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 (~200 km from Toronto)
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.
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.
A short two-hour drive takes you from the hectic pace of the city of Toronto to a natural wonderland. Buttermilk Falls four-season resort features nine fully equipped cottages and 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.
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 (~220 km from Toronto)
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.
Located south of Madoc, Moira Lake Fish Hunt Rentals provide portable huts or family sleeper huts for rent, and they will even offer a short fishing lesson to make sure your first fishing experience is stellar. Rentals include a fire with extra wood, live bait, fishing gear, cooking and dining supplies, and anything else you could imagine as needed for the adventure. Get hooked (pun intended) on ice fishing with this all-inclusive 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! Outfit for your adventure at Chris’ Live Bait (see below) 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 (~150 km from Ottawa)
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, only a short drive from Ottawa.
Situated on the shores of Lake Clear, Sandy Beach Cottages are the perfect distance from Ottawa for a 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, and an overnight sleeper hut that could be the ultimate ice fishing experience. Spend the day fishing and instead of trekking back across the ice in the evening you can cozy up right in the hut. As you sleep you may hear fish moving through the frigid waters below you, waiting for you to drop your line again.
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. In 2020 the event is celebrating their 10th year, which is pretty awesome.