The polar vortex in Central and Eastern Canada brought an extended season of ice fishing this year, but why is it that I know so few Canucks who partake in this quintessentially Canadian winter activity?
It was this reality that inspired me to venture up to Ontario’s Lake Simcoe with friends, test our prowess as ice anglers and demystify this male-dominated sport.
If you’re not interested in trying it, perhaps these five reasons will convince you:
1) There’s more to winter sports than skating, skiing and snowboarding.
I know: The, um, sitting and beer guzzling often involved with ice fishing won’t pump your heart or work your muscles the way blazing down ski slopes will (although I’ve been told it’s not uncommon for couples to participate in their own, ahem, in-hut “exercises”), but why not try something completely new by stepping out of your element and testing a survival skill that dates back thousands of years? Besides, you’ll have to start somewhere to train for your appearance on Survivor or the Amazing Race, right?
2) Because you can do it.
Who says women can’t – or shouldn’t – ice fish? Forget the zumba class or spa treatment this weekend, and prove the naysayers wrong (even if you’re one of them!). Sure, you’ll impress your friends and family but, more importantly, you’ll impress yourself (and really, that’s the only opinion that ultimately matters).
3) It’s less complicated than you think it is.
Don’t let words like “tackle”, “sinkers”, “floats” and “tip-up sticks” intimidate you and your city sensibilities because the sport is easier than it appears to be. And ice fishing outfitters like Bonnie Boats at Jackson’s Point can take care of all your equipment needs and help you get set up in the hut.
4) You can ice fish in heated huts.
The sport has come a long way and participation no longer requires sitting in front of a hole in below-zero temperatures and subjecting yourself to frostbite. Bonnie Boats, for example, provides shacks heated by Coleman stoves to keep you cozy and comfortable. That means you can peel off your outer layers and adjust the warmth to your liking. (Note: Their nearby outhouses, however, are not heated).
5) You can feast on your very own catch!
In an age in which we’re so far removed from the food supply chain, ice fishing is empowering. Instead of purchasing packaged, bar-coded seafood off the supermarket shelves without knowing where it originated or whose hands have touched it, this is the opportunity to be responsible for your own meal and, therefore, know exactly where it came from. And, if you don’t want to clean and cook it yourself, places like The Briars Resort at Lake Simcoe will do it for you the very same day so your dinner is as fresh as can be. Now that’s a true lake-to-table experience.
My ice fishing adventure didn’t result in a catch large enough for a meal, but we enjoyed and took pride in the experience (even if I was too squeamish to handle the bait). And it was all captured on video:
Thank you to Bonnie Boats and Central Counties Tourism for making this experience possible. As always, all opinions expressed in this post are my own.