Check conditions before heading out onto the ice! Click here to learn Ice Safety Tips
By guest writer Wil Wegman
Ok fellow anglers we can either curse the cold or embrace it by taking advantage of some of the opportunities that only the hardwater season provides! I can guarantee the latter will definitely be much more fun and healthy for both our minds and bodies. If you live anywhere near Orillia or can make a visit to this dynamic hub of piscatorial activity then you will have the chance to enjoy some of the finest fishing this province has to offer. To help you get started, we already provided you with our ice safety messages here and have now put together the following to increase your odds when you arrive.
Lake Couchiching … is Orillia & Lake Country’s premier ice fishing destination even though it sits right next door and is connected to the much busier hard waters of Lake Simcoe. A resurgence of angler interest has occurred in the last few year’s due to increased warming trends causing later on-ice periods for that 740 sq km lake next door. The smaller, more protected waters of Lake Couchiching means they freeze sooner and can offer fine ice fishing opportunities while much of Lake Simcoe is still open. For the most part, yellow perch are the primary target species because they are abundant and there are plenty of 8-12 inch eaters. Northern Pike are a less sought after species, however there is a healthy population of above average sized northerns in these waters. Free waterfront parking and access is available in Orillia at Tudhope Park, as well as Couchiching Beach Park where you can also rent a hut and equipment from A Breath of Fresh Air Outdoor Sports. Up on the North end of Lake Couchiching, heated ice hut rentals are available in Cumberland Beach at Summer Dream Ice Fishing.
Northern Lake Simcoe … may be one of the last parts of the lake to freeze because this section is deep and fully exposed to strong winds. For the most part, whitefish are the number one target species and this part of the lake produces more than its fair share. Lake trout numbers are way down all over Lake Simcoe but are still highly desirable and those that are caught recently are seldom under 10 pounds- so they’re BIG! Perch reside near some of the shallow bays. Pay heed to parking restrictions local municipalities may have. Rent an ice hut from Brechin Point Ice Hut Rentals.
Lake St John … A bit of a sleeper that lies right beside Lake Couchiching, north of Casino Rama. It has a faithful following of devoted ice fishing aficionados who come back year after year to drill through her hard waters for pike and occasionally walleye.
Resort Fishing … Treat you and your family to a fun-filled winter getaway at a lakeside resort where ice fishing is on the menu. Trek out onto Sparrow Lake at Bayview Wildwood Resort, just north of Lake Couchiching along the Trent-Severn Waterway. Along Eastern shores of Lake Couchiching, Fern Resort is the all-inclusive lakeside destination. These resorts offer a wide range of winter activities for all ages along with cozy accommodations and dining.
Top Species and Top Baits:
- Yellow Perch: Depending on the location, perch can be found in all three lakes mentioned. Early in the season, look for them in relatively shallow water – often not far from shore. Schools can be large until midwinter when they disperse and head deeper. Then as the season winds down there is another shallower near shore movement. Like with all winter fishing, utilizing a good quality sonar like the Lowrance Elite Ice machine can help you find fish and obtain a better understanding of what you are fishing below.
Baits: HT’s Tungsten Marmooska jig tipped with HT Ice Scentz, Slab Grabbers, Jigging Raps, VMC Pug Bug Jig or Nymph jig.
- Whitefish: Out from the North shore of Simcoe can be prime in waters as shallow as 20 feet to those pushing 100!
Baits: Bad Boyz or Lil’ Foxee Jigging Minnows worked gently on or very close to bottom are very effective. Rapala V Blades for more active whities.
- Lake Trout: Generally same location as whitefish but they are often suspended in the water column.
Baits: White tube jig, or a STORM 360Gt Searchbait, Blue Fox More Silda or HT Dominator spoons. HOT TIP. Once you mark a big trout on your sonar begin to real up and you’ll often watch that fish chase your bait until it catches up. Be ready! Hold on tight to that rod and set the hook when the two marks on your screen become one! Enjoy!
- Northern Pike: Cooch or Lake St John have the potential for decent catches. Stationary Polar or Windlass Tip Ups baited with dead or live baitfish on a quick strike rig are very hard to beat!
We value all of our species in Orillia & Lake Country and certainly – enjoy a meal or two but please practice catch and release with bigger fish to help keep the quality of our fisheries at a premium.
Wil Wegman is an award winning outdoor writer whose fishing articles have appeared in most Canadian and several US Outdoor magazines. Unless it’s a covid year, Wil’s ice fishing seminars see him present to large crowds across the province and on into nearby states. In 2017 Wil was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame, won the National Recreational Fisheries Award and the Rick Morgan Professional Conservation Award. He can be reached at his Focus on fishing site at www.wilwegman.com
Extend your stay in Orillia after a day of adventuring through the Lake Country region. Book your accommodations at a cozy hotel with amenities and easy access to local restaurants and shops.LEARN MORE
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