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Travel

Ice fishing two ways in the Yukon

Whether you’re a first-timer who wants the comfort of a heated cabin or an old pro who can brave the chill, the Yukon’s ice-fishing scene is hard to beat

  • Apr 12, 2019
  • 561 words
  • 3 minutes
An ice angler sits outside a cabin and near Up North Adventures' side-by-side off-road vehicle on Fish Lake, Yukon, where the adventure travel company takes customers hoping to hook fish such as rainbow trout, lake trout or Arctic grayling. (Photo: Jennifer Bain)
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When Kildéric Moroy promises to take me to an ice-fishing spot in a six-seat snowmobile, I can’t visualize what he means. The sleek black beast he pulls up in is actually a side-by-side, a type of off-road vehicle that has four-season tracks instead of wheels.

I’ve trudged to ice holes, been driven to them in in circa 1970 Bombardiers, battered pickup trucks and actual snowmobiles, but this is the first time I’ve travelled in something so stylish and comfortable. As any angler knows, after all, it’s not just about the fish — it’s about the whole experience.

Moroy is from France and this is his first season guiding with Up North Adventures in Whitehorse. It’s his job to make it easy for first-time ice anglers, so I get picked up at my hotel, driven to nearby Fish Lake, loaned serious winter gear and then transported to a cabin close to shore.

It’s a beauty day, so we fish outside. Moroy gives me a folding chair as he preps my rod to chase lake trout in five metres of water, baits my barbless hooks with dead smelt and warms the cabin just in case. “We get lots of first-time fishermen, mostly for the Yukon winter experience,” he explains. “For the first few bites, the fish will bump the bait with their nose just to test if it’s worth the energy. After a few times, they will actually bite the bait. You may keep one fish, but most people let them go.”

I lose some bait to those subtle nibbles, but I’m happy chatting and enjoying the sun, epic scenery and dog sledders that pass by, so I leave content.

An angler baits a hook with a piece of bacon in hope of catching a lake trout on Tagish Lake, 100 kilometres south of Whitehorse. (Photo: Jennifer Bain)
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The next day, about 100 kilometres south of Whitehorse, I try my luck again while overnighting at Southern Lakes Resort, near Tagish.

Bruno Dietrich, the resort’s Swiss-born executive chef and site manager, gives me a snowmobile with heated handlebars and takes me a half hour across Tagish Lake to meet up with Gebhard Zuern, the resort’s general manager and an angling expert. “We don’t use those ugly huts — we just enjoy the view,” sniffs Zuern. “No matter how cold it is.”

It’s a challenging – 20 C, windy and dreary outside. We fish close to shore but the water is still an impressive 30 metres deep — the deepest I’ve ever ice fished in — and we’re using heavy lures and bacon as bait.

The wily lake trout manage to outwit all of us and eat our bacon. I get snagged on bottom and because the drag on my rod is too loose, spend a blissful minute thinking I’m reeling in the big one.

We tough it out for a respectable 90 minutes, much longer than most visitors who really just want to snowmobile or dog sled on a frozen lake, watch a few holes get drilled with an electric auger and hold a fishing rod.

As we leave the trout for another angler and snowmobile back to the resort, I gawk at the mountains, think about that adage “A bad day fishing is better than a good day at work” and then let out a whoop.

Jennifer Bain (@thesaucylady) is the former travel editor of the Toronto Star, an award-winning travel writer and author of Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison.

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