January 2023 – Ice Fishing in Canada

Some people might ask why we would drive all the way to Canada, much less 3 hours north of the border to go ice fishing? The chance to catch a 29″ monster seems like reason enough!

The idea of an ice fishing trip took shape after Hurricane Ian damaged much of our winter home on Fort Myers Beach, Florida and Mark Cunningham suggested a winter adventure. After a being disappointed with the average size of Walleyes on pastice fishing trips to Lake of the Woods, Mark searched for a new spot and he found a great setup at KC’s Landing – Clark’s Resort north of Vermillion Bay Ontario.

Thursday January 5, 2023

We left early Thursday morning in nasty weather, snow and slippery roads. Jeff Heil, Joe Elbert and Dustin Reese left Owatonna MN at 5:30 am. I left our house outside of Mosinee WI at 4:40 and met Mark at his daughter’s house in Woodbury MN at 7:40. The Minneapolis area has had over 15″ of snow in the past two days, roads were a mess and traffic was backed up on I-94 and I-694. The snow finally stopped and the weather cleared up around Forest Lake MN. I-35 was clear sailing going North after that. Dusty’s truck reached the border crossing in International Falls first but found out that they could not bring eggs into Canada due to concerns over the Avian Flu. Dusty had to walk back across the bridge to “export” the eggs in a dumpster in town.

Mark and I had no trouble at the border. The clear blue skies and snow-covered trees were beautiful on the twisty, hilly drive on Hwy 502.

Mark and I caught up to the rest of the guys at the Beer Store in Dryden and we made the short drive to KC’s Landing together. We moved into the cabin as the sun was setting over the lake, beautiful!

We moved into a very nice 2 bedroom cabin with a pullout Davenport, plenty of room for 5 guys. We enjoyed a cold LaBatt’s Blue and a fine dinner before heading to bed after a long day on the road.

Friday, January 6, 2023

Wayne, the owner of Clark’s Camp, told us that the best fishing was during low light, so we were up early and excited to go fishing. The ice houses are located just 50 yards from shore.

Wayne had fired up the heater and it was nice to have electricity at the cabin for the lights. He drilled 6 holes in the house and a couple outside. Wayne also runs a huge bait business, so we had a bucket full of lively minnows. Mark had a bite as soon as he put his line in the water and soon pulled up the first Walleye.

Just after 8:00 am, a big fish grabbed Dusty’s jig and the fight was on. He did a great job bringing up the big fish through the small hole. You can see the excitement in Dusty’s face as he grabs a fat 29″ Walleye.

You can fish with 2 lines, so Dusty and I had one inside the house and one outside. At 9 degrees, Jeff setup outside and watched all the lines for us.

Jeff and Dusty teamed up to land another Walleye.

I stepped out of the house to check on my outside line when a Walleye hit my jig. Joe came to the rescue and landed a nice Walleye for me. Teamwork!

We caught several more nice Walleyes and kept 3 in the 17″ range before the action slowed down and we decided to go back to the cabin for breakfast. While Mark and I cleaned fish, Dusty cooked up some eggs and ham sausages. We enjoyed Jeff’s venison bacon and his mom’s blackberry jam on toast.

It warmed up to 20 degrees. The early afternoon bite was slow, but action picked up at 3:30. Jeff landed a fat 12″ perch.

Mark and I caught a few good eating sized fish.

After we reached our limit, Jeff, Mark and I headed back to clean fish in Wayne’s nice, heated shop with plastic cutting boards.

Jeff washed the fish a used his vacuum sealer with two fillets in each bag. Mark made his special fish batter recipe. Dusty and Joe fired up the Frying Saucer and made up a pile of tasty onion rings and fish. This clever design, keeps the food warm on the ring around the fryer. Pretty easy clean up.

Saturday, January 7, 2023

We got up even earlier to get out to the ice house well before sunrise. 11 degrees, but a wind made it feel colder. Jeff spent more time in the ice house than on Friday. It did not take long for the fish to start hitting. Dusty and Joe got hits at the same time, but it turned out that it was just one fish hitting both lines, which created a tangled mess.

Joe’s hole was cold on Friday, but it was hot on Saturday.

Mark followed with another Walleye.

Dusty had to take a walk back to the cabin to use the bathroom. While he was gone, Jeff tended his line and landed this huge 23.5″ Walleye for him.

All the action you could want before 8:30 am! Again, fishing slowed as the bright sun rose over the trees. We went back to camp for breakfast.

Mark, Jeff and I cleaned fish while Dusty made light fluffy biscuits along with sausage with his gravy from scratch. Very tasty! Mark and I took a nap and the rest of the guys went back out on the ice. Fishing was slow in the mid-day sun, but they enjoyed watching a big Muskie swim past their jigs on the Vexilar video camera.

I walked out across the lake at 1:00 and noticed how low the sun is in January this far North.

The frosted trees surrounding the lake were beautiful framed in the bright blue skies.

We watched Wayne take off with one of his float planes with skis instead of pontoons.

When Wayne returned with a load of fresh minnows, we had a chance to talk about his impressive operation. In addition to his minnow business, his drive-in camps, he has 30 remote outpost camps. In the summer he hires 10 additional pilots to take guests to these remote cabins. He told us about how difficult it was when the Canadian government closed the border to the USA during Covid and effectively shut down his business. His supply flights to the Northern First Nation Communities and doing odd construction jobs helped keep his staff employed during the shutdown. Read more about this incredible story on his blog.

As expected, fishing picked up as the sun went down. Dusty pulled this fat 23.5″ Walleye out at 4:40 pm.

The other fish house was open, so Dusty and Jeff setup their two lines each to try their luck at a new spot. Jeff hooked a small 12″ Walleye that swam around and was able to tangle up all 4 lines!

We reached our limit and headed back to the cabin after another pretty sunset over the lake.

Jeff, Mark and I cleaned fish again while Dusty prepared another fabulous meal of slow cooked roast beef, carrots, potatoes with his made from scratch gravy. It was wonderful!

Sunday January 8, 2023

We were up early to pack up the trucks, paid our bill, said goodbye to our new friends the Clark family and headed back towards home. Instead of driving the Trans Canada Highway back to Dryden, Google maps suggested that we should take a shortcut on icy snow packed roads through Eagle River and along Eagle Lake. A pretty change of scenery, but I doubt it was faster than staying on the main roads. Highway 502 was again a beautiful drive back towards the border.

No problems crossing the border back into the USA. We stopped for lunch at Sammy’s Pizza in International Falls. A great way to end a fun trip with a good group of guys!

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