Ice fishing is something most people associate with the far north of Canada where everything freezes and it’s winter all year long (or so we’ve heard). But BC actually has a great offering for those wanting to feel the chills and thrills of ice fishing a little closer to home.
Sure, there’s something magical about the heat of the summer, when the water is still, disturbed only by the occasional fish nipping at the surface. But ice fishing has hot chocolate! And very few things beat hot chocolate when you’re cold. It’s also a winter activity that requires very little gear, making it more accessible for everyone. No boat is required (if you’re using a boat, you’re doing it wrong) and all you need is a handy drill and fishing pole.
Here are five ice fishing and camping destinations in BC, courtesy of Camping and RV in BC
1) Alleyne Lake (Merritt)
THE FISHING: Kokanee provide an exciting winter fishery in this lake. The trick is finding them. Fishing for kokanee with a fish finder 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 the school.
WHERE TO CAMP: The Kentucky Alleyne Campground is open year round, though there are no hookups in the winter months (also no fees). Be sure to bring a generator, firewood, and a boondocking attitude!
2) Swan Lake (Vernon)
THE FISHING: This is a great spot to fish in the winter. Swan Lake is located moments away from Vernon’s downtown centre. You can catch rainbow trout up to a couple of pounds in size so make sure to use an auger that is at least 6 inches in diameter. Using a float can help you see when the trout are biting, as the fish are more lethargic in the winter and the bites can be fairly light.
WHERE TO CAMP: Swan Lake Campground offers year round hookups for RVs, so it’s a great spot to set up shop. You can find their rates and location on their website.
3) Edith Lake (Kamloops)
THE FISHING: Both brook char and rainbow trout can be targeted in Edith Lake. Try fishing close to the shoreline with mealworms to target the brook char in this lake. It is clear in the shallows, so by laying down and looking down the hole you will be able to see when a brookie is on your line, as the bite can be slight. Move out a little deeper with a flasher and a worm to try your luck at the rainbow trout. If you do not have your own ice fishing gear you can borrow a rod and auger for free at the Kamloops Visitor Centre.
WHERE TO CAMP: Edith Lake has its own campground, but it’s only serviced until the end of September. On the plus side, that means it’s free to camp in the winter. On the downside, be sure to pack some extra layers, generator, and a hot water bottle.
4) Ness Lake (Prince George)
THE FISHING: Ness Lake is currently stocked with both kokanee and rainbow trout. However, brook char are also present in the lake, which means there are many different fishing options for the hard water angler. Ice fishing gear can be borrowed for free for up to a week from the Prince George Visitor Centre.
WHERE TO CAMP: There are a number of campsites in or around Prince George. While close by a number of regional parks, there isn’t any actual camping allowed in any of them. This one might be a ‘getting in touch with nature’ camping trip.
5) Whiteswan Lake (Cranbrook)
THE FISHING: If Lussier Hot Springs wasn’t reason enough to try ice fishing at Whiteswan Lake in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park, hopefully the quality of the rainbow trout in this lake is. The East Kootenays can be very cold so make sure you pack along the appropriate gear and you may want to think about getting an ice shelter. Keep in mind this lake is closed to ice fishing from December 1-December 28.
WHERE TO CAMP: White Swan Lake Provincial Park has two different campsites that remain open during the winter (condition dependent). So lots of options here, plus the Lussier Hot Springs nearby!
Make sure you’re being safe when ice fishing. It’s all fun and games until you become a human ice cube. Ice should be at least 4 inches thick before you head out and start drilling. Have fun, stay warm, and bring us back something good for dinner!