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The joys of back lake ice fishing

One of the benefits to winter fishing is that we can access remote bodies of water that are not accessible during the open water season except by airplane.

Portage trails allow us to get back to waters where most fish have never even seen a lure, so the fishing opportunities can be really good.

Though this recent cold snap has not been very motivating for us to get out and go ice fishing, when things finally do warm up a little bit, the ice conditions should be pretty good.

Most of the best back lakes across Sunset Country require the use of a snowmobile or ATV to get into during the winter. Growing up, we didn’t have either type of machine so my dad had us walk into plenty of good lakes north of Kenora, up the English River Road or the Jones Road.

With the amount of gear that I like to bring with me today, we need a machine to haul it all! Walking is still an option for countless good places, though.

One thing you need to consider if you head into these smaller back lakes during the mid-winter timeframe is that there could be significantly more slush on the ice than on the bigger lakes, where more of the snow will blow off.

If you have a smaller snowmobile, this can turn your day into a disaster so always keep an eye out for places where there could be slush and always try to power through it if you do run into some.

Once you stop, it’s not usually going to be very good.

The good thing with the cold weather we’re having right now is that it should freeze up most of the slush spots on area lakes.

When it comes to fishing, the best back lakes usually are the lake trout lakes that see little angling pressure throughout much of the year.

There is something about the beautiful settings when you go into these remote waters. Most trout lakes have unique rock outcroppings or bluff walls and pine-covered shorelines. Some lakes are full of numbers of fish and you don’t see many big ones while others have fewer numbers but a better chance of catching big fish.

Generally with lake trout, the bigger the lake, the better the chance at catching a big fish.

We have more walleye lakes scattered across our landscape than any place on Earth and most of them will offer pretty good ice fishing. Though walleyes can be caught on these remote back lakes all winter, most of them really shine in March, during that last month or so of the season.

It seems like walleyes in the generally shallower, inland lakes really get fired up when things start to melt a little bit and the lakes get an influx of oxygen into them from the run-off.

The average size of fish in most back lakes is usually good, as well.

For anglers who want to catch stocked trout, pike, or crappies, there are lakes out there to keep you happy, too. The thing is, most of the back lakes do not have good maps available for them so it’s all about getting in there and putting in the time to figure out the fish.

To make travel easier, my friends and I will use sled-style portable ice shelters that we can load up with all the gear we need and pull them behind our snowmobiles. They allow us to haul fishing gear, electronics, a chainsaw if we need to cut any trees that might be down across a trail, extra clothes, cameras, and a heater, among other things.

As well, if conditions get bad, we can put up the shelter to fish inside.

We are lucky to have as much good fishing water as we do. And though the big lakes usually are great, the experience of fishing some of the back lakes can be very exciting.