Stocked lakes a great source of family fun and food

While we’re still waiting on the bigger bodies of water to freeze over across Northwest Ontario, most of the smaller lakes are now covered with a layer of ice that will remain until April. I have not been fishing yet because I’m still spending some of my free time hunting but soon enough I’m going to get out on the ice.  

In my younger years I used to get so excited for that first trip on the ice. Sometimes I think I went out there before the ice thickness met the safe standard but I don’t take to many risks today. For many years the first trip was always into one of the many stocked trout lakes around Kenora.  

A quick look at the Ontario Government’s Fish ON-LINE website reveals that we have a bunch of stocked trout lakes across the region. This website also shares the stocking records of each body of water so you have an idea of the numbers of fish in each lake. Brook trout are the most popular species but there are quite a few rainbow trout and splake being stocked into area lakes as well.  

It’s no secret that the first ice period is the best time of the winter and perhaps the entire year to fish for these stocked trout. They are active under the ice and catching fish is usually pretty easy. As long as you have four or five inches of ice to safely walk out on, which we have on many of these smaller lakes now, you are good to go.  

I have mentioned it before, the best tip I can give you is to stay close to shore. Fishing for these trout is different than most species that we chase under the ice in that we fish shallow for them. I like to drill holes in four to eight feet of water, around any kind of cover I can find along the shore, including trees sticking into the water, rock outcroppings, anything you can find. These trout will prey on small minnows and invertebrates that live around this cover.  

Since we’re allowed to run two lines while we’re ice fishing, I like to use a flashy lure for jigging and a small jig with a live minnow on it as a set line. Some days the jigging rod will be better, other times the set lines will be better. My flashy bait is going to be a small spoon or swimming jig that I’ll tip with a piece of minnow or even a chunk of shrimp. A few years ago I went out with my buddy Jamie Bruce and he showed me this trick of adding a small chunk of shrimp to the treble hook on my spoon. Worked great. On my set line, I’m going to hook a small minnow through the tail and let it swim around beneath the hole.  

These stocked trout don’t spawn so it’s okay to take a few to eat. On most waters the limit is five per person. Depending on the stocking schedule, these lakes will cycle on the size of fish that you catch in them. On some waters, you’ll catch a bunch of smaller trout that are just big enough to pan fry, then a year or two later you may only catch a few fish but they are bigger, up to three or four pounds. They are all beautifully coloured fish.  
These lakes are stocked by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry and they have done a great job of continuing to keep the lakes across Sunset Country well stocked. Often times the action is really good on these lakes so they can be a good place to take kids out on an ice adventure. Since you’re often fishing close to shore, starting a fire and roasting some hot dogs or marshmallows while you wait for a bite keeps everybody occupied. Check out that Fish ON-LINE website, find a stocked lake near you and go have some fun on the ice in the coming weeks.