Rules and Tips for Ice Fishing the Canadian Side of LOW

Ice fishing is in full swing up at Lake of the Woods.  Some of our visitors who visit our NW Angle resort will take day trips, some guided and some self guided, into the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods.  The border is literally a stone’s throw from a number of our resorts and the Ontario side offers some great experiences such as slab crappies, lake trout and remote fishing amongst thousands of islands.

When venturing into Ontario to fish or snowmobile, there are some rules and tips to think about.  It is your responsibility to have proper documentation, licenses, etc when entering another country.  Here are a few…

  •  Proper fishing license.  When fishing in MN, you need a MN fishing license and the same is true for Ontario.  When fishing Ontario, you can buy individual day licenses, an 8 day license, 1 or 3 calendar years.  Licenses can be purchased online and printed off.  If you purchase a one day license, that covers the day you designate to fish.  If you purchase an 8 day or longer, you must have an outdoors card along with your license.  Check out the details here.  In Ontario, children under 18 do not need a fishing license unless they want to keep their own limit. There is no party fishing in Canada. No live bait or alcohol is allowed in Canada.
  • Fish Limits.  It is your responsibility to know your Ontario fish limits, possession limits, length limits and to be a responsible angler.  We encourage crappie anglers to understand that crappies caught through the ice deeper than 25′ of water have a high mortality rate when released.  Even though they may swim down, they typically don’t make it.  Once you have caught the crappies you desire at or below the limit, please  move on and fish another species.  Also be aware that saugers and walleyes count toward your combined limit in Ontario.
  • The Ontario side of Lake of the Woods is Zone 5.  Please know your limits, length limits and other details while fishing.  Not only is it in your best interest to avoid a ticket, it is the right thing to do for the natural resources we all share and to be good stewards of the land with our Canadian neighbors.  Here is a link to Zone 5 Ontario fishing regulations.
  • Transporting fish.  In a nutshell, it is important that an OMNR (Ontario of Ministries Natural Resources) officer can easily count, identify and if necessary, measure fish.  Resorts have a good handle on how to package fish for transport but ultimately, it is your responsibility.  Here is a helpful video from the OMNR.
  • Snowmobiling in Ontario.  If you are snowmobiling for the sake of fishing, you do not need an Ontario snowmobile permit.  If you are not ice fishing, you need a permit.  To snowmobile legally in Ontario, you must have a valid Driver’s Licence or Snow Vehicle Operator’s Permit.  You will also need proof of snowmobile ownership, registration, proof of insurance, a helmet and a snowmobile trail permit.
    Non-residents must produce evidence of insurance and registration, or bill of sale and comply with Ontario’s snowmobile regulations.
    • Types of permits.  For the 2017 season, Seasonal Trail Permits ($260) and Classic Permits ($170) can be purchased online only at www.ofsc.on.ca. If you’re buying your permit and ready to hit the trails, you will receive a temporary permit at the time of purchase valid for 2 weeks or until your permit arrives in the mail.Visitors to any part of the trail network in Ontario can take advantage of Multi-Day permits for only $35/day and a minimum of 2 consecutive days. Multi-day permits are ‘Buy, Print and Ride’ and can be purchased the day of your planned trip or in advance, enter the dates of your trip at time of purchase and the permit will be valid for the specified dates. These permits are available from December 2nd onwards.
    • Safety first!  Wear reflective clothing, a helmet and face shield, waterproof, insulated boots and leather snowmobile mitts. Polypropylene and thermal under layers release moisture while retaining heat. Consider a buoyant snowmobile suit and carry extra clothing, socks, boot liners and mitts for layering.
      Don’t drink and ride. Operating your sled under the influence of alcohol is punishable under the Criminal Code of Canada. If convicted of driving a snowmobile while impaired, you could lose all driving privileges (car, truck, motorcycle, off-road vehicles and snowmobile).
  • Helmets Required for snowmobiles, ATV’s and side by sides.  Know your snowmobile and off road vehicle rules.  You must wear a motorcycle helmet, as required by the Highway Traffic Act, whenever you drive or ride on a snowmobile or off-road vehicle or on any vehicle towed by a snowmobile or off-road vehicle. The only exception is when you operate the vehicle on the property of the vehicle owner. The helmet must meet the standards approved for motorcycle helmets, or motor-assisted vehicle helmets, and must be fastened properly under the chin.
  • Checking into Ontario to go ice fishing.  Gaining permission to fish Ontario requires a call to Canada Customs at 1-888-CAN-PASS.  In addition to a few questions, they may ask for credentials over the phone such as passport, passport card, enhanced driver’s license or a combo of a government issued ID and your birth certificate number.
  • Checking back into the U.S. after a day of ice fishing.  When entering the U.S. after a day of ice fishing, it is necessary to check in at an OARS phone.  By the letter of the law, ice is considered land when it comes to U.S. Customs. That means ice anglers not having a NEXUS (which is a trusted traveler program primarily used by people who cross the border often) must go to an OARS phone to report back into the U.S. after ice fishing in Ontario. The closest OARS phone in most cases is located at Young’s Bay. The same law applies to summer fishing, if you touch land while fishing in Canada, you are required to call back into the US at Young’s Bay.
  • No Alcohol Allowed while fishing in Ontario.  Please leave all alcoholic refreshments behind until you are back at the resort.
  • No Live Bait allowed in Ontario.  This isn’t typically a problem as most anglers will use frozen minnows, plastics and other artificial baits with success.  Many anglers will tip a jigging spoon or ice jig with a dead minnow or piece of a minnow with great success.

Fishing the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods is an incredible experience.  Our resorts and ice guides are a great resource for enjoying the Ontario side of Lake of the Woods.  It is important to know the area, know the ice conditions and be safe.  There is current in Lake of the Woods and certain areas that are shallower or are neck down areas of the lake can have thin ice even during the heart of the winter.

The crappies and walleyes have been on fire this ice fishing season and the scenery and adventure are second to none.  Enjoy the winter!


Click Here for a list of Lake of the Woods resorts, including the NW Angle resorts.

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