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.
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Soaking it up at Lussier Hot Springs, Kootenay Rockies, BC
This year we set out to explore as many hot springs in the Kootenays as we could squeeze into a four-day road trip. We started with Radium and Fairmont in the East Kootenay area and finished up with Ainsworth and Halcyon, both in the West Kootenays. All of these are developed hot springs, but one that we had at the top of our list was Lussier Hot Springs. These natural springs are located in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park. Back in the early 1990s we lived in Windermere, just south of Invermere, so this was a place we visited often and always loved it.
To get to Lussier, head south from Invermere (on Highway 93/95) and just south (4.5 kilometres) of Canal Flats, turn east onto the Whiteswan Forest Service Road. Be super careful on the road as this is an active logging area and the big trucks come up and down pretty fast. The gravel road was easily accessible with my little Mazda 3 but would definitely recommend a 4×4 in the winter. Just past kilometre 17, you will see the parking lot for the hot springs on the right side of the road.
There is a short hike down to the hot springs from the parking lot/outhouses. The trail is not difficult but it may be a bit steep for anyone with mobility issues. New, since we used to come in the early 90s, are the outhouses which double as change rooms. Depending on the time of the year, you may find that you have the hot springs to yourself and other times it can be quite busy. This trip we met a family from Holland exploring the area.
As you get close to the river, you will pick up on the sulfur smell which is common to most natural springs. There are three pebble bottom pools, with the hottest pool being further away from the creek. I can remember going there in the winter; it is absolutely beautiful to see the steaming water with the snowy background. If it’s cold, it does not take long for ice crystals to form on your hair and if you are really brave, you can take a dip in the frigid Lussier River. This trip, we did not dip in the river; it was a beautiful warm day, so the pool closest to the river was comfortable enough to stay in; whereas in the winter, it is pretty cold. If you look closely, you can see the hot bubbling water flowing into the pools from between the rocks.
If you continue on the forest service road to kilometre 25, you will find Whiteswan Provincial Park with the beautiful Whiteswan and Alces lakes. Reservations are not available but there are 114 campsites located at the five campgrounds either along the river or lake.
Alces Lake which is the closest to Lussier at kilometre 21, is a good lake for swimming and fishing for rainbow trout, with 28 sites, pit toilets and lakefront sites. The other campgrounds are located at Packrat Point, Inlet Creek, White River and Home Basin.
Another beautiful area is the remote Top of the World Provincial Park, with the trail-head at kilometre 52. We have done some amazing hikes in this area.
After your visit to Lussier, if you are still looking for more hot springs, check out the Radium Hot Springs about 45 minutes north and Fairmont Hot Springs about 30 minutes north on Highway 93/95, both worth a visit.
For campgrounds and RV parks in the Kootenay Rockies and elsewhere in British Columbia go the Camping Map.
Share your BC camping pictures using hashtag #campinbc.
Published: September 12th, 2019
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