With this fall being the coldest on record since 1974, we traded late fall open water fishing for an early ice fishing season. For the first time, I got out twice in November, and have some more outing planned before the official start of winter in the latter part of December.
I'll be updating this blog posts with fall ice fishing reports and pics as I fish on ice through the end of fall.
Note that Quebec ice fishing rules only come into effect on Dec 20th, which means that the use of frozen bait and multiple lines is still prohibited up until that date.
November 19th - Quebec fishing Zone 11:
After watching the weather forecast in various regions, I headed up North to zone 11, to a small lake with relatively easy access to early ice. It normally takes a good 5 nights of -10 C to form safe ice on a lake without current or hotspots. As the nighttime temp had dipped below -16 for a few nights in a row, I had a hunch that I might find safe ice to fish on at that point.
Got to the lake around 9:30 AM. As always, fishing first ice requires extreme caution. Equipped with a spud bar and dressed in a floating survival suit, I took my first few steps on to thin ice. Drilled to find barely 3 inches after a few steps, and then the rest was in the 2.5 to 3 inch range. Strong enough to hold me up, but thin enough to cause ripples on holes 20 feet apart every time I took a step. For safety, I fished less than 100 feet from shore, ice was too sketchy to risk venturing out further.
Being limited to only 1 line and no bait, I didn't manage any pike, which were my target species for the day. I did manage one mid sized perch on the Willams ice jig spoon I was jigging in shallow water.
Not much as far as fishing goes, but smashed my previous record for earliest ice fishing trip in a season by a good 2 weeks.
November 28th - Quebec fishing Zone 9:
With most of the province of Quebec's lakes closing for fishing on November 30th, this season opened the possibility of fishing hundreds of lake in the lower an upper Laurentians on ice. These lakes are typically open to residents only during the open water season, and safe ice would be the great equalizer. The issue is finding a lake with some decent fish, and then finding public property to launch from as well was parking.
The lake I decided to try for the first time, met all the above criteria. After checking the depth charts for the given lake online, I headed up to the Lower Laurentians to fish the lake for the first time. A convenient waterfront parking lot that had just been plowed, made for easy access. Ice was nice and thick too, found a good 5.5 to 7 inch of solid black ice, and about another inch or so of grey ice on it. Just about good enough to drive a snowmobile on it, though I was on foot.
Spent the morning targeting shallower water for perch. ended up with a dozen perch or so, most too small to keep but a couple decent ones.
Also landed a fallfish, first time I've ever caught one on ice.
After lunch, I proceeded to fish deeper water, hoping for some elusive trout or walleye I fished a gradual drop off, drilling about 6 or 7 holes over a distance of a few hundred feet, with the depth ranging from 30 feet all the way down to 70 feet. I should mention that it's absolutely necessary to have a flasher or sonar to successfully jig at those depths. No significant action, expect for 1 fish that followed my spoon 20 feet up from 45 to 25, and then turned away.
Around 2 PM, I decided to head back shallow and fish the productive spots I drilled earlier in the day until dark. A few minutes later, I hear a loud speaker (in French): "You with the red coat, get off the lake and head to shore immediately!". And then the sirens turn on.
I see a fire truck and service vehicle on the shore, so I motioned to give me a minute to pack up the sled. When I get to shore, I am told that access to the lake is forbidden until the fire dept tests the ice to make sure it's safe, and then reports back to city hall to announce lake access being open. apparently, they received a call about someone being out on "unsafe" ice.
Despite my trying to convince them and offering to show them that the ice was safe, I was not allowed to get back on the lake. Furthermore, all the lake under that municipalities jurisdiction are under the same rules.
They took my information down to close their "emergency call", and assured me that I wasn't going to be charged for the "rescue".
With less than 2 hours of daylight remaining, I opted not to bother trying to finder another lake and possibly run into similar safety issues. I headed home early to skip rush hour traffic instead.
Dec 11th update:
Finally have some safe ice closer to home, headed out for a short 5 hour outing hoping to find some panfish and possibly some largemouth bass.
After hitting after a good 3 hours or so of "run and gun" style fishing, I finally drilled over the motherload spot. Started icing crappies one after the other.
Also hit a good dozen or so bluegills, which I released.
Towards the end of the day, I drilled another hole adjacent to the one where I had found all those fish. First drop showed a big mark coming after my jigging rap, but missed it. A short while later, I hooked into a big fish. Though it may be a big bass, but when I got it up to the ice hole, I saw the biggest walleye I have ever seen. It darted around the hole a few times, one of my friends came over to land it. Just as I was about to ease it's head up the 8 inch hole, it spit the hook.
Judging from the massive head and thick girth, it may very well have been a 10 lb walleye. Though I was upset that I didn't get to ice it, I was still quite happy to have hook a a giant walleye of that size by surprise. Will be dreaming about that one for a while,
Dec 17th update:
After finding a new carp spot this fall, I had planned to wait for it to freeze up enough for me to be able to get out on the surface and drill holes all around areas I fish in open water. Though this outing was dedicated more to preparing myself for open water carp seasons in the future, I know there are some bass, pike, perch and sunfish in the area, so I obviously brought along fishing gear, in addition to my flasher.
Ended up drilling a good 35 holes throughout the day, mainly to find shoals, dropoffs, and to explore some of what I had observed there in October. Fishing was slow as expected, apart for a half dozen smaller perch and a bluegill.
Only substantial fish caught was this nice 15 inch largemouth bass, put up a good fight on the jigging rod.
Not being able to use multiple lines or dead bait until Dec 20th, I didn't bother targeting pike. Looking forward to winter rules the kick in on Thursday (Dec 20th) in Southern Quebec.