When the snow and temperatures start to fall some angler’s fishing season comes to an end as they store away their boats for the winter months; but for many the hard water fishing season is just about to start! Mid-January the majority of the upper lakes have frozen over with more than six inches of hard ice - perfect conditions for ice fishing. As the season is still early the oxygen levels in the water are high which means the fish are not yet lethargic. Ice fishing within the Okanagan usually begins from mid- December and can last into mid-March.
Ice fishing offers great opportunity for easy access to fish many lakes that usually are not accessible in open water season unless you have a boat. The lack of shore fishing in the Okanagan upper lakes is a challenge during the open water season but during ice over the lake is yours to explore!
Getting started with a basic setup:
- Warm clothing! Dress in layers that allow you to keep dry. Rubber winter boots are a good idea.
- An ice auger, 6 inch diameter auger is adequate.
- An ice scoop to remove the snow and loose ice from the drilled hole.
- Ice Fishing rod. A regular short fishing rod will work, but an ice fishing rod allows you to be closer to the hole.
- A chair such as a folding camping chair or bucket.
The simplest method is to add bait such as worms, corn or maggots onto a hook with a small split shot weight 1 foot above. Start about 12 inches off the bottom. Jig the bait a few times in about 5 inch pulls, and then let it sit for a few minutes. Smacking the bait against the bottom and pulling it back up again will also improve your odds in getting a bite. Using a small bobber will help detect bites.
If you are not familiar with the lake before going out simply target the areas with structure such as drop off ledges, weeds, fallen tress etc. Trout feed on invertebrates in shallow vegetated water during the winter so start off in about 5 to 10 feet of water.
Don’t be shy in drilling new holes if you are not getting any action. The key to ice fishing is to find the fish! Later in the season this becomes even more of a challenge as the fish tend to move around a lot less.
Some great lakes to ice fish with easy access in the Okanagan include: Shannon Lake, Idabel Lake, Beaver Lake, Yellow Lake, and Ripley Lake.
Ice fishing can be an excellent winter activity for the entire family. It’s a great way to introduce youth to fishing as they are not restricted to the small confines of a boat. Watching the smile on a child’s face as they pull in their first fish will be the greatest catch of the day!
Danny Coyne is the co-founder of BCFishn.com; a local fishing website dedicated to promoting the sport of angling with conservation in mind. Danny is also the Co-Chair of the Fisheries Committee of the BC Wildlife Federation for Region 8. Along with fishing, Danny’s passion is to share angling tips and stories to encourage angling within our community.