Lake Couchiching was a popular place to kick off the new year for local and visiting anglers who were anxious to begin the ice fishing season.
The frozen lake was a welcome discovery, especially when other bodies of water, including Lake Simcoe, were not yet accessible.
A colourful collection of portable ice-fishing huts could be seen from Tudhope Park throughout the weekend.
“There must have been over 100 tents out there,” remarked Wes Trinier, who regularly walks through Tudhope Park. “It was a popular spot for sure; the parking lot was completely full.”
Wayne Foreman and his son Denver, of Barrie, were two of the many anglers out on the lake hoping to catch some fish, namely perch and pike.
For the father and son duo, it was not only their first time out in 2021, but the first time they had ventured out with their newly acquired gear and portable hut.
“This is the first year we’ve had our own equipment,” said Foreman. “I usually wait for the huts to be out so I can rent one, or go out with a friend.”
Ice fishing is basically cutting a hole in the ice, dropping a lure or bait and then pulling the fish to the surface. But for most avid anglers, there’s more to it than that, and, like any sport or hobby, the list of specialized equipment can be endless.
Foreman and his son were prepared with the basics – a portable hut (tent), auger, jigging rods, spud bar (to check ice thickness), along with some additional equipment to help make their outing a successful one – all packed onto a sled that they pulled to their destination.
Foreman admitted he was a bit nervous, wondering if everything would work. But within minutes they had their set-up ready to go. And what a set-up they had!
Inside the tent, the pair looked warm and cozy, sitting on their camp chairs, with rods in hand. They had a heater, fish-finder device, ice scoop (to clean the slush out of fishing holes), in addition to snacks and hot coffee at the ready.
And outside the tent, the Foremans had set up two separate lines with flag tip-up mechanisms, which alert the anglers to a bite or fish on the line.
“All we need now are the fish,” they laughed.
For Foreman, who enjoys fishing during all seasons, ice-fishing excursions are all about spending time with his son.
“I’ve had a rough life, but have been clean and sober for four years now,” explained Foreman. “Being out here, fishing with my son, this is my new addiction. So far, so good; it would be nice to catch a fish, but whatever, we’ll see.”
With their ice fishing “camp” all set up, it does seem like the perfect opportunity to enjoy each other’s company, while working together to make a catch. Still, while suited to spending time on their own (and social distancing), there is a camaraderie among anglers, as Foreman explained.
“There’s etiquette to follow,” said Foreman. “You don’t want to get too close to someone else’s area, but we also exchange information about where the fish are."
Even though many anglers, like Foreman, have fish-finders and apps on their phones to help identify where fish might be, the best tips often come from others out on the ice.
“Even before we come out, we connect on social media for updates on good spots to fish and safety tips.”
With the success of their first venture out on the ice with their new gear – with or without a good catch – the Foremans are looking forward to further adventures this winter.
Foreman says he can’t wait to get out on Lake Simcoe with his son to try ice fishing for big lake trout, something he has done during the summer.
“It’s just incredible; you can actually see the fish at the bottom. You drop the jig, see the fish turn, start reeling and then your rod goes bang – it’s pretty awesome. I can’t wait to try it on the ice.”