Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mining Simcoe Gold

  You have to love the unpredictability of winter in southern Ontario. Last week it looked as if the hardwater season was coming to a close with the rapid disappearance of shoreline ice on Lake Simcoe and this week that same ice showed the depth and stability of early March. This turnaround in ice conditions could possibly push the season to unprecedented late dates, which suits me just fine for two reasons: 1, I catch more quality fish to eat at this time of the year than any other and, 2, late winter ice is the hottest bite of the season with the perch schooling up in their predictable spawning areas.

  This day started out much like last Saturday with Tackle Shop and myself making the return trip to Innisfil to mine some Simcoe gold; jumbo yellow perch. Along with us was hardwater novice Dodger, who was making his first ever trip to the big lake and "big" ice. After last week's bonanza we all had great expectations of another day of nonstop action and pushing our creel average well into the double digits.

Dodger checking results of pressure cracking
  The first and most obvious difference from last week was the temperature (0F with the windchill) and it's effects on the ice, now 20 inches thick in some places. Last week's "bridge" to safe ice was now firmly frozen to the lake bottom and as we walked offshore the sound of rapidly expanding pressure cracks could be heard constantly echoing like gunshots or thunder rolling off in the distance. All this is music to the ears of avid ice anglers as it's a sign of the ice making process, and a never ending source of amusement for me watching the uninitiated freak out as a crack appears between their feet!

Perch double header
  The second difference from the previous week was that the huge schools of perch had reacted to the return of winter by thinning out and putting their gluttony temporarily on hold. On any other body of water this would have resulted in having to drill countless holes to find our quarry, but because this was Lake Simcoe, there was still a vast number of fish beneath our feet, we just needed to work harder for them. Our biggest problem last week was waiting for the bait to reach bottom 40 feet below, and while this week we found and caught fish in every hole drilled from 10 to 50 feet, it took a far more subtle approach to entice more than just a nibble.

  As the day wore on our catch numbers gradually increased, each of us landing a few over the magical 12 inch mark, but the majority of the fish were below 8 inches and returned to the lake to "grow up". Tackle Shop was the clear leader for the day with an estimated count of over 200 fish (he kept 10%) proving that patience (or a grudging unwillingness to drill any more holes) pays off. Dodger's first trip to Simcoe was a complete success as he was satisfied in every way (except for that crack incident). I only wish he'd been with us on the previous trip to see how insane it gets when the bite is on.
My donation
   As we were walking off the lake, Tackle Shop and I  decided to donate our catch to Dodger as we found out he'd never eaten perch before and was planning to have a fish fry with a friend. All to a good cause I say, saves me the work of cleaning them! 10lbs of perch is a lot of cleaning!

  Anyways... there's trout in the rivers and spawning pike in the smaller thawed lakes, but with a predicted two more weeks of premium ice time available, I'll opt for prospecting for more Lake Simcoe gold!


  1. You guys are over the top...
    To take Dodger, show him, teach him, then reward him.
    Great friends!
    He'll love eatin those perch and has a memory to last a life-time.

  2. Thats a fun day, But you must be getting short of perch in that water by now,
    Great Post,

  3. You guys are holding ice alot longer then us... Its been three weeks since ice out here. Great job!

  4. Hey John. You know I don't fish on the ice, but if and that a big IF I did and the ice cracked like it did for Dodger, I'd be gone faster than you could blink you eyes. Call me chicken........


  5. Hey guys!

    Raz - We made Dodger pay for the gas and minnows. He was sleeping contentedly in the back of the van all the way home. Might have been the post ice burger though.

    Paddy - We did put most of them back for another day.

    Blake - Just a quirk of geography, you were on the ice a month before us.

    Mark - You're chicken... no seriously... everyone is nervous the first few times. Early last year a newbie, the Russian, was nervous on 4" of ice over 30' of water, but freaking out over 90' of water. Either way, if you go through...your day's screwed.

  6. Hi John, you and Tackle Shop have it going on now with those Simcoe Perch. That sure is a nice looking bunch for somebody to fry up! I remember back in the day when I first started ice fishing and I sure have my first ice cracking story stuck in my memory, too!

  7. Nie day! I always release perches. They grow really slow and it is becoming less of them (specially big ones) in polish waters...
    I caught my biggest one (Almost 20in) 2 years ago in the middle of night with 3in crankbait when fishing for catfish. I don't have even a photo But I know that he is still there in this lake...

  8. I remember that last time I was ice fishing on Lake Simcoe. It was at least 30 years ago and we had a blast.

    Brings back some great memories.

    I have not done any ice fishing since that time.