Ice Fishing - A New Family Tradition! | Okanogan Country Winter Recreation

Start a New Family Tradition this Winter


Have you made an expedition to the great Okanogan Country yet? Have you braved the fresh, winter air for some freshwater fish dinner?

Okanogan Country also hosts an Annual NW Ice Fishing Festival - which is this weekend, January 15, 2022! If you want to try your hand at winning a prize, head out to the lake in Molson tomorrow morning - the fish are biting!

We have gathered together a “How-To” for those new to getting out on the ice, plus a list of our best ice fishing lakes. Let’s get fishing!

Let's Get Started!

If your family likes to fish during the other seasons, you probably already have most of the gear needed to get started. Keeping your reels off the snow is important so they don’t freeze, then once you’ve fallen in love with this style of fishing you can invest in the more specialized rods & reels. The only piece of equipment that truly sets ice fishing apart is, of course, the ice auger!

Ice augers can be found at most local hardware stores, feed stores, and larger retail chains. Hand Ice Augers are reasonably priced, relatively lightweight, and make the task of drilling a hole a quick one. Make sure to double-check that the ice you’re venturing out on is at least 4 inches thick to ensure your safety, but a good quality, sharp auger will easily drill through 12 inches of ice or more!

Warm & Fed

Bring along plenty of snacks plus a thermos of hot beverages to keep you nice & toasty while you’re out on the ice. You may be surprised to see groups of families cooking chili & hot dogs or making hot chocolate on a portable stove while they wait for the next fish to bite. Some even bring an ice fishing tent! A standard-sized plastic sled is a handy addition for transporting all of the day’s gear to your fishing spot. Don't forget an ice scoop, slotted serving spoon, or other tool for keeping your fishing holes clear of ice.

Bait & Strategy

Once everyone has set up their chairs close to a hole, it’s time to lower an attractive bait down to the waiting fish! Rigging is simple. Just crimp a sinker to the end of the line, then loop a hook with a short leader about 18 inches above that. You can also add another hook if you’d like. The fish hooks should be a size ten or twelve. Many anglers thread a chunk of nightcrawler to the hook, while others prefer to use wax worms or grubs that can be found at most pet food stores.

Experimenting with the many ice fishing jigs and spoons found at sporting goods stores can make the trip even more fun and exciting. By far, the most popular is the Swedish Pimple. Some anglers use this lure as their weight and tie a second hook above it. Jig this lure, so it flutters on the drop. Jigging red and white "crocodiles" equipped with two treble hooks (one on each end) and baited with Perch meat, Peamouth chub meat, Northern Pike Minnow meat, or chicken livers is another great trick for catching those fish under the ice!

Safety First

People need to be very cautious when on ice. In the right conditions they can slip and fall or break through the ice where the ice may be thinner due to a spring or flowing water. As added precaution a person can carry "ice safety picks" - a heavy string or small rope around their neck with ice pick like attachments on each end. If a person does go through the ice they can use the ice picks to pull themselves out on the ice. Ice safety picks are commercially available.

The better prepared a person is for their outing the greater the chances they will have an enjoyable experience with a bonus of some fish.

300+ Days of Sunshine? Yes, please!

With our famous 300+ days of sunshine every year, you are likely to have a beautiful day on any of the lakes you choose. Bonaparte Lake is on the county’s eastern edge, where record-setting trout are regularly caught. A pretty drive from there past Beaver and Beth Lakes brings you to the Lakes of Molson and Sidley - where the North West Ice Fishing Festival is hosted every year. All of the lakes mentioned are known for great ice fishing conditions where the ice ranges from one to three feet thick in the wintertime!

LeaderDavis, Rat, and the Green Lakes all host a variety of species and are known for making everybody happy. Convenient to the Town of WinthropPatterson Lake boasts some of the largest Perch pulled from the ice as well. Palmer Lake, located near historic Loomis, is over 2,000 acres and previously held the state record for Burbot or "Freshwater Ling" - which also happened to be caught through the ice!

Before you begin your ice fishing adventure...

Please check in with the local Chamber of Commerce or town's authority for current lake and ice conditions, plus the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fishing regulations. We also have a handy Okanogan Country Fishing Guide you can check out for more information on the great fishing opportunities throughout our region.

Thanks for making Okanogan Country your favorite destination for Adventure; we can’t wait to see you out on the ice!

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