Winter lake trout ice fishing in Ontario
The giant fish prowl under the ice like great white sharks with their pectoral fins splayed out to the sides as they hunt for food in the pure, cold, oxygen-rich waters of some of the most stunningly beautiful lakes on earth.
In fact, Ontario has more lake trout lakes than anywhere else on earth. Up to one quarter of the world’s lake trout waters are nestled within the province. Some of the lakes are small and serene with spruce and pine-studded shorelines, reminiscent of a scene from a Tom Thompson painting. Others are wild and majestic like Lake Superior—the largest freshwater lake in the world—and Lake Nipigon, the largest inland lake in Ontario.
Lake trout also sit at the top of most ice anglers’ lists of favourite fish to catch for another reason. They grow to enormous proportions. The biggest lake trout caught by an angler fishing in Ontario was hooked in Lake Superior and plunged the needle on the scale all the way down to the 60.12-pound mark. But an even bigger 104-pound Goliath was caught in a research net, set by the Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry in Lake Nipigon.
Most lake trout are smaller than these behemoths, averaging between two and ten pounds, with an over 20-pound fish considered a trophy. But regardless of their size they fight like demons—powered by thick muscular bodies and widely forked tails—when they grab your lure and try to pull the rod out of your hand.
And if you keep a smaller lake trout to enjoy for shore lunch, seasoned with a few fresh herbs and spices and cooked over a crackling wood fire, their exquisite salmon-red flesh makes for a meal that will have you closing your eyes and telling yourself, if this is a dream, don’t let me wake up.
Make your Ontario lake trout dream come true
Ontario can make all of your lake trout dreams come true. In addition to enjoying extensive opportunities for lake trout, the waters in which the fish are found are spread almost universally across the province. So there is a fabulous fishery waiting for you wherever you’re heading.
And finding that secret fishing hole is made easy these days thanks to a phenomenal free planning tool hosted by the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources, and Forestry called Fish ON-Line.
Once you’ve accessed the site, simply select the appropriate ODMNRF district office or nearest village, town or city to where you will be staying. Next, define the radius you would like to search and select “lake trout” for the featured species. Every body of water within the area will be highlighted.
You can pick a lake, find out where the access points are located, determine if an underwater contour map exists and even review the local study results that will tell you the number and size of the fish. It is an ice angler’s planning tool and will help you pick the ideal lake suited to you.
Lake trout fishing in Southern Ontario
The Bay of Quinte, in Prince Edward County is renowned for its trophy winter walleye fishing. But what is less well known—indeed, a well-kept secret—is that the slightly deeper waters host sensational lake trout fishing.
The same is true of the many lake trout lakes encompassing the Kawartha and Northumberland, Southeastern Ontario, Ottawa and Countryside and Haliburton Highlands to the Ottawa Valley tourism regions. These lakes tend to be modest in size, easily accessed and often stocked annually with lake trout.
A short drive west, on the other hand, you will find Lake Simcoe and Georgian Bay, two massive lake trout waters that highlight the variety of opportunities awaiting you in Ontario. Stay in one of the many local hotels, motels, lodges and inns, including:
Ice fish for lake trout on your own or book a heated fishing hut that’s located on the lake. The ice hut operator will supply you with live bait and equipment and drive you to your heated shelter in an enclosed bombardier.
The same range of choices are available in the Muskoka Lakes region where Lake Rosseau, Lake Muskoka and Lake of Bays reign supreme.
Lake trout fishing in Northeastern Ontario
Heading northward, Lake Temagami will tempt you with her winter trophy trout treasures. Several main base lodges cater to the ice angler, so you can spoil yourself with deluxe accommodations, home-cooked meals and heated ice fishing shelters positioned on prime lake trout ice fishing grounds. A few great options include:
- Loon Lodge Resort, Temagami
- Northland Paradise Lodge, Temagami
- Temagami Shores Inn & Resort, Temagami
This plethora of lakes centered around Lake Temagami is actually part of a huge swath of trout waters that extend all the way across to Sault Ste. Marie. And they open up another ideal ice fishing option: hiring a knowledgeable local guide to take you via snowmachine, ATV or even snowshoes into a remote wilderness backcountry water where you are the only angler.
Consider planning your lake trout adventure for the first week of March to coincide with the annual three-day Wawa Ice Fishing Derby with tens of thousands of dollars in prizes up for grabs.
Lake Superior trout ice fishing
Of course, no discussion of Ontario’s world-class lake trout fishing would ever be complete without highlighting Lake Superior, the biggest freshwater lake in the world. If you’re a lake trout angler, you might even be forgiven for thinking this immense body of water was named for the trout swimming beneath the ice. The fishing is that good—especially in the many large enclosed bays centered around the town of Nipigon and city of Thunder Bay.
But hold onto to your hat, because those in the know will tell you that as good as the ice fishing is on Lake Superior, it is even better on Lake Nipigon. The trout, in the biggest inland lake in Ontario, are managed under special regulations that guarantee the highest quality and most exceptional experience. You won’t be disappointed with the ice fishing in Superior Country.
A few great lodge options for consideration:
Sunset Country Supreme
Are you ready for this: the greatest density of lake trout lakes found anywhere in the world is in Northwestern Ontario’s magnificent Sunset Country. You’ll have your choice of lake after lake after lake—one on top of the other—with trophy lake trout swimming in the crystal-clear waters. In fact, there are so many pristine lake trout lakes in Sunset Country, you could ice fish different bodies of water every winter of your life and never fish them all.
Many of these lakes are large, secluded wilderness gems, but thanks to an enormous, groomed snowmobile trail system, you can easily access the vast majority. Some adventurous ice anglers often pull portable popup shelters behind their snowmobiles and camp out in the winter, but most stay at one of the many famous lodges, resorts and inns that cater to the winter angler. This way, you can take off on your snowmobile from the resort and ice fish a new body of water every day. The only dilemma is deciding which one to visit.
And on many of the biggest lakes, like world renowned Lake of the Woods, you can drive right to your favourite fishing spot on the vast plowed ice road system. Imagine: you get up in the morning, enjoy a scrumptious breakfast and then drive out onto the lake to go fishing.
Here are few lodges in Sunset Country:
The top three lake trout lures
You might think that with so many incredible and diverse lake trout ice fishing opportunities waiting for you in Ontario that selecting the best lures to bring is a complicated task. But you really only need three styles.
You’ll find a good clue as to which type of lure to use in the ciscoes, whitefish, smelt and white suckers that dominate the trout's diet. These baitfish are streamlined in length, thin in shape, soft-scaled and silvery-white in color, so it’s hard to beat a three- or four-inch white or silver tube jig.
Ice anglers have caught more lake trout hopping, popping and swimming around this lure beneath their holes over the years than all the other lures combined. Simply stuff a 3/8-ounce jig head inside the hollow plastic and attach it to the 10- to 14-pound test line that you have spooled onto your ice rod.
Early in the lake trout ice fishing season, which traditionally opens on New Year’s Day (always check the local regulations), anglers start fishing near rocky structures like underwater points, deep reefs and saddles that connect two or more islands.
Fifty feet (15 metres) of water is an ideal depth to begin but drill extra holes out over deeper and shallower water and check different depths throughout the day. Also, let your tube jig fall onto the bottom, stirring up the silt and detritus, making it look like a feeding forage fish. Lake trout go berserk when they see this.
The second essential lure style to pack is your favourite three- to five-inch swimbait. These realistic-looking soft plastic minnow imitations come in straight and paddletail models and are effective when you affix them to a 3/8- to 1/2-ounce jig head.
A favourite presentation is to drop the lure into your hole and let it fall all the way down to the bottom. Then close the bail and reel it back up to the surface at a moderate pace. A big lake trout will see it swimming in the crystal-clear water and chase after it so aggressively it will send a wall of water washing up onto the ice. Talk about heart-stopping action.
Last, but by no means least, you should always have a good supply of spoons. They’re especially effective when you find lake trout cruising close to the bottom in deeper water.
A fluttering two- to four-inch-long silver or gold spoon will reflect even the most minute quantity of sunlight streaming through the ice and look like a distressed ciscoe, smelt or whitefish on death's door. The lake trout can’t resist it—especially when you run the eye of the treble hook through the head of a freshly snipped-off minnow, so it exits the mouth. The minnow head complements the spoon by adding scent and a target for the big predators.
If it all sounds too simple, well, it really is, so check that dream lake trout ice fishing trip off of your bucket list. Because in Ontario, it’s not a dream—it’s a reality.
Last updated: November 30, 2022