Winter sport fishing offers unique opportunities

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Winter has certainly arrived with a vengeance and, unless we head south or hibernate, we’ll have to make the best of it.

A great way to embrace winter, in my opinion, is to take advantage of winter sport fishing opportunities available to us. Ice fishing has always been a popular activity in Pictou County as anglers extend their fishing season for smelt as well as trout and white and yellow perch in a few areas.

This winter local anglers will have a new sport fishing opportunity available to them with the opening a number of lakes for brook trout. Gairloch Lake is now open for both brook and rainbow trout, as are Cameron and Gillis Lakes in Antigonish County. The winter season runs from Jan. 1 until March 31 and your 2013 fishing licence is valid until the end of March. No licence is required to fish for smelt in tidal waters.

During the winter season the bag limit for trout is a total of two fish per day while the bag limit for white and yellow perch is 25 fish per day. The daily bag limit for smelt is 60 fish by angling. To check on winter sport fishing opportunities throughout Nova Scotia see page 42 of your 2013 summary of sport fishing regulations.

Ice fishing is one of the easiest fishing methods and a great way to introduce new anglers to the sport. An axe or auger to make a hole in the ice, a simple rod and some warm clothes will get you started. The most important consideration when ice fishing is safety and that starts with carefully checking the ice before you venture out on it. The Red Cross recommends a minimum of 15cm or six inches of good ice for one person standing or walking and anglers should always check ice thickness before going out on it.

Factors such as running water or springs can weaken ice and anglers should be on the lookout for grey or dark areas on the ice that may signal a soft spot. Ice that is hard and blue is usually safe. If you are fishing an unfamiliar lake be very cautious of springs, or the outlets of brooks where the ice is often thinner. Changes in the weather, such as a mild spell, can have significant effects on ice thickness. It is also important to make sure you tell someone where you plan on fishing and when you plan to return.

Winter sport fishing regulations in Nova Scotia allow anglers to fish with hook and line during the open season. If the weather is mild, and the lakes aren't frozen, anglers may fish from shore or a boat. This winter anglers in Nova Scotia will be able to take advantage of a winter sport fishing weekend on Feb. 15 and 16. On this weekend residents and non-residents, may fish inland waters that are open for winter seasons without a general fishing licence.

If you plan on taking advantage of winter sport fishing seasons hang on to your licence stub until the end of March. If your fishing is done for the year fill out your catch information for 2013 and send it in now.


Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.

Organizations: Red Cross

Geographic location: Pictou County, Nova Scotia, Gairloch Lake Antigonish County

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