Ice Fishing At Otter Pointe Resort

Ice Fishing At Otter Pointe Resort

The following blog was submitted by Carlos – our web designer – after visiting us for an ice fishing adventure!

Over the past year or so, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Abi and Ian on their website and various photo and video projects. My initial trip to Otter Pointe Resort was deep into the summer and I was able to get some open water fishing with great success! It’s not often you visit a body of water that offers a variety of species in one location like Pimisi Bay. Being part of the Mattawa River water system, I’m not surprised that over the years, Pimisi Bay was transformed into an ideal ecosystem housing anything from northern pike, smallmouth bass, trout and even burbot! So when Abi and Ian invited me back up for a winter photo and video shoot, I couldn’t help but to bring my friend Ryan and test out ice fishing on the bay!

We arrived at Otter Pointe Resort early in the afternoon and after settling into our glamping dome, we right away prepared to hit the ice. Without having any previous knowledge of the bay’s ice conditions, we treaded carefully out onto the water with spud bar in hand and punched various holes with our auger to assess the quality of the ice. After a couple of holes, it was evident the bay was frozen solid with a good 9-12 inches of black ice. Being a wind-secluded bay, I wasn’t surprised at the quality of the ice. So now the challenge begins to find the fish!

Having a vague recollection from my summer fishing trip, we set up in a spot I remember catching a few smallmouth bass in about 30 or 40 feet of water. It didn’t take long until we hooked onto some nicely sized rock bass – some of the bigger ones I’ve ever caught! As fun as it was to hook onto fish, we were really after more elusive species – pickerel, whitefish, lake trout and maybe a burbot? I’ll admit that after hooking onto some rock bass, even a northern pike would have satisfied me – as they are also very aggressive through the winter months. After a catching and releasing a handful of rock bass, it was time to move on to further recon the bay and see what else we can come across.

We punched a few more holes along the western shore of the bay in anywhere between 10 to 50 feet of water, again landing rock bass and some smallmouth bass. All bringing that “what could it be” excitement all fishermen crave! The sun was slowly setting bringing about that “golden hour” known to produce more action. We made our way north where the bay meets the Mattawa River. Again with spud bar in hand and recon holes along the way. The closer we got to river, the thinner the ice got! In and around the path of the river  (through the bay) we experienced anywhere from 6 to 9 inches and even various spots with open water!

Being an actively flowing river of various depths and widths, I wasn’t surprised to see the inconsistency of ice thickness and quality.

We parked ourselves in around 8 inches of ice, in the middle of the river in about 50 feet of water. At this point, the sun was just setting. We weren’t on that hole for more than 20 minutes when Ryan got a solid hookset! This was clearly something different than we’ve hooked onto today. Bass like to nibble and poke prior to the hookset whereas this was a firm swallow! Ryan adjusted the drag, let the fish get some of the fight out and knew right away as the catfish like mouth poked through the hole, we hooked onto a Burbot! We were ecstatic! Ryan and I have done various trips in and around our area on Lake Simcoe where the rumor is Burbot is plentiful. I can honestly say we’ve invested a solid 50-60 hours targeting Burbot on Lake Simcoe with no luck! Here we are on Pimisi Bay and land our first Burbot within 6 hours of hitting the ice!

Burbot is dubbed as “The Poor Man’s Lobster” and is the only fish within the cod family to live in fresh water! It has a delicate white meat – some compare to halibut due to its sweetness and mildness.

Back with our hooks down the hole, we thought to make a solid meal our of first Burbot by landing a couple more. Seems like the golden hour was working so we wanted to take full advantage of it. Another 20-30 minutes had passed and bam! Another hookset.

It was now obvious this was a hot spot so as Ryan worked the fish onto the shore, I took a few minutes to mark the spot on my fish finder for future reference! The sun had now set so we had our headlamps on by this point. As the fish was nearing the hole, we could see big bright eyes from the glow of our headlamps. We knew right away this was a pickerel! In and around 2-3 pounds – ideal for the pan and to go along with our first burbot!

Now that the action was on, we were in full fishing mode – quiet, focused, tipping our rods consistently and reeling up every once in a while, to make sure our lures were still freshly baited. It was full on nighttime now – closer to 9 or 10pm and the bit slowly died. We thought to call it a night and head back to prep the fish.

With all the action and excitement in and around the golden hour, we thought get back out on the ice early enough to be set up for the morning light and went back to the initial spot we caught our first burbot and pickerel. A few hours passed and no action. We got to a point, like most fishermen do, where you’re just not feeling the hole anymore and it’s time to move on… As productive as that hole as, the action simply wasn’t there. We heading deeper up the Mattawa river (away from Otter Pointe Resort) but it was obvious the ice was quickly getting more and more dangerous. As much as we wanted to  explore the deeper portions of the Mattawa (some spots I recall had depths of 100 – 120 feet!) it seemed this trip would not allow us to do so. Tracing our steps, we headed east, back into Pimisi Bay stopping along various spots, landing some rock back, some smallmouth bass (they seem to be active all day long!) with not much else.

We thought to park ourselves closer to where the Mattawa River leaves Pimisi bay – close to some rapids, clearly with open and flowing water. Again, with spud bar in hand, we settled as comfortably close to the rapids in about 7 inches of water. I recall landing a few northern pike and a walleye back in my summer trip in this area. There is a nice combination of weeds and rock beds which is textbook habitat for these species of fish. 

The flowing water would also bring about lots of bugs and bait fish. It was around mid-day by now and sure enough, Ryan hooks onto another pickerel! This one was a little smaller and by now, we had a decent catch to serve up a dinner so we let it go to fight another day.

As our second day on the water progressed, we continued to punch various holes and catch and assortment of fish from rock bass to pickerel, smallmouth bass and even a couple tiny perch! It was close to calling it quits on the trip when all of a sudden my rod tip bend down and started to jerk. I began to slowly reel up but clearly my drag wasn’t properly set. I held the rod still to feel more of the action and had the feeling it was a snag. A moment later, I felt a shake at the other end of the line. For sure I was hooked onto something! It was only after looking back at our video that I fought the fish – a gentle balance between reeling up and letting it fight back to avoid snapping my line – for over 6 minutes!

Keep in mind we were in 15 feet of water! As time wore on, I was getting worried, quite often all the headshakes and fighting can loosen the hookset and sure enough, a moment later, the rod tip snaps back up and complete slack on the line! My stomach sank! I was sure this fish was going to be the icing on the cake for our trip and was confident it was a monster of a burbot. After all, burbot do get quite large. In fact, the Ontario record is a whopping 18 pounds caught by Steve Rowbotham in 2017.

Of course, after losing this monster of a fish, we had to keep on fishing to try and hook it again. Unfortunately a few hours passed with no luck and it was time to pack up!

All in all, I was extremely surprised at how fruitful and productive fishing on such a small bay in near-northern Ontario turned out to be! Coming back to their luxurious accommodations in a glamping dome made it a lot more comfortable and enjoyable than the typical fishing cabins I’ve visited. The glamping dome was fully equipped with all the amenities, kitchen, wood stove and a spectacular view of the stars at night. Abi and Ian always go above and beyond ensuring their guests are comfortable and have a blast and I’m already looking forward to heading back next winter in search of that monster that got away! 

On our final day, Abi and Ian set up a nice outdoor fire on one of the tent camping pads they have on the resort. They  invited all the guests and we had a blast sharing our fishing tales and hearing about everyone else’s adventures and memories from their stay. While fishing, we did notice some people snowshoeing, later to realize it was our new friends around the fire pit!

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