Today’s post comes from multi-species angler and writer Ashley Rae of SheLovesToFish.com, as she recounts her 2017 trip to Frontenac.
Over the weekend, I traveled from my home in the Ottawa area to visit Frontenac Provincial Park. Growing up in nearby Napanee, I had visited the park many times in the past, but this would be my first ice fishing expedition.
Winter is a great time to hit the trails and venture into serene, secluded lakes. Colder temperatures can mean less fishing pressure and even having the lake to yourself. I can’t think of a better way to spend a winter day!
With several lakes located throughout the park, there are many fishing opportunities throughout the year. In winter you can fish for pike, various species of panfish (black crappie, sunfish, yellow perch) and brook trout. Be sure to check fishing regulations when planning your trip, as they can change from year to year.
I usually spend a lot of time hunting for walleye and panfish during the winter months, so I was eager to make the trip and try my luck on lakes full of brook trout.
I was accompanied on this adventure by my fishing buddy, Eric. Upon arrival, we stopped by the park office to pick up our passes and ask about trail conditions and ice fishing reports. The staff was very friendly and helped us narrow down our options to a couple of lakes.
To preserve the beauty and natural state of the park, ATVs and snowmobiles are not permitted on the trails. Power augers are not allowed on the lakes within the park, so we brought our hand auger and packed as light as possible for the trip. Although we packed all of our warmest winter clothing, we took off our jackets and dungarees for the hike to stay cold. Once we got to the lake, we put layers back on. I was able to stay nice and warm all day.
With a recent snowfall, the trails were a beautiful sight. Once we got off the main trail and onto the portage route, the only footprints in the snow we saw were our own.
We also saw many animal and bird tracks, crossing or along the path. We were able to identify turkeys, foxes, fishermen, deer and also saw what we thought were moose tracks in one of the lakes.
Without having bathymetric maps of the lakes, we study the landscape to decide where to drill our holes in the ice covering deeper and shallower waters. By carrying a flashing light, I was able to check the depths of the water and get an idea of what the bottom structure was like. I fished a variety of depths, but found the best luck in three meters of water along a steep shoreline that quickly reached over six meters. Trout generally rise less during low light conditions and move further away during the day.
My first fish came to me on a 1/16-ounce silver spoon (called a Slender Spoon made by Custom Jigs & Spins) tipped with an artificial wax worm (Berkley Gulp! Waxies). It was a pleasure to catch this stunning stream in pristine wilderness and well worth the hike!
After landing this first fish, there was no reason to change my presentation. I kept my spoon moving at all times by lifting it up and allowing it to come back down. This is what excites trout. When I saw a fish in my flasher, I would slowly lift and wave the spoon to move it away. It didn’t take long for the trout to chase her and attack.
I was jigging about three or four feet off the bottom. It is a good idea to fish a few feet off the bottom, as the fish can see a long distance in these clear water conditions. Live baits such as wax worms or minnows purchased locally are popular with anglers, as are tip-ups and fixed lines set in shallow water along shorelines. Be sure not to throw any leftover bait into the lake as it is not allowed and can disrupt the aquatic ecosystem.
I am so grateful that we decided to go on this hiking adventure, and the beautiful fish we were able to witness were the icing on the cake. I look forward to my next visit and checking more lakes off my bucket list.
Are you planning a day trip? You can reserve your day use permit online in advance to guarantee your access and head directly to your desired access point. Reservations will be available at 7:00 am, five days before arrival date.
Has Ashley inspired your own winter fishing trip? License-Free Family Fishing Weekend (February 19-21, 2022) is coming!