Pêche sur glace

The Most Popular Ice Fishing Fish Species: Perch, Pike, and Walleye

Ice fishing has continued to increase in popularity over the years and does not consist solely of dropping down your line and hoping for the best. If you’ve got your heart set on starting to fish in the middle of winter, expand your knowledge and uncover more specifics and subtleties that differentiate perch, pick, and walleye right here.
Perch, pike, and walleye are very popular species of fish during the ice fishing season. Before getting started – no matter the species you fish – be sure to be well prepared for your outing in the winter cold, and remember these tips for having a successful outing.

  1. Do some research regarding the species of fish on which you’ve set your sights, as well as the best places to fish it. You may decide to go do some prospecting during the fall or early winter in order to target the spots that will prove most fruitful. Tools such as a map app will help you find the ‘fishiest’ spots.
  2. Check the weather conditions (temperature, wind speed, sunrise and sunset times, etc.), tides, and thickness of the ice beforehand.
  3. In addition to all the necessary ice fishing gear, consider bringing along some extras that will facilitate the task once the fish is caught. For instance, a tape measure (to make sure that you follow guidelines), a pair of tongs to remove hooks, a skimmer to remove the ice well from the fishing holes you will drill, enough bait, as well as tip-ups if you wish to maximize your catches. Above all, don’t forget to check the regulations that differ depending on the region in which you’re fishing. Information for Quebec can be found here, and information for Ontario can be found here.

 

Ice Fishing - Perch
© Adobe Stock

1. Perch: What you need to know to increase your chances of making a catch during ice fishing season

Description and type of flesh

Perch is a medium-sized fish which is much smaller than a walleye. It is easy to recognize with its two distinct dorsal fins and its brown colour with yellow accents. With its long, oval-shaped body, perch measure between 10 to 25 cm (4 to 10 inches) and generally weigh between 50 to 200 g.

Perch is appreciated for its white, flaky flesh, which is easy to eat due to its subtle flavour and taste.

Habitat

While this species can be found almost everywhere in Ontario, it’s also present in the province of Quebec with a concentration towards the south of the province.

Perch generally hide in clear water lakes, in shallower areas, or in muddy, rocky, or sandy seabeds.

The best times to fish for perch

Just like traditional fishing, the best times for fishing for perch are generally early in the morning, or at sundown.

This species travels in schools and it isn’t uncommon to catch one after another. It feeds mainly at dusk, but is also active during the early morning hours.

Gear checklist

As perch is a smaller-sized fish, you will need to adapt your materials accordingly. Jigs work very well for this species of fish. You’ll need:

  • An ultra lightweight, fast action rod
  • Winter monofilament line (2-4 lbs resistance)
  • Multiple types of lures:
    • A jig head (1/32 to 1/16 oz) mounted with a bait or a soft lure
    • An ice nymph
    • A horizontal action hard bait
    • A small spoon and an earthworm on the hook

 

Ice Fishing - Pike
© Adobe Stock

2. Pike: What you need to know to increase your chances of making a catch

Description and type of flesh

Large pike has a long, thinner silhouette, and a large mouth. It resembles the muskellunge, but the skin on its back is greenish with small white spots while its stomach is cream-coloured. Impressively-sized, pike are approximately 45 to 75 cm (18 to 30 inches) and weigh between 900 g to 4.3 kg (2 to 9.5 lbs).

Its flesh is white and savoury and it is often used in dumpling recipes.

Habitat

Large pike can be found almost everywhere in Quebec, often in the Saint-Lawrence, as well as in the province of Ontario.

This long-bodied fish is a carnivore and often travels alone. It can be found in deep, still waters in dense vegetation, such as calmer rivers, the mouths of streams, shoals and small bays.

The best times to fish for pike

At dawn and at dusk.

Gear checklist

With pike being larger than perch, it’s important to have solid equipment. You’ll need:

  • A longer (76 to 101 cm / 30 to 40 inch) medium to medium heavy power fishing rod
  • Fused line designed for ice fishing (15 to 30 lbs of resistance)
  • For the jigging technique, several rigs and multiple lures are effective:
    • A jig head mounted with a bait or a soft lure
    • A vertical action hard bait
    • A horizontal action hard bait
    • A jig head with a soft lure
    • A spoon or an ice spoon

 

Ice Fishing - Walleye
© Adobe Stock

3. Walleye: What you need to know to increase your chances of making a catch

Description and type of flesh

Its brownish skin is made up of green and golden highlights, and it seems devoid of scales. The golden walleye has two dorsal fins and is rather long compared to the black walleye that has a more cylindrical silhouette. This medium-sized species measures between 30-50 cm (11 to 20 inches) and its size varies according to region. It weighs between 500 g and 1.5 kg.

Its white flesh is lean and very popular and is fine on the palate.

Habitat

This fish avoids light and prefers darker places. In Quebec, it’s easy to find along the Saint-Lawrence River, the Outaouais River, in Abitibi-Témiscamingue, etc. In Ontario, you can find it almost anywhere, most notably in the Great Lakes and in the north of the province.

This fish likes calm, fresh, shallow waters. There are many in big lakes and large rivers, but also in smaller bodies of water. It likes to hide in muddy zones, between seaweed, and in rocky places.

The best times to fish for walleye

At dawn and at dusk. It’s also possible to fish for it in the middle of the day if you’re patient and have a good shelter where you can stay warm.

Gear checklist

The jigging technique and fishing with a tip-up work very well for all three species, especially walleye. You’ll need:

  • A medium power fishing rod with a small spinning reel
  • Monofilament line made for winter (8 to 10 lbs resistance)
  • For the jigging technique, rigs and multiple lures are effective:
    • Spoons
    • A jig head (1/4 to 1 oz) mounted with a bait, or a soft lure
    • A vertical action hard bait
    • A horizontal action hard bait

 

Finally, make sure to be well equipped by checking out all the material that could come in handy for your next ice fishing trip

Shop