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One Day on the Ice

Ice fishing opportunities near home are limited for a variety of reasons, one being that we are just on the edge of waterbodies that freeze solid in the Coast Mountains. With the winter of 2020/21 coming in late and not particularly cold, safe ice was a long time forming. Not being a die hard who pushes things, edging out on 2 or 3 inches wearing a float suit and ice picks dangling around the neck I like to wait until theres at least five inches of solid ice.

A few years back I purchased a new auger and some short rods, there wasn’t any plans of becoming a hardcore ice angler, I thought it would be a fun way to get outside. While I did grow up near the mecca that is the Bay of Quinte in Ontario and have sporadically made attempts for winter pike, trout and walleye there hasn’t been that aha moment that drives me to keep getting after it, coincidently I’ve never really been overly successful at catching fish through the ice. Over the past three winters we’ve landed a grand total of six rainbow trout, all stockers from one of the lakes across the road.

Brushing off the fresh pow. Photo Rachael Mallory

This winter we’ve gone out once, with nothing on the agenda for the day my wife and I figured we’d take a thermos of hot chocolate and drill some holes. During the night over a foot of snow fell, though we weren’t walking far it was still apparent snowshoes were going to be more efficient, of course that epiphany came after we had trudged across the lake, post holing to our knees. While shovelling down to the ice our stubbornness in continuing the half mile march instead of strapping on our snowshoes gave us a good chuckle, after a Christmas of too much good food we reasoned the extra exercise was good for our health.

Setting up just off a rock outcrop that is popular in the summer with partiers, a shallow bay turns in from the main body of the lake, a spot that fits the bill for what I’ve read about finding rainbow trout in the winter. We’ve tried this area the past two winters without much action, but it’s a fine place to start as indicated by the frozen over holes and a group that appeared shortly after us. For a few hours we sat around, eventually moving towards the distant end where I’ve had more success.

Rachael using up the last of her patience waiting for a bite.

One of the problems Rachael has with winter at least being outside in the winter is poor circulation in her feet, eventually the foot warmers stop working and her toes start to freeze. Though I would have been game to sit it out a little longer since dusk was approaching she was cold and it didn’t take much to convince me it was time to head home. With nary a nibble we packed our gear, this time strapping on our snowshoes for the walk back and the reminder that I need to lengthen the rope on the toboggan so I’m not bent at an awkward angle to keep from stepping on it.

The hopes for a fresh trout dinner had passed and while I’m lucky to have a wife who enjoys the outdoors her patience with ice fishing is much shorter than mine. Looking around I’ve been noticing several signs pointing to an early spring, I’m looking forward to getting out the fly rods, maybe I’ll finally try to catch a steelhead, thoughts of thumping bull trout strikes have started to trickle in and the black bears will be coming out of hibernation meaning a new hunting season has started. It’s not looking like I’ll get out on the ice again, but maybe one day I’ll have that aha moment that gets me stoked to fish the hardwater more, and maybe an excuse for a trip somewhere with better ice fishing.

See you on the water or the mountains.

-Matthew Mallory


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