While winters can be harsh here in Canada, that doesn’t stop us from having fun all year round, including ice fishing in Alberta’s many beautiful bodies of water. And when the lakes freeze over, that’s just an opportunity to break out the augers and start ice fishing!
To help you plan your next ice fishing expedition, we’ve put together this list of the eight best ice fishing lakes in Alberta.
Alberta boasts many of Canada’s great fishing lakes, especially when it comes to ice fishing in the winter months. Here are the top ice fishing lakes in Alberta.
At 540 square km, Cold Lake is one of the larger options in Alberta. It’s also one of the most diverse lakes in the area, as it’s home to 22 sportfishing species including walleye, northern pike, perch, lake trout, whitefish, and more. If you want to fish a wide variety of species, this is the lake for you.
Cold Lake is also so large that the fish grow significantly larger than in other lakes. The walleye are known to balloon to 6 kg, while the pike and lake trout have reached 14 and 23.6 kg, respectively.
The Kananaskis Lakes in Peter Lougheed Provincial Park comprise the Upper Kananaskis Lake and Lower Kananaskis Lake. These lakes are notorious for their bull trout fishing but also great for cutthroat and rainbows.
If you want to go for the larger fish, your best bet is the Lower Lake, which holds the provincial record for the largest bull trout at 8.14 kg.
The Kananaskis Lakes are also a site of stunning scenery at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and offer easy access to camping for those looking to make their ice fishing trip a multi-day experience.
Pigeon Lake is a great ice fishing option for those who want to reel in dozens of fish daily. Not too far from Red Deer and Edmonton, this lake is notorious for stories of fishermen pulling in up to 60 walleye in a day. However, there is a catch-and-release order on these fish. There are also catch-and-release policies on burbot and northern pike.
If you want to keep your catch, there are plenty of whitefish in the lake, and you can keep up to 10 of them per day.
Calling Lake is a great spot to fish for walleye, northern pike, burbot, and even perch. The walleye in this lake generally average about 4 pounds, making it a satisfying trip. Expect a bit of a drive to reach this frozen fisherman’s haven, as Calling Lake is about a five-hour drive from Calgary (55 km north of Athabasca).
The lake also has transitional areas where the water changes from 7 to 14 feet—great areas to fish for the larger walleye.
Before heading out, check the local regulations to see what lures you’re permitted to use, as this can change periodically. Make sure to bring several different colours of lure, too, so you can switch them out to see what colour the fish are biting on the most.
Lesser Slave Lake is a bit of a drive for many — 5.5 hours from Calgary and three hours from Edmonton — but it is well worth it. This lake is filled with walleye and burbot, and the locals are more than happy to let you in on all the fish-catching hotspots.
The best part is that walleye fishing is catch and keep. In most areas around Canada, the low walleye population has led to mandatory catch and release, but not at Lesser Slave Lake.
When you head to the lake, make sure you have a high-quality fishing tent. The winds across the lake can be rather strong and make the already cold air especially chilling. A good tent will help dampen that wind and make your fishing trip more enjoyable.
If you live in southern Alberta, consider the Crawling Valley Reservoir for your next ice fishing trip. This well-stocked fishery is a popular spot for walleye, but they are protected under a catch-and-release order.
CVR is only a 1.5-hour drive from Calgary, making it accessible for most people. Beyond its walleye population, this reservoir is also stocked with pike, perch, and burbot. Local Albertans are also happy to direct you to the best spots on the lake for the different species, so you can have a more successful trip.
Just a quick trip up Highway 16 from Edmonton is Wabamun Lake, a well-known fishery for pike and walleye. The northern pike in this large lake can grow up to 14 kg, and whitefish and perch are known to reach 2 and 1 kg, respectively.
The lake is constantly stocked with loads of walleye, so it’s not uncommon to catch at least six within an hour or two, giving even the most impatient angler all the thrills they need.
And if you’re looking to make it a multi-day ice fishing trip, there is plenty of lakeside camping available at Wabamun Lake Provincial Park.
Bear Lake is another top ice fishing destination in Alberta, as it’s home to many popular species. These include northern pike, yellow perch, walleye, and more. If you’re looking for an ice fishing expedition, the Bear Lake campground on the north shore of the lake will offer you a great place to set up camp.
Before heading out on your ice fishing expedition, you need to know a handful of things. Let’s review this must-have information before making your plans.
Your wildlife identification number (WiN) card is your account number to which your fishing, hunting, and trapping licences in Alberta are attached. This costs $8+GST and can be picked up from a local retailer. You can also save $2 by buying it online.
Everyone aged 16 to 64 needs a fishing licence to go ice fishing in Alberta. You can purchase a fishing licence online for $28 and it’s good for one season, which is a full year.
Each lake will have its own fishing regulations regarding permitted bait, permitted ice fishing times, and which species of fish are catch and keep versus catch and release. A quick Google search will pull up all the regulations for the lake you plan to ice fish at.
Every lake is a little different and using the same gear between lakes isn’t always helpful. Some gear will overlap, but things like lures, lines, and reels can all impact your success from lake to lake. So, research ahead of time to find out the best gear options for your ice fishing lake of choice.
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