Adventures, Learn

What Happened The First Time I Went Ice Fishing

Winter in Canada isn’t always the most forgiving experience, to say the least. It can be cold, feel somewhat unrelenting and abundantly unpredictable. But over the years, I’ve worked hard on complaining less about it and rather started focusing on making the most out of it instead. Easier said than done for the most part, right? Well ultimately, the key is to be as prepared as you possibly can be, while remembering to always have fun – no matter what it throws at you. It’s that simple.

I’m a huge fan of exploring the outdoors. I’m also an advocate for getting more women into outdoors sports and activities, especially ones that are maybe more male-dominated or male-represented, much like fishing. And lately, there are lots of kick-ass lady anglers out there making an impact all over social media. I used to fish a lot more when I was a kid, and then dabbled a bit again a couple of years ago with the help of some friends – but I wouldn’t call myself even remotely proficient (or even good) at it quite yet.

It wasn’t until early last year that I really gave it a solid go and have been actively seeking out opportunities, while being sure to keep learning from some people for whom I have genuine respect within this industry. People who have spent their lives fishing and hunting, who also work hard on continuing to perpetuate the education, as well as the ethical and conservation components, while also reducing the overall environmental impact. People who are truly connected to their food and to the lands where they obtain it. And that’s who I also strive to also be.

I think it was a pretty natural next step for me to try my hand at ice fishing. But I don’t have the equipment, heck I didn’t even know if I would like it enough to invest that far. And although I do know a few people who have a pretty sweet set up, there’s something kinda fun about making a bigger adventure out of it. So, I grabbed 2 friends who had never gone ice fishing before either, and we headed up to Windy Lake Provincial Park to stay in a cabin for 2 nights – in the middle of freakin’ winter.

When we rocked up to our roofed accommodation, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. Usually when you’re camping, you’re prepared to really brave the elements and strap in for some pretty basic needs. But the rustic one room Camp Cabins on site are heated and fully equipped with wood interiors and even a screened-in front porch. They quite comfortably sleep 5 people, on a queen bed and a double/single bunk bed with actual mattresses – you just need to bring your own pillows and bedding/sleeping bags.

They even come with a microwave, mini fridge, coffee maker, kettle and counter space. I loved the dining table and chairs so we could eat our meals all cozy inside, while admiring the beautiful nature scenes all around us. There’s also a gas barbecue and picnic table outside, as well as a fire pit. You do need to bring your own food, pots, pans, dishes and cutlery – but it’s really quite a great option, especially during the colder seasons.

So, why Windy Lake? Well, Ontario Parks has this wonderful package where they supply you with all of the ice fishing gear, set it all up for you and give you some guidance on how to truly enjoy your experience. They set up the hut and drill all of the holes at a pre-determined location about 300m in front of your cabin if you’ve booked one, or a 10 minute walk/snowshoe from the Park Office. So, whether you’re into taking part in the initial process or not, you can trust that everything will be ready to go and in place for your fishing adventure.

A complete ice fishing rental package is available at the Park Office and includes all of the gear that you need to spend an epic day on the ice. It includes 2 rods/reels, tip-ups, a bait bucket/stool, fishing tackle, an ice auger and a sled that transforms into a portable ice fishing shelter (complete with 2 seats). Lake Trout are abundant, but Lake Whitefish are also a popular winter species and very tasty, should you decide not to catch-and-release. The only things you need to bring are your required permits/licences and a sense of adventure.

Now fishing is one thing, but ice fishing is a whole other experience in and of itself. It’s not for the faint of heart, unless you’re in a hut keeping nice and warm with some hot bevvys. I think what I love the most about fishing, other than the thrill and excitement of actually catching a fish, is how much it teaches me about my patience and resilience. You can do everything you think is right, and still you might not catch anything. But it’s all in how you handle it. I’m always right in the moment, letting go and not focusing on anything else going on in my life, other than what or who is right in front of me.

For technique, I used a spoon with live bait and weighted it, then let the line drop all the way down to the bottom to kinda stir things up a bit, and then reeled it up about 2 inches, then proceeded to jig the line. This method was taught from a few friends of mine who are avid ice fishers. I did this on and off for hours, sometimes with my friends joining me in the hut, other times solo.

I definitely experienced a few moments of self-doubt and even a few times where I thought, “who do you think you are, Catherine – what are you even doing here?” But I quickly snapped myself out of that train of thought by reminding myself that not everyone is good at everything that they try for the first time, and honestly it’s important to just have fun! We spent the majority of the day on the ice, then packed up with no fish in hand this time around, and headed off on a snowshoeing trek just in time to watch the sun set on the beautiful icy Windy Lake.

We cooked a beautiful dinner, sat by the fire in the snow and just soaked in all of the peace that nature truly brings. It’s important to take time to disconnect from technology and the hustle and bustle life can bring, so that we can remember to reconnect to ourselves once again. I’m often driven by the desire to keep pursuing the things that I love, regardless of what other people think about them, and also regardless of my own doubts and reservations that can often creep in. You’ve just gotta keep pushing yourself, while being open to challenging the way that you’ve done things before. Because we can easily get stuck in our old ways – but where’s the adventure in that, my friends?

So, the question is… would I try ice fishing again? Well, if you can think of a better way to spend the winters in Canada, let minnow! Okay yeah that was a bit painful, but I just had to.




Photos by Catherine Sugrue & We Wander The Wild

Please note that this is a sponsored post.

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