Alberta’s Best Ice Fishing Hot Spots

Here are the best lakes in Alberta for ice fishing this season:

Calling Lake, 55 km north of Athabasca on SH 813, has a simple rule: get up early (or stay late) if you want to catch the walleye bite. I took a friend to Calling for his first-ever go at walleye and between us we caught 13 — but the real story was their size. Most of the fish were over five pounds and the largest was an absolute monster, tipping the scales at 9.6 pounds. Calling has never given up massive numbers of walleye through the ice, but the ones that bite are usually big. Besides walleye there are plenty of pike and if you venture deeper, perch come on-line. —FN

Nobody in Alberta would think about ice fishing without thinking about catching lake whitefish, and this is where Gull Lake, 10 km west of Lacombe on Highway 12, shines. The lake whites of Gull are numerous, good size and generally easy to catch. Find any water 10 feet deep or less and put down a small wireworm or bead-head nymph and ever-so-slowly bring it to the surface, then drop it back down and repeat. The whites are real suckers for this technique and if you’re out there for the morning bite, it might only take an hour before you limit-out. Besides whites, don’t forget the pike, which grow to massive proportions at Gull. Drop down the tip-up with a large anchovy or herring and get ready. There are 10-plus-pounders that will kick-start anybody’s day. —FN

If the real destination is a trophy pike fishery, look no further than Sylvan Lake, located about 20 km west of Red Deer. With the lake’s abundant whitefish population, Sylvan has some of the biggest pike that swim. Every year pike of more than 20 pounds are caught. In fact, a 20 is just a nice fish. These fish are simply thick. That is, they carry a lot of mass right to the tail — a 44-inch fish could push 25 pounds. I have friends that fish Sylvan regularly and every winter they usually pop at least one over 25. —FN

Cold Lake, on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, near Bonnyville, is a big body of water with a host of fish species, but with a little perseverance and know-how, that bump on the end of the line will likely be a laker of 12 to 15 pounds. Honest — that’s the average laker at Cold Lake, and all it takes to catch them is to drop down a white jig tipped with a minnow. Make the jig larger, say a half-ounce or better as bottom is often 100 feet below. Use a non-stretch line to feel the bite. Beyond that, this is one place where either a flasher unit or a sounder is a real gem. Both will pick up fish near bottom and allow you to get ready for the bite. —FN

Slave Lake, 100 km northwest of Athabasca, is still king when it comes to walleye. Ice fishing for these fish is steady through the winter with both numbers and size picking up as the season progresses. When it gets close to closing, at March 31, look to the areas around Shaw’s Point. Many walleye will be staging there in preparation for their spring spawning-run into the Heart River. While there are a great many ways people catch these walleye, the standard quarter-ounce jig and minnow will work just fine. Be prepared, though, to catch a mixed bag as there will be pike, burbot, perch and even the odd whitefish that will take the jig and minnow offering. —FN

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