Festive ice fishing

Why not swap your plastic Christmas tree, with its dusting of fake snow for the real stuff this festive season?

We’re not talking about a winter fishing trip to your local lake, pond or river bank, but a serious ice adventure. It’s time to grab your fishing gear and hop on a plane – or sleigh – for our run down of crazy ice fishing festivals.

Go North

go north map

Winter fishing means one thing – head North
Source: Wikipedia

When the weather gets chilly, the coolest anglers head North – to North America. Why not join them? Embrace the cold by heading out to where it’s really freezing to try your hand at ice fishing. The great Lakes are a great winter destination, offering a fishing experience with a difference.

From Quebec to Indiana, as soon as the mercury plummets, lakeside fishing resorts switch from boat to snowmobile for the winter ice season. And to kick things off, it’s ice festival time!

Eelpout Festival, Minnesota

eelpout festival

Funny but freezing
Source: My Crazy Mind

Each February, more than 10,000 people descend on Leech Lake, Minnesota for the annual Eelpout festival. Ostensibly a fishing contest, the event has grown to include events like a frozen wet t-shirt competition, kissing the eelpout for good luck and the ‘polar pout plunge’ – donning fancy dress and plunging into the lake. Brrrr.

Not a great looking fish, the eelpout of festival fame is in fact a burbot – a type of freshwater cod that grows up to a maximum of about 25 kg in weight. It’s a bottom feeder with an appearance that’s best described as halfway between a catfish and an eel. But regardless of its looks, its popularity is unquestionable.

Tomcod Ice Fishing Festival, Quebec

village-de-peche-5

Join in the fishing camaraderie cabin style
Source: Association Des Pourvoyeurs

Each year from 26th December, some 500 cabins are moved onto the ice of the Rivière Sainte-Anne for the annual Tomcod Ice Fishing Festival. Heated by wood burning stoves and lit by electricity, ice fishing is a comparatively comfortable affair. And with shelters accommodating anywhere between four and 35 anglers, it’s a pretty convivial way to spend a few days.

Travelling with the family? You’ll no doubt be delighted to know that also on offer during the festival, are clowns, live music, ice slides, ice skating, and even a tramway.

Mat Su Pike Derby, Alaska

If Quebec isn’t cold or dark enough for you, why not try the Mat Su Valley in Alaska?  Situated 45 miles north of Anchorage, the Matanuska Valley was settled by Americans for the Midwest as part of the New Deal relief program of depression hit America. The area is world famous for the the size of its vegetables – not surprising with specimen cabbages weighing in at over 100 lbs.

But in winter, you’ll be there for the annual Mat Su Pike Derby. The contest runs throughout February and March with prizes for the longest, heaviest, shortest and lightest pike. All you have to do is drill a hole and get fishing. Fish are cooked at the awards banquet, and leftovers are given to charity. And the best part? Pike is an invasive species in Alaska, so you’ll be doing your bit for the environment too.

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival, South Korea

Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival

More than worth the jet lag
Source: Advanced Technology Korea

For what is probably the most popular ice fishing event in the world, you’ll need to book a long haul flight to South Korea for the Hwacheon Sancheoneo Ice Festival. Held every year in late January, the event attracts tens of thousands of people to try their luck for mountain trout.

Through holes cut in the ice, people of all ages try to catch a fish – something they have a very good chance of doing because the rivers stocked throughout the festival.  Once you’ve made a catch, one of the many cooking tents will grill or sashimi your trout for you to enjoy.

And if that weren’t enough, for the truly masochistic, there’s the bare handed fishing contest. All you have to do is strip off to t-shirt and shorts and leap into a purpose built fishing pool. Alternatively you could stay home, put your feet up and watch a fishing documentary.

The Airflo Team Fly Fishing in Cuba

Cuba 2013 San Lazaro/Las Salinas

 

Fishing trips to Cuba are always special but this year was looking at being even more so as the Airflo crew would be fishing the newly opened area of the Zapata national park called San Lazaro.  After an overnight stay and a few Mojito’s we made our way over to the Playa Largo hotel which would be our home for the next week, while not the most prestigious accommodation it certainly suits the anglers needs. Check out their Facebook page here: Casa Batida Fishing Club

The next morning we were all up bright an early, all very excited about the days fishing ahead. The trip to the fishing grounds is an experience in itself comprising of a coach ride into the middle of the Zapata mangrove swamps where you suddenly come across the marina and after a 20 minute boat ride down the narrow channel you pop out into what can only be described as a saltwater anglers paradise, miles and miles of pristine flats, channels and lagoons which had scarcely ever been fished. You will never see another angler throughout the day, and the diversity of wildlife is just mind blowing. The guides are all of the highest standard and Lazaro my guide for the week was no exception. A biologist and former Director of the Zapata Park his knowledge of its flora and forna was incredible and his fish spotting was as good as I have witnessed anywhere I have fished.

Late afternoon and back at the hotel’s beach bar with Mojito’s in hand the talk was of plenty of Bonefish, Baby Tarpon and lost Permit which considering the cloudy conditions was a great start.

Bonefish

The conditions on the second day were bright and clear skies with low winds, compiling to create the perfect fish spotting conditions. With this new sense so to speak, many bonefish were landed together with a few baby tarpon but while many permit are spotted as ever with these fickle fish, none landed. Due to the policy of rotating the fishing grounds, no area is fished two days in a row ensuring that it is never over fished.

As the week moves on the fishing just seem to get better with the team starting to relax and sighting fish becomes easier. Airflo’s MD Rob Williams manages to hook-up and after a battle lasting 45 minutes, landed an elusive Permit of around 25lb while the rest of the team continue to land good quantities of bonefish and baby tarpon.

Rob with a Permit

The last days fishing come way to quickly Rob Davies and myself decide to make the longer journey to fish solely for Tarpon. After an hour’s boat ride the skiffs arrive at an area of mangrove channels leading straight out into the Caribbean sea. The heat and humidity is intense and as the skiffs move through the channels we turn a bend to be face with Tarpon rolling and hitting bait fish everywhere. With shaking hands the first cast are made and it’s not long before the line is almost ripped out of my hands and a fumbled stripe strike is made but due to the incredibly aerobatic fight and almost armour plated mouth the fish first three fish are lost. Then a good hook hold is made and after a good fight on a #10 the first Tarpon is landed, at about 15lb only small by Tarpon standards followed by another slightly larger and then a much better fish or around 35lb is hooked and landed, this fish brings an end to another truly amazing and not the last trip Cuba.

Tim's Tarpon

Great Carp Fishing at Watersmeet

With Carp Fishing high on the agenda in the coarse fishing closed season, general maintenance work has started at Watersmeet to get the venue and facilities up to scratch for the fore-coming season. Grant, Jez & Shane have had an outstanding opening week at Watersmeet taking 3 x 40lb+ carp & a host of other 30′s.

More details here

Fishing holiday at Watersmeet