January 7, 2020

Five Spots to Fish and Camp this Winter

Ice-fishing is often overlooked as a winter activity, especially if you live in southern B.C. But fishing doesn’t stop when the temperatures drop – it only gets more exciting. Ice-fishing is a very social activity that requires only a limited amount of gear or experience. When solidly frozen, an entire lake becomes accessible without the need of a boat, and you don’t need the often-complicated casting techniques required in other fisheries. It’s as simple as drilling a hole, and dropping a line.

It is important to exercise caution, however. Always make sure the ice is thick enough to ensure a safe trip. Before you walk out onto ice, it needs to be at least 10 centimetres (four inches) thick if you are fishing alone, and at least 38 centimetres (15 inches) thick before you drive your truck onto it. Remember that a freshwater fishing licence is still required for ice-fishing, and that you should check the regulations for any closures or restrictions.

With these points in mind, along with some basic gear, you can be set for some fun times on the ice this winter. And the good news is, with many parks open year ’round that are close to great hardwater lakes, you can make a wintertime camping trip out of it.

Here are our top five spots, with recreational vehicle or camping spots close by, to try ice-fishing this winter:

Alleyne Lake (near Merritt)

Kokanee provide an exciting winter fishery in this lake. The trick is finding schools of fish. Using a fishfinder is your best bet, but if you don’t have one, start at the bottom and work your way up through the water column until you find a school.

Note: The neighbouring lake, Kentucky SE Pothole, located 50 metres east of Kentucky Lake, is closed to ice-fishing.

Camping: The Alleyne campground in Kentucky-Alleyne Provincial Park remains open during the winter with no services or fees.

Swan Lake (near Vernon)

This is a great spot to fish in the winter, although you should exercise extreme caution to ensure the lake is entirely frozen before venturing out. Swan Lake is located only moments away from Vernon’s downtown centre. As you can catch rainbow trout weighing up to a kilogram (about two pounds) in size, make sure to bore your holes with an ice auger that is at least 15 centimetres (six inches) in diameter. Since fish are more lethargic in the winter, bites can be fairly light, and using a fishing bobber can help you detect when a trout is softly nibbling your bait.
Where to stay: Swan Lake RV Resort, Swan Lake RV Park & Campground, and Cedar Falls Campground RV Park. All remain open during the winter.

Edith Lake (Kamloops)

Target both brook char and rainbow trout in Edith Lake. For brook char, try fishing with mealworms close to the shoreline. The water is clear in the shallows, and since a brookie’s bite can be very light, by laying down and looking into your hole through the ice, you will be able to see when a brookie has taken your bait and is on your line. Move out to a spot over a little deeper water, and use a big attractor spoon, followed by a hook and worm on a short leader, to try your luck for rainbow trout.

Where to stay: A BC Recreation site is located at Edith Lake, but services may be limited during winter months. Alternatively, drive 25 minutes into Kamloops, where options include Kamloops Riverview RV Park and Sunnyside Heights RV & MH Park.

Ness Lake (Prince George)

Ness Lake is currently stocked with both kokanee and rainbow trout. However, brook char are also present in the lake, which presents many different fishing options for the hardwater angler. Ice-fishing gear and an auger can be borrowed for free for up to a week from the Prince George Visitor Centre.

Where to stay: Hartway RV Park is a 20-minute drive from Ness Lake.

Whiteswan Lake (Cranbrook)

If Lussier Hot Spring weren’t reason enough to try ice-fishing at Whiteswan Lake, the quality of the rainbow trout in this lake is. Since the East Kootenays can be very cold, make sure you pack along appropriate warm clothing. You may want to think about getting an ice shelter. 

Where to stay: Winter camping is permitted at the Inlet Creek and White River campgrounds in Whiteswan Provincial Park. Nearby, Fairmont Hotsprings RV Park is another option.

To see a complete list of camping and recreational vehicle parks open year-round, visit the Winter Camping Map on the Camping & RV in BC website.

Author: Staff, Freshwater Fisheries Society of BC
Images: Ryan Hardy, Rodney Hsu, Andrew Wilson, Amanda Aven