Five Spots to Ice Fish and Camp this Winter in British Columbia
Ice-fishing is often overlooked as a winter activity, especially if you live in southern B.C. But fishing doesn’t stop when the temperatures drop – it only gets more exciting. Ice-fishing is a very social activity that requires only a limited amount of gear or experience. When solidly frozen, an entire lake becomes accessible without the need of a boat, and you don’t need the often-complicated casting techniques required in other fisheries. It’s as simple as drilling a hole, and dropping a line.
It is important to exercise caution, however. Always make sure the ice is thick enough to ensure a safe trip. Before you walk out onto ice, it needs to be at least 10 centimetres (four inches) thick if you are fishing alone, and at least 38 centimetres (15 inches) thick before you drive your truck onto it. Remember that a freshwater fishing licence is still required for ice-fishing, and that you should check the regulations for any closures or restrictions.
With these points in mind, along with some basic gear, you can be set for some fun times on the ice this winter. And the good news is, with many parks open year ’round that are close to great hardwater lakes, you can make a wintertime camping trip out of it.
Here are our top five spots, with recreational vehicle or camping spots close by, to try ice-fishing this winter:
Alleyne Lake (near Merritt)
Kokanee provide an exciting winter fishery in this lake. The trick is finding schools of fish. Using a fishfinder is your best bet, but if you don’t have one, start at the bottom and work your way up through the water column until you find a school.
Note: The neighbouring lake, Kentucky SE Pothole, located 50 metres east of Kentucky Lake, is closed to ice-fishing.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Merritt and surrounding area.
Swan Lake (near Vernon)
This is a great spot to fish in the winter, although you should exercise extreme caution to ensure the lake is entirely frozen before venturing out. Swan Lake is located only moments away from Vernon’s downtown centre. As you can catch rainbow trout weighing up to a kilogram (about two pounds) in size, make sure to bore your holes with an ice auger that is at least 15 centimetres (six inches) in diameter. Since fish are more lethargic in the winter, bites can be fairly light, and using a fishing bobber can help you detect when a trout is softly nibbling your bait.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Vernon and surrounding area.
Edith Lake (Kamloops)
Target both brook char and rainbow trout in Edith Lake. For brook char, try fishing with mealworms close to the shoreline. The water is clear in the shallows, and since a brookie’s bite can be very light, by laying down and looking into your hole through the ice, you will be able to see when a brookie has taken your bait and is on your line. Move out to a spot over a little deeper water, and use a big attractor spoon, followed by a hook and worm on a short leader, to try your luck for rainbow trout.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Kamloops and surrounding area.
Ness Lake (Prince George)
Ness Lake is currently stocked with both kokanee and rainbow trout. However, brook char are also present in the lake, which presents many different fishing options for the hardwater angler. Ice-fishing gear and an auger can be borrowed for free for up to a week from the Prince George Visitor Centre.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in the Prince George and surrounding area.
Whiteswan Lake (Canal Flats)
If Lussier Hot Springs weren’t reason enough to try ice-fishing at Whiteswan Lake, the quality of the rainbow trout in this lake is. Since the East Kootenays can be very cold, make sure you pack along appropriate warm clothing. You may want to think about getting an ice shelter.
Camping: Check out the Winter Camping Map for campgrounds open year-round in this area.
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Check out winter camping in British Columbia for over 150 provincial parks and private campgrounds that are open year round.
Share your winter BC camping & fishing photos using hashtag #campinbc.
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5 Reasons You Should Go Fishing While Camping in BC This Year
The tent, trailer or RV is packed and you’re ready for a camping vacation. With 20,000 lakes and 750,000 km of streams in British Columbia, there is a very good chance you’ll be camping next to water. Why not take advantage and go fishing on your next camping trip? We’ll give you five reasons why you should – with tips so you have no excuses not to.
An annual fishing licence for B.C. residents’ costs $36. Purchase your annual licence on April 1, and you get 365 days of fishing before it expires on March 31 the following year. What else can you do for less than 10 cents per day? And kids under the age of 16 fish for free.
Don’t have gear? Borrow a rod and tackle for free at locations throughout the province, including Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC hatcheries and select tourist visitor centres.
Learn a new skill
Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned angler, the Freshwater Fisheries Society’s YouTube channel has you covered. Learn the basics, like how to cast with a spincasting reel, or pick up some new tips from fishing expert Brian Chan.
Kids never tried fishing? Take them to a Learn to Fish program. Check out the Events calendar to find a program offered in provincial, regional or municipal park near you this spring or summer or book a program through one of their hatchery visitor centres.
Experience the outdoors
Kids aren’t into hiking and are tired of riding their bikes up and down the campsite? Strap the lifejackets on and pile them into a boat or find a good shore fishing location. If you don’t have a boat, try casting a line from one of the growing list of lakes in the province with a fishing dock. (Use the Dock filter on this Where to Fish map to find a lake near you). Watch insects hatch and enjoy the call of a loon – and if you’re lucky you’ll get to feel the tug of a fish on the end of your line and reel in a trout.
Connect with family and friends
Put the laptops and phones away. Water and devices don’t mix, so you’ll get uninterrupted time to catch up. If you need to use your phone, use the camera and take an awesome photo of a happy angler in action!
You can catch your own food
Fish are nutritious and delicious. Share a meal of your freshly caught trout or kokanee at the dinner table, along with the story of how you caught it.
To ensure our freshwater fish stocks remain abundant, follow the regulations and observe the catch quotas.
And to find a campsite near one of the 800+ stocked lakes in B.C., use the Stocked Fishing Lakes filter on the Camping and RV in BC’s website.
Share your BC camping and fishing photos using hashtag #campinbc
Six Tips for a Successful Fishing Trip with Kids in British Columbia
If you love fishing, you are probably hoping that your kids will as well. Many anglers have great childhood memories of fishing with their grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, or other fishing teachers. With Spring Break just around the corner, some of you will be venturing out on your first camping trips of the year. Here are some tips for a successful fishing trip with your kids:
- Don’t splurge on the gear before you know if they will like it. Take the pressure off, and borrow tackle and rods for free with the Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC’s Rod Loan Program. Many Tourism Visitor Centres have basic freshwater fishing tackle and gear available to borrow on your next camping trip. If this wasn’t the time to introduce your children to the sport of fishing, you didn’t spend a lot of money, and you can try again when they are older.
- Have them practice casting before you go. Bring your fishing rod to a school field or park, with a small toy or ball tied to the end of the line. This way, kids can learn some techniques for safely casting with a rod before any potentially dangerous hooks are involved. Once they start to get the hang of casting, put hula hoops or other targets out on the field for them to aim at. Bring out your own rod, and make it a fun competition.
- Wear sunglasses or other eye protection (not only your kids, but yourself too). Some of those casts can be a little off-target; protect yourselves.
- Start with float fishing. Kids have a hard time reacting to the feeling of a fish striking a lure on the end of line, but they can see when the bobber goes under. Encourage your child to hold the tip of the rod close to the water so that when the float goes down, they just need to lift the rod tip high to set the hook.
- Increase your chances of catching a fish. During Spring Break, many lakes in B.C. will still be frozen, but lakes on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland will be ice-free, and the stocking of trout will have started. Check the stocking reports to see where catchable rainbow trout will be released, and try those lakes first.
- Keeping your kids’ stomachs full and appendages warm will give you more time fishing. Snacks, warm socks, and fingerless gloves are the staples of a successful spring fishing trip.
Remember, kids under 16 years of age do not require a freshwater fishing licence in B.C., but still need to follow the provincial fishing regulations.
Published: February 16th, 2017
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