is already famous for its spectacular fishing opportunities, and the ice fishing Alberta presents each year is no different. Hundreds of lakes all over the province hide big populations of freshwater game fish, and all you need is a hole in the ice and decent fishing gear to get to them.
You don’t have to be a fishing pro to enjoy a day of chasing fish royalty, you just need to be eager to spend an active day outdoors. Ice fishing is easy, fun, and above all, productive. If you’re on the right spot at the right time, you could easily end your day with a double-digit catch count.
What to Catch
Ice fishing is one of the favorite pastimes in Alberta, which is hardly a surprise seeing how plentiful the lake waters are. You can go after prized freshwater game fish like Walleye, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Rainbow Trout, Lake Whitefish, and Burbot. You can choose your fishing location depending on your preferred prey, though Walleye and Whitefish are a common denominator in all the more popular lakes. While Rainbow Trout inhabit certain lakes (like Star and East Pit Lake), Walleye, Pike, and Whitefish are the real superstars around here.
Where to Go
You could write a whole encyclopedia on all the lakes in Alberta, but several are a cut above the rest when it comes to ice fishing action. These are some of the spots to check out for a true fishing bonanza.
If you’d like to experience some first-class ice fishing close to Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, then Gull Lake is one of your best options. Lake Whitefish is the most popular catch here, and if you find a hotspot, it won’t be long before you’ve caught your 10-fish limit. Sizeable Burbot and Northern Pike also take the bait regularly. A lot of anglers flock to Gull Lake in the winter, which means the ice can get crowded on weekends. The lake is quite shallow (26 feet at its deepest point), so fishing here is as easy as it is productive. You’ll find Gull Lake in the Aspen Beach Provincial Park, just an-hour-and-a-half drive from Edmonton.
When you’re hungry for exceptional Walleye fishing, Pigeon Lake is the place to be. The lake is famous for its “one cast, one fish” guarantee, so you’ll hardly move from your hole once the bait hits the water. Despite the cold, Walleye put up quite a fight when hooked and reeling in 10 or more per trip is expected. Whitefish and Northern Pike won’t shy away from a tasty morsel either, but the superb Walleye bite is what attracts people from all over the province to Pigeon Lake. Bear in mind that certain parts of the lake are closed for fishing, and you should tag every Walleye you catch. This is why it’s recommended to have a professional guide with you on the ice.
Another local favorite, Wabamun Lake is an excellent year-round fishery, located only 40 miles from Edmonton. It’s very accessible and productive, which makes the lives of avid ice fishermen that much easier. There’s plenty of Walleye for everyone and the bite is extraordinary wherever you decide to drill your hole. The north section of the lake is most popular for ice fishing endeavors, with Seba Beach and the Hamlet of Fallis providing non-stop action on the rod. The Pike bite is also quite good, and you can land some big specimens with a bit of luck.
Lesser Slave Lake
Dubbed as “the fishing hub of the north,” Lesser Slave Lake is the go-to spot for anglers from all around Alberta. Premier Walleye fishing, as well as trophy Burbot, Whitefish, Yellow Perch, and Pike, are all in the cards, especially if you drop your line early in the morning or evening. You can go to Hilliard’s Bay, famous for its superb Walleye fishing, or let a local guide take you to some of the more secret spots that hide monster Pike, Perch, and Whitefish. The west end of Lesser Slave Lake is generally where you’ll find the best fishing action.
(The Secret) Frank Lake
Frank Lake is a secret little fishery that rewards local anglers in the know with healthy amounts of monster Pike. Because the lake is first and foremost a protected bird habitat, not too many people know that lunker Pike are lurking for food under the surface, especially when it freezes over. If you want to fish far from the crowds and Pike is your prey of choice, make the most of this secret lake.
How to Fish
Entice big Walleye, Burbot, and Pike and get them to bite by using slender spoons and soft body swimbaits. Herring on tip ups is another good presentation idea.
When targeting Pike, Whitefish, and Burbot on Gull Lake, use a beadhead nymph and small worms for best results.
When chasing Walleye on Pigeon Lake, make the most out of maggot-baited jigs paired with a light rod. Nightcrawlers are another great option.
If you know there are some really big Walleye around, use a 50-80 lb fluorocarbon 4’ leader so that the aggressive fish can’t bite through it, and match it with a slender spoon.
When to Go
The ice fishing season in Alberta opens in late December and lasts until the beginning of March, depending on the weather conditions and ice thickness. The best and safest period to go fishing is when the ice is 6’’ thick, so January might be the optimal time to drop a line or two.
The ice fishing Alberta is known for promises brag-worthy catches and fantastic time on the ice. Whichever lake you choose, the fish are hungry and ready to bite, so get on the ice and fish to your heart’s content!