ice, your arms laden with fishing gear, excitement building at the thought of the unscripted day ahead. Tucked amidst your gear is a warm blanket, a thermos of something rich and delicious, and a carefully packed cooler with goodies to keep you cozy all day.

Ice fishing brings a time for thoughtful contemplation, of stopping to breathe and bask in winter’s silvery silence. This may be the only type of wandering in which you stay put, but can still go far. Whether you’re catching and releasing, or are determined to catch your dinner, here’s where to go and what to do to get you started in Ontario’s Highlands.

Haliburton Highlands

Haliburton is known for its many lakes and rivers, chock full of fish species like bass, lake trout, and panfish, just begging to be hooked. Bring your own ice hut and gear or rent from a local outfitter. You can even rent a snowmobile and explore the region from a snowy perspective. See if you can catch the well-known Haliburton Gold trout, found only in Haliburton.

The Experience:

If you like to stay toasty, The Pines on Boshkung Resort has you covered. Enjoy jigging for pickerel and trout next to a wood-burning stove in a fishing hut, then warm your toes in front of the fire as you prepare the day's catch in one of their fully equipped waterfront cottages. The stunning views and spectacular sunsets over Boshkung Lake are the perfect backdrop for this incredible ice-fishing experience. Daily rate includes the heated hut, parking and gear transportation.  Fishing equipment rental is also available.

Find a natural wonderland at Buttermilk Falls, a four-season resort featuring nine fully equipped cottages that is the perfect base from which to experience the best of ice fishing. Enjoy fishing in warm luxury in one of their heated rental huts, complete with bait service. Splurge on one of their ice fishing packages and enjoy two nights accommodations at a reduced rate. Choose from one of their specialized packages to create the perfect experience. 

Celebrate winter at Ogopogo Resort on Mountain Lake, known for its whitefish and lake trout populations, and also a haven for pickerel. Fish huts are only a short walk from the cottages, so it’s easy to take a break when you get tired. When the shadows lengthen at the end of the day, you can turn relax in warm comfort in one of their one, two, or three-bedroom cottages featuring gas fireplaces, BBQs and full kitchens.

Let Sandy Lane Resort be your home away from home during your fishing adventure. Rent a fish hut and other equipment and cozy up at the end of the day in front of a wood burning fireplace while you look out over the frozen vista on Halls Lake. In the evenings you can unwind in the resort’s game room, glide over a natural skating rink, or careen down a toboggan hill. Rent a cabin featuring an outdoor hot tub for a soak with a view.

Hastings County

When the weather turns frosty, on the ice is the place to be in Hastings County. This is when fishermen head to Stoco Lake, part of the Moira River system that runs between Madoc and Tweed. Stoco Lake is well known as a popular muskie fishery, which has allowed other species like walleye, black crappie, or smallmouth or largemouth bass to flourish.

The Experience:

If you have your own ice fishing gear, or will be renting some you can take advantage of this unique accommodation option – a yurt experience! Stock up for your adventure at the new Fish & Co. in Madoc and at the end of the day spend the night in a cozy yurt in a private forested area that comes complete with a wood stove to help you warm up at the end of the day. This will be a photo-worthy experience!

Before you head out on the ice, stop by Chris’ Live Bait just outside of Marmora and make sure you are well equipped for a successful fishing adventure. This is a one-stop shop for everything to do with fishing, hunting and the outdoors. You’ll find everything you need to get out on the ice here, including warm gear to keep you cozy on the ice. Offers day/season fishing licenses.

Ottawa Valley

More than 900 lakes and four world-class river systems will call you onto the water in the Ottawa Valley. This is a region jam packed with fishing opportunities, for every fisherperson, from novice to pro.

The Experience:

Situated on the shores of Lake Clear, Sandy Beach Cottages offers the ideal weekend ice fishing getaway. All cottages come equipped with wall furnaces and everything you will need for the weekend. Don't worry about coming home empty handed from this ice fishing getaway, Lake Clear is known for amenable fish more than willing to be hooked. Guests can purchase their ice fishing package and receive transportation to and from the lake.

Located near Renfrew, Irish Creek Outfitters offers gear and ice hut rentals for a guided six-hour experience that could be your ultimate ice fishing adventure. 

Who wants to compete with a bunch of other fishermen? The Highland Fish & Game Club offers ice fishing getaways that include access to booking a four-bedroom, fully serviced cabin on a private, stocked lake.

If you've ever wondered what a fishing derby is, find out at the Cobden Ice Fishing Derby the first Saturday in February. Taking place on Muskrat Lake near Cobden, this is where you can give ice fishing a try in a fun environment, or watch as teams compete for more than $20,000 in prizes.