Late Ice Fun & Safety

A last minute trip to Sunset Country: The perfect way to end your hard-water season!
Jeff Gustafson
By Jeff Gustafson

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods.

Last Updated: March 13, 2019

It’s always hard to predict when the ice will become unsafe at the end of every winter season here in Sunset Country. Back in 2012 I can remember having some friends visit from Minnesota over the last weekend in March, typically prime time for ice fishing, and we ended up ice fishing for a day before deciding it was no longer safe enough to walk on. This wasn’t the end of their fishing trip, because we were able to drive to the Rainy River to fish walleye out of a boat for a couple days.  

In 2018, we had plenty of ice right up to the walleye season close on April 15. Over the years I always felt safe booking ice fishing guide trips up until the end of March and usually the ice conditions were still good yet we were greeted with warmer weather, longer days and good fishing. On years when we had late ice, I have enjoyed some incredible April fishing on the ice.   

BONUSES 

If I could only ice fish for three weeks of the year, it would most certainly be over the last few weeks of safe ice. Jumbo pike and walleye make predictable migrations towards spawning areas where they wait, hungry, for the ice to melt. 

Lake trout become more active as more light penetrates the ice, increasing their activity levels and making it easier for them to see your baits.  Same for perch, crappies and whitefish.

Then there is the weather. Fishing in a sweatshirt, needing sunglasses and sunscreen is much more appealing than fishing in sub-zero conditions earlier in the winter. It’s a great time to be here. 

SAFETY 

The warmer weather, while promoting good fishing opportunities also creates deteriorating ice conditions. Neck down areas with current, in-flowing creeks and rivers, swampy areas and access spots are always the first places where the ice deteriorates.

Common sense is usually the best direction to follow. As the ice starts to melt away from the shoreline, use of motorized vehicles should stop. No fish is worth your life, with the help of an outfitter, you can avoid places like this and access water from safer areas.

However, the great thing about planning an ice fishing trip to Sunset Country is that you can book a trip with one of the many outfitters across the region who have intimate knowledge of the waters that they fish so they will have a good idea of areas to avoid, portage trails to get into some of the best back lakes and they will know when to say enough is enough on the ice.  

STILL TIME

For those of you who like to ice fish, the good news is as I write this in March, we still have a lot of snow and ice. At this point I think the ice fishing season is going to run right into the April and possibly the closure of the walleye season on April 15, so there is still time left to plan a trip and make a run to Sunset Country to have some end-of-winter fun.  

It’s a great time of year to catch big walleye and I know I have said it before but probably eight of the ten largest pike I have ever had my hands on were all caught during this late-ice period. Using a large dead cisco or sucker minnow on a quick-strike rig beneath a tip-up is the top presentation. 

DON’T WAIT

There are many outfitters and resorts across the Sunset Country Region who will cater to ice anglers and many of them are looking forward to fishing over the next few weeks because of the great fishing and better weather. Since it’s last minute for this year you should call around and hunt for a good deal on your trip because many of these folks are probably looking for a fishing partner!  

Want to learn more or plan ahead for next ice season? Order your FREE 2019 Sunset Country Travel Guide and Map online or give the staff at Sunset Country at call 1-800-665-7567 to order over the phone and ask any questions you may have. 

They can also be reached for general inquiries at info@visitsunsetcountry.com.

About the Author

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. His outgoing, genuine, friendly attitude makes him a natural outdoor writer, fishing and hunting promoter and host of "Fishing with Gussy." You'll see him fishing the Walmart FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats (among others) as well as many bass tournaments in Ontario's Sunset Country.