Fish Bay Marina: My First Ice Bungalow Experience on Lake Nipissing
When it comes to ice fishing, it doesn’t get much better than staying overnight on the ice, fishing as much as you want, and doing so in comfort! Imagine thermostat-controlled propane heat, no gloves or jacket necessary, pre-drilled holes with their own covers, a stovetop, TV with cable, DVD player, lights and power outlets to charge electronics, AND great fishing. This was my recent experience at Fish Bay Marina on Lake Nipissing in Northeastern Ontario.
Although it was not my first time on the ice, it was a first staying in an ice bungalow. My fishing partner Eric Riley and myself made the 4.5-hour drive from Ottawa on Friday morning up to Fish Bay Marina, located on the south end of Lake Nipissing. If you’ve never driven through Northern Ontario, you’re missing out on some incredible scenery and passing by endless bodies of water. Needless to say the drive goes by pretty quickly when it’s so enjoyable.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by owners Kevin and Samantha and chatted (mostly about my excitement), until John arrived to show us out to our home for the weekend. John works for Kevin and Samantha, taking care of the guests on the ice and is also a keen angler himself. We followed him out along the ice roads passing by several villages of ice shelters. I felt so small on such a massive and majestic body of water. Lake Nipissing is the third largest lake in the province.
When we made it to the ice bungalow, the heat was already on. We quickly unpacked our gear and started fishing right away. John gave us some tips about fishing in the area and talked about how the bite had been recently. We were pretty pleased to get into some walleye and perch not long into our first afternoon on the ice.
The following day we were up early and met up with a friend, Bowen Sandercock, who was also fishing on Lake Nipissing on this weekend. Bowen invited us to one of his favourite walleye spots where we spent the day. It was warmer out than the previous day so Eric and I spent most of it outside, hopping from hole to hole in search of walleye. Bowen had his flip-over Otter shelter set up with a propane heater on. It was too windy for my portable pop-up shelter so we didn’t bother with setting it up. We were fishing on a rocky hump in around 25 feet of water.
Between the three of us we caught and released about 60 walleye throughout the day and had a blast! These walleye varied in size but were under the slot limit (18.1 inches or 46 centimeters) for Lake Nipissing so we quickly released them. Mixed in with the walleye were cisco (also known as tullibee or lake herring) which made for even more fun with how aggressive these fish can be. It was a blast catching numbers of aggressive walleye on spoons, lipless crank baits, and blade baits.
Before the day came to an end, there was one fish though that certainly took the cake. Darkness had already fallen and the three of us were inside Bowen’s Otter keeping warm as the temperature cooled off and chatting about packing up soon. On Bowen’s flasher, a big red mark came charging off bottom towards his Rippin’ Rap and without any hesitation chomped down on it! Bowen set the hook into something BIG and we were all excited wondering what type of monster he had on. Nighttime is typically when burbot become active on this lake, so we thought that’s what it could have been. We were wrong. After a few moments he brought the fish up closer to the hole and we all found out that it was indeed a MONSTER walleye as we saw it glide by the hole!!
Bowen took his time bringing this fish up and the moment it broke the surface we began celebrating with hollering and high-fives! This fish was Bowen’s new personal best walleye through the ice weighing in at 11.72 pounds and measuring at 31.25- inches long. What a gorgeous fish!
After Eric snapped some quick photos using a lantern for lighting, Bowen successfully released his walleye. It was a great moment watching it swim away! A fish like that is truly a catch of a lifetime and I’m so glad I got to see it all happen! We packed up after a perfect ending to the day and parted ways with Bowen and headed back to the ice bungalow for the night.
Although we were pretty tired after a long and enjoyable day on the ice, I still wanted to drop a line down when we got back. I’m thankful I did because a cute little mudpuppy decided to show up!
I learned that mudpuppies are quite common on Lake Nipissing. Angler’s are often freaked out by seeing a fish with legs and sometimes discard them on the ice or cut their lines. If handled properly they are harmless and should be released.
The temperature dropped overnight and we were thankful to be able to continue fishing indoors the next morning. We caught some more perch from the comfort of the futon before packing up and heading back home.
The first ice bungalow experience was a definite two thumbs up and I look forward to next time! Thank you Fish Bay Marina, Eric, and Bowen for such a fun and memorable experience!
Follow Ashley Rae’s year-round fishing adventures at www.SheLovesToFish.com