Sunday, January 29, 2012

No Fish on New Ice

   Over the past week Tackle Shop had been scouring the internet for new, alternative ice fishing destinations other than the circus we encountered last week on Lake Simcoe. Who new this interweb thinggy was good for anything other than blogs and porn? Anyways...TS had read a few reports on a local message board of large pike through the ice of Frenchman's Bay, Pickering, just east of the city limits. That was all the coaxing I needed...large predators on new ice! Let's go!

   The Town of Pickering is best known for it's nuclear generating station which dominates the shoreline horizon. Lesser known is the fact that it has great fishing with the Rouge River on it's western boundary, Frenchman's Bay at it's heart, and numerous pothole lakes in the northern reaches, feeding creeks that eventually flow into Lake Ontario. Frenchman's Bay is a large shallow basin connected to the big lake by a narrow passage and is used primarily as an anchorage for the numerous recreational watercraft during warmer months and surprisingly some really good ice fishing in winter.

   The biggest surprise for me was that it took less than ten minutes to get there from my front door. I knew from the onset that it would be a challenging day. There's always some uncertainty when fishing new ice...where are the access points?, parking, finding structure and active fish, but the biggest obstacle for the day were the weather conditions. All week long the temperature had hovered around the freezing mark, a little snow here, some rain there and Saturday's forecast was for a new system to blow in across Lake Ontario from the south.
   Those first few steps onto new ice are the best. The thrill of stepping over the open water at the shore, unsure whether I'll break through or in this case fall flat on my face, brings the anticipation to a climax only surpassed by that of the first fish. The ice was slick with areas of standing water on top that turned normal walking into a shuffling gait. Unwilling to repeat last years slapstick show on Puslinch, Tackle Shop put a new set of cleats on his boots that gave him the surefootedness  of a billy goat (the beard also helps with that mental picture). The farther we walked (and shuffled) from shore, the stronger the wind buffeted us with freezing rain. At one point the wind was so strong that my sled was trying to pull me downwind!

   While we were setting up at our first location a shout of excitement came from the only other group as they had just landed a stout 8Lb. pike. We'd moved out into deeper water (12') and stronger winds a half hour later  when the others landed a 2 Lb. rainbow trout. I'd drilled a dozen holes in an attempt to find any signs of life but it was becoming clear that this bay had a very gradual drop and little or no structure. The best way to fish it was to chose an area, set your lines...and wait for the cruising predators to come to you. On a nice day this tactic would have been acceptable but the conditions were starting to take their toll on TS as he was eventually soaked to the skin.

   It looked as if we were finished for the day by noon but as TS changed into dry cloths at the van he asked where else can we go. Luckily I'd brought along a map and it was decided we'd travel 30 Km north to Musselman's Lake. In the past we'd both fished this popular pothole lake in the summer but had never ventured out onto it in the winter. Upon arrival we were greeted with a snowbound ghost-town, the small resident population keeping a low profile but most assuredly aware of invading city slickers ignoring the multitude of NO TRESPASSING signs. It looked as if we had no access to the ice when TS exercised his small town common sense and asked a property owner if we could cross his right of way! Who knew it could be that easy?
    Not only did the owner grant us permission but he told us to fish the drop off 100 yards from shore where the weed bed ends in 15 fow. We set up in the prescribed  location and as is my habit, I drilled a series of holes covering a whole range of depths from 6 to 20 feet. TS dead sticked his two rods baited with shiner minnows while I roamed from hole to hole armed with my sonar and a jigging Rapala minnow.

   Over the next three hours we changed locations several times, constantly moving farther out in search of any signs of life below the ice. By the end of the day I'd drilled over 30 holes and hadn't marked a single fish on the sonar. Unlike Frenchman's Bay to the south, Musselman's Lake would require further exploration to figure out it's hidden secrets.

   So to sum up the day I'd say no fish on new ice...but a lot of the fun is in the exploration!


  1. Seems to be the story before you get a handle on the lake. Once you do. it's rock and roll all the time.


  2. From your history, I know you and TS will figure it out. Those fish can hide, but, they can't ignore a couple of die hard anglers like you two.

  3. John
    We are talking cold here, man am I glad I am in the South--only for the weather---at times my wife and I wish we live out your way.

  4. Looks the place to be John, We have some good fishing by the nuclear plant on our coast but it never freez's because of the hot waters going into the rivers,
    Looks great though, Be even better once you get started propperly,