While fall officially ends this week, it feels like we are already halfway through winter.
While we have received a fair bit of snow, ice and cold temperatures there will be more on the way. Other than heading down south there is not too much we can do about it so a great way to embrace winter, in my opinion, is to take advantage of winter sportfishing 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, chain pickerel and white and yellow perch in a few areas.
Local anglers have a variety of trout fishing opportunities available to them with both Dryden Lake and Gairloch Lake open for trout, as are Cameron and Gillis Lakes in Antigonish County. Anglers may also fish Black Lake and West Branch Lake for chain pickerel as well as white and yellow perch. The winter season runs from Jan. to March 31 and your 2018 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 and the new bag limit for chain pickerel is 100 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 your 2018 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 gray 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 sportfishing 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 can take advantage of the winter sport fishing weekend Feb. 16 to 18. On this long weekend residents, and non-residents, may fish inland waters which 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 then fill out your catch information for 2018 and send it in now.
Don MacLean is an outdoor writer and biologist who lives in Pictou County.