Ice-fishing season upon us

One thing about growing up in Sunset Country is that it breeds some of the most extreme and passionate outdoorspeople on the planet.
We have so many top-notch fishing, hunting, and outdoor opportunities that there is never a dull moment.
There is something exciting to do outside all 365 days of the year. And if you live here, and you don’t enjoy some of these activities, you’re missing out.
As ice starts to form on waters around the region, people are going to get out there to look for fish. A couple of the most hard-core anglers I know from the Kenora area, Jamie Bruce and Sean McAughey, along with Ashley Haines, were the first group I heard of to hit the ice when they went for stocked brook trout this past weekend.
I know they went because I got in on a great fish dinner with these guys Saturday night when they got off the ice. The stocked brook trout they caught from a Kenora area lake were some of the best-eating fish I’ve ever had.
Before you say that they’re crazy to go out on the ice already, they were prepared with safety gear and only walked out on a small lake that already had been frozen for about 10 days.
There are a bunch of stocked trout lakes available to all residents of Northwestern Ontario and the early ice period is the best time of the whole year to catch them (a full listing of stocked lakes in Ontario can be found at the MNR’s Fish-Online website).
The crew caught their limit of five fish each on a variety of baits, but the best were small spoons with a dropper rig to a small hook below the spoon. Small jigs caught fish, too.
McAughey told me they were tipping all of their lures with a little piece of cocktail shrimp and that the little piece of meat really helped get a lot more bites.
Minnows also work well.
As far as cooking them, a couple of our other buddies took over the detail on that. Ryan Peterson and Karl Engstrom cleaned the fish and cooked them up in three different ways, which all were really good!
The first batch was fried traditional style and battered with bread crumbs. Peterson then rolled some fish pieces with bacon and cooked them in the oven in a barbecue sauce that was really good—some of the best fish of any species that I’ve ever had!
Finally, they left the skin on a few fillets and cooked them in a little bit of garlic butter, also in the oven and also very good!
These were all 14- to 15-inch fish so the fillets were the same size as a small eater-sized walleye.
The milder weather this week is slowing down our ice formation a little bit, but it looks like things are supposed to really cool down this weekend. So by next week, there should be a few more options available to those that want to get the ice-fishing season started.
Besides the small stocked trout lakes, there are plenty of small lakes that have opportunities for crappies, as well, and many of those will have safe ice soon.
It’ll be a while yet before the big lakes and the lake trout lakes are frozen, but it’s certainly time to start thinking ice-fishing!