Lake Simcoe is the 4th largest lake in Southern Ontario, and covers a surface area of over 725 square km. Lake Simcoe is a world-renown ice fishing destination and offers opportunities for individuals of all ages and skill levels. With its close proximity to Toronto, it receives heavy fishing pressure throughout the season, although ice fishing during the winter is most popular. There are many year round lodges, accommodations and hotels in and around the lake. Other popular winter activities around Lake Simcoe, include snowmobiling, hiking, camping, cross country skiing, and snow shoeing.
Many standard ice fishing techniques are used throughout the lake to catch a variety of fish. The main target species during ice fishing season on Lake Simcoe includes pike, whitefish, trout, yellow perch, walleye and ling.
The Northern Pike is an aggressive fish, which are unmistakable with their pronounced snout and mouth full of sharp teeth. They can be difficult to handle when landed and care must be taken to avoid injury. At times they can be finicky eaters and nibble at your bait, and at other times they can be quite aggressive and smash your offering. Pike are generally caught in shallow bays, between 4 to 10 feet under the ice surface. In Lake Simcoe, they forage on smaller baitfish, mainly perch, smelt and herring. Ice fishing for northern pike, in Lake Simcoe can be challenging, since pike can be nomadic and can move around quite a bit. Although, once you locate an area where pike frequent, the action can be good. A variety of techniques are used to catch Lake Simcoe pike, although the most popular is the use of a tip-up and dead bait. Live sucker minnows suspended at various depths along a weed line can also be productive.
Yellow Perch are heavily targeted during the ice fishing season on Lake Simcoe. Most anglers are in search of the famed Lake Simcoe Jumbo Perch. Fish in excess of 1 lb are caught annually, although smaller fish in the 9-11 inch range (0.5 lb) are most common. Perch are very abundant in Lake Simcoe and can be caught anywhere from 6 feet up to 80 ft deep. Although perch, are generally caught in depths of under 30 feet. Live minnows on perch rigs are the most effective fishing methods. Small spoons, jigs, wax worms and a variety of panfish lures are all productive.
Walleye are not heavily targeted during the winter on Lake Simcoe, mainly due to the fact that success is sporadic, and walleye tend to be more of an incidental catch. Although a few areas, have been known to be consistently productive. The main techniques for Lake Simcoe walleye include jigging along drop-offs and weed beds. Walleye are generally most active at dawn and right before dark during the periods of dusk. Jigs tipped with live minnows are considered the presentation of choice for Lake Simcoe walleye.
Lake Simcoe has become a trophy smallmouth bass fishery, with fish in the 8 lb range caught annually. Although most bass average 2-3 lbs, it is not uncommon to catch multiple bass in excess of 6 lbs in a single outing. The lake has truly developed into a smallmouth bass factory, with an abundance of prime smallmouth bass habits, such as rocky points, shoals, shoreline timber, pilings and man-made structures such as docks. Lake Simcoe smallmouth bass have so many options, it is sometimes difficult to local the marauding schools of bass, but one thing is for certain, find the forage and you will find the bass.
The Lake Trout is another popular gamefish on Lake Simcoe. They can be difficult to locate at times, since they move around a lot during the ice fishing season. During early ice the trout tend to feed at 50 to 90 foot depths. During mid-winter they tend to move deeper and seem to be most abundant between 80 to 120 feet. During late ice and closer to spring thaw, the trout once again move in shallow and can be caught as shallow as 15 feet. Jigging spoons right off bottom seems to be the most productive method for catching Lake Simcoe lake trout.
Whitefish are heavily targeted during the ice fishing season, mainly due to their excellent table fare and tasty white flesh. One of the most popular fishing techniques for Lake Simcoe whitefish, is chumming, which most anglers practice during the ice fishing season. Chumming includes baiting an area with rice, chopped meat, or salted minnows to keep the fish in an area for two or three days prior to fishing. Whitefish are schooling fish, so once you catch one, there are generally more whitefish around. Jigging spoons or small jigs close to bottom are also effective techniques for Lake Simcoe whitefish. Once you have an active school of whitefish under the ice, they can be quite aggressive and readily hit spoons and lures jigged a few feet off bottom.
Many bait shops, accommodations and restaurants are open year round on Lake Simcoe which cater to ice fisherman. Why not make the trip, visit Lake Simcoe, and enjoy one of the most popular winter activities in Ontario, ice fishing.