By: Lisa Roper
Pictures by: Lisa Roper
The winter months can be dark and cold in Alberta, but I spend countless days looking for fish on frozen water. Whether it’s early, mid- or late season ice fishing, there’s nothing quite like the adrenaline rush of using just the right lures, bait, and techniques to land my aquatic quarry.
Just east of Edmonton, lies several ice-fishing lakes, well-known among anglers. To name a few: Lac La Biche, Touchwood, Blackett, Pinehurst, Little Bear, Marie, Ethel, Cold Lake. With over 100 lakes in the area, there is no shortage of great waterbodies to fish.
Some might argue, but I believe Lac La Biche Lake is one of the best walleye fisheries in east-central Alberta. With an average walleye size of 60-plus centimetres, it can sometimes be challenging to land and keep a walleye within the slot size requirement.
The best months to catch big walleye are from mid-February to the end of March. To increase my chances of landing these freshwater fish, I am on the ice when they are feeding, during low light. Before the sun crests the horizon, I set up my ice-fishing gear and stay until after sunset. When the sun is the highest in the sky, I will head to deeper water, looking for these golden yellow fish with a white belly.
Walleye and pike can be found in and around structures such as drops, weed beds, fallen trees, and just off points, as these areas provide quick access to multiple depths, food sources, and coverage. The time of day and weather conditions on the ice will determine which structures I fish. When I fish drops, I like to work the shelf-slope and the basin for walleye, as they access these areas differently based on their ideal surroundings.
A walleye has solid predatory instincts, and I find that ripping a jig, rattle bait, or a No. 2 Len Thompson spoon is one way to use their scrappiness against them. The walleye will either hit my lure on the rip-up or slam it on the flutter down. With this technique, you’ll know when they take the bait as it’ll be a good fight.
Another tactic I use is aggressively tapping a spoon or a rattle bait lure several times against the bottom of the lake; rest, then repeat. Bringing up sediment can attract walleye in the area. If the Walleye bite is slow, I will go to a smaller lure and slow down my presentation to a gentle jig or lay my bait on the bottom of the lake. I wait until they fully take the bait before setting the hook with this soft bite. Otherwise, I find they spit the lure out and leave the area.
When I’m not targeting walleye, I choose to land northern pike through the ice. These energetic predator fish can be very aggressive during feeding times, even in the cold winter months, so they are a favorite catch among ice anglers.
Alberta allows an angler to have two lines in the water while ice fishing. This approach enables me to double my chances of landing a fish by employing two different techniques at once.
My first line is tied with a titanium or fluorocarbon leader, a large rattling bait, or a No. 4 Len Thompson spoon. I begin jigging forcefully, hoping the lure’s flash and vibration will draw in a pike. My second line is a tip-up that sits motionless, suspended in the water. My go-to is the Quick Strike Rig with a seven- to eight-inch frozen Herring when using a tip-up. One treble hooked near the back of the tail and the other just inside the dorsal fin on the baitfish; I will often nestle the Quick Strike Rig just outside a weed bed. A pike’s appetite will determine which presentation they are looking to devour.
There is excitement, anticipation, and gratification when I am out ice fishing, particularly walleye and pike. Still, the pursuit of other species on Lac La Biche Lake does not stop there. Whether you are a trophy angler or just starting and looking to land multispecies like healthy walleye, pike, burbot, or get on a few perch and whitefish, Lac La Biche Lake is for you.