Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

At the first sign of frost, we often put away our rods and reels, letting our fishing trip become a dream until spring.

But what if we could capture the catch of our dreams during the sunniest and liveliest days of the year?

With license-free family fishing weekend just around the corner, we’re sharing our top tips for the hottest parts of the season (or should we say) colder hobby: ice fishing!

Wait, what is family fishing weekend?

Each year, the Ontario government designates Family Day weekend as a license-free fishing period. There’s no better time to introduce a friend or family member to fishing!


There’s even a coloring contest for kids!

In 2020, Family Fishing Weekend will be held February 15-17.

Check out the Ontario Family Fishing Events website for fishing opportunities near you!

Ready to go? Here are some tips to ensure a fun and safe day of fishing:

Stay safe

Especially during a warm winter, be very careful before going out on the ice.

The ice should be at least 15 to 20 cm thick, depending on the size of the group. Check the thickness regularly with a boring bar or auger as you go toward the lake.

Spud and cleats on the ice.

Ice formed over running water, springs, pressure cracks, old ice holes, or around the mouths of rivers and streams is much weaker.

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Be sure to check local Ice Conditions: Just because the lake next to your house is frozen doesn’t mean all lakes will be. Local cabin operators are a good source of information.

Look at the color of the ice. woman ice fishingLight blue ice is the strongest, while white/opaque ice is much weaker. Stay away from ice that appears to form a honeycomb, especially during spring or snowmelt.

Get more ice safety tips here.

Always dress appropriately

Wear breathable clothing and dress in layers.

Remember: Your temperature will rise as you look for a place to set up and start drilling, but you’ll cool down while you wait for a bite.

Fancy a lunch on the coast?

Consult Ontario’s Fish Eating Guide to identify the types and amounts of fish that are safe to eat:

Stay legal

Bring your license

Unless it’s a family fishing weekend, you’ll need a valid fishing license. Make sure you have renewed your Outdoors Card for the year before you hit the ice.

Fish within your limits and know the rules.

During the license-free weekend, unlicensed anglers must continue to fish within conservation limits. Carry a copy of the Recreational Fishing and Regulations Summary to ensure you are complying with catch limits and fishing rules.

Setting up the shelter for ice fishing

Register your ice hut

Click here to register online and find out which fishery management zones require registration. Once registered, please ensure your cabin registration number is visible.

Pack well

Ice Fishing Silent LakeSome key equipment you’ll need:

  • sharp hand auger
  • ice skimmer (to remove slush)
  • specific lures/baits for the desired species
  • ice rod/reel
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Along with your fishing gear, you should also carry a whistle, waterproof matches, and have a personal flotation device.

Click here for a detailed list of everything you need to keep in mind before hitting the ice!

Break out the long johns, fill your thermos with hot chocolate, and get out on the ice for your family fishing weekend!