November 13, 2021
When considering a winter vacation, many people plan a trip south to escape the Upper Midwest’s cold winter weather, perhaps to the extensive sandy beaches of Florida, or to chase redfish out of Venice, La. But to those who embrace and love winter, and the activities that can only occur when the lakes are frozen, winter provides a short window for an exciting northern excursion that’ll create life-long memories.
After a difficult couple of years dealing with travel restrictions, the Canadian border is finally accessible and fishing and hunting outfitters are open for business. It’s the perfect time to enjoy some of Canada’s world-class ice fishing. If you have a bucket list line item that includes squeezing a 40-plus-inch northern pike or a 30-plus-inch walleye through a small hole in the ice, look no further than legendary Saskatchewan.
Licensing is simple: Saskatchewan residents 16 to 65 must have a Saskatchewan Angling License and non-residents 16 years and older must acquire a non-resident fishing license. Learn more here.
There are countless destinations that not only offer high catch rates and trophy potential, but many of these locations also fully outfit their guests, so all you must do is show up with warm clothes. It’s really that easy—and it’s affordable.
Here are a few that we’d recommend visiting.
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Ryan Marsh lives the outdoors 365 days a year—a passion that has led to a career guiding anglers and hunters across Saskatchewan. With 15 years of experience to lean on, his favorite fish to pursue is the northern pike, especially through the ice. Marshland Fishing operates on Lake Diefenbaker, which is less than two hours south of the Saskatoon airport.
“We offer a couple different packages for ice trips depending on the experience anglers are looking for,” Marsh said. “I have huts that I rent out that feature tongue-and-groove pine interiors that will comfortably accommodate five anglers. The houses come with satellite TV, rods, tackle, bait—everything is included. Some groups even choose to sleep in the houses overnight. They show up and the house is already located on biting fish and the heat is going so they can hit the ice running. We cater the experience to accommodate anyone.
“The guided package is similar, as we’ll pair a guide with the group and use the main hut as home base to employ more of a run-and-gun approach looking for active fish down the lake and in different locations. This is a pretty active style of ice fishing, and our anglers find it very exciting.”
Marsh focuses his winter efforts on walleye, northern pike, rainbow trout and burbot. All species are abundant and well-fed.
“There will be opportunities at daily limits with a variety of different species,” he said. “Most of our anglers will have multiple shots at walleyes at or exceeding 28 to 30 inches and plenty of pike measuring up to 44 inches. We love to set tip-ups for the big northerns and that really seems to be a favorite pursuit with our anglers.”
Learn more about Marshland Fishing.
Galloway Bay Outfitters
Also based along the shores of Lake Diefenbaker is Saskatchewan native Casey Rempel of Galloway Bay Outfitters . His outfit is widely known for exceptional waterfowl hunting located in the middle of the famous Saskatchewan Fly Zone, but when that season ends, he focuses on ice fishing.
“We target the walleyes and pike that swim in Lake Diefenbaker, and we catch a lot of them,” Rempel said. “The occasional burbot shows up, too, which is typically on our anglers’ hit list. When it comes to the pike, we typically use a deadstick or a tip-up with dead bait like smelt, and a jigging spoon often works well, too. The walleyes love live minnows or leeches.
“Within our different packages, we offer shacks and pop-up shelters, bait, tackle, heater, auger and additional equipment if needed—all to provide an exciting and productive ice-fishing experience. You can come as equipped as you like, even if it’s just warm clothes. We’ll take care of everything else.”
He said the best time to schedule a trip is around Christmas break and into January. He also noted the pike fishing gets very good later in the season in late February and early March before the ice goes out. As with all fishing trips, it’s a great idea to communicate with the guide/outfitter well in advance to determine the best dates to schedule your trip.
Learn more about Galloway Bay Outfitters.
Last Mountain Lake
Chad Morris with Saskatchewan Outdoors on Last Mountain Lake is an easy 2 1/2-hour drive southeast of the Saskatoon airport. Morris is one of the only ice-fishing outfitters in the province who provides deluxe Ice Castle heated shacks for anglers looking to spend extensive time on the ice chasing pike, walleyes and burbot.
“We enjoy providing a successful ice-fishing adventure with zero stress that often comes with locating fish and ice thickness—we do all that work for you before you even arrive,” Morris said. “We offer different options, whether you want a guide or want to just fish with your family or friends—plus we’ll cater your entire trip to accommodate any budget and group size.”
Morris also mentioned the available species include walleyes early in the day and after dark, and big pike and burbot in the afternoons, evenings.
“Most years we’re on the ice as early as late November, and it’s usually rocking by Christmas,” he continued. “The big walleye bite continues into mid-January, but the pike bite stays hot all season long, and they are a big attraction for our guests. We’ll usually catch well over 100 pike exceeding 40 inches every season, and some pushing the mid-40-inch mark. Walleyes up to 30 inches are common, too.”
Morris offers a unique experience in Southern Saskatchewan, especially with the Ice Castle option that will accommodate overnights. Anglers can arrive rigged and ready, or simply with warm clothing as Saskatchewan Outdoors will provide the necessary gear and expertise to put you on the big biting fish.
Learn more about Saskatchewan Outdoors
Tobin Lake Resort
Vince Walcer with Tobin Lake Resort has long been a big-fish destination for anglers looking to experience the best Saskatchewan has to offer in the winter. Numbers of big pike and walleyes are easily accessible, with some true trophy potential during every outing.
“We’re three hours from Saskatoon, but really we’re a drive-to destination with all the amenities you’d expect at a fishing resort,” Walcer said. “Depending on how many guests we have, we’ll typically place six to eight houses right in front of the resort, where the big walleyes swim and bite. But we can add more houses if the demand is there—it’s a pretty simple process getting a new shack put on the ice.”
While most of the guests at Tobin Lake Resort choose to pursue walleyes, the pike fishing is fantastic with countless fish exceeding the 40-plus-inch mark.
“Even if you’re not targeting pike specifically, they still show up on walleye rigs,” he continued. “Those big toothy monsters keep the anglers busy in between waves of walleyes. There are perch to catch, as well, offering ice anglers at Tobin a well-rounded list of northern species to pursue.”
The resort features 21 fully modern cabins and suits fully equipped with bedding, towels, fridge, stove, pots and pans, gas grills, dishes, bathrooms and showers and Cable TV. Each unit is heated, and weather permitting, there are firepits with plenty of firewood. There are guides and gear available, or you can arrive with your own equipment for the DIY approach.
“We don’t do overnights on the water, but with the resort being located right on the shores of Tobin, and the best fishing right out in front, our guests prefer the comfortable nights in the cabins and suites. It really is the best of both worlds.
Learn more about Tobin Lake Resort