The luxury of living in a climate with four distinct seasons is that there are many different types of activities to partake in. Snow, ice, and cold weather periods are typical conditions of winter in Nova Scotia. With a little innovation and imagination, you can have a blast enjoying what nature provides us with at this time of year.
Winter activities can be exciting and refreshing for visitors not accustomed to the climate. As locals, winter recreational activities are a way of life and we know how to make the most of them by taking advantage of the weather. Tourism Operators throughout the province are experts on their regions and how to experience the best of what a colder climate offers; things like spending a day at the maple syrup farm and restaurant at Sugar Moon Farm in Earltown, warming yourself by the fire at a one-day to one-week blacksmith course at Firehouse Ironworks in Cape Breton, and opening the tickle trunk at DeBarres Manor Inn in Guysborough to use the props to build a snowman. Of course traditional activities are not to be missed; like snow shoeing, skating, sledding or sleigh rides, and taking in the beauty of the province through winter walking and driving in all areas.
There’s another wonderful thing about having a varying climate through the year. Your favourite activities can not only continue, but they can be taken to the next level. Take fishing for example. Nova Scotia’s recreational and sport fishing is world-renowned. Fishing here in the winter brings a unique and satisfying twist from within the other seasons. Today’s blog post focuses on the experience of Ice Fishing in rural Nova Scotia.
TIANS newest member Ron Seney, President of Sentinel Safety Consultants Limited is a licensed Guide Instructor and a Director of the N.S. Guides Association. Licensed guides use their knowledge to provide you with an experience you won’t soon forget. The South Shore Breaker published an article about Ron Seney and the adventure that is Ice Fishing in Nova Scotia. We would like to share that with you today. We encourage you to visit Nova Scotia year-round to experience everything available here within each of the four seasons.
COLD COMFORT FOR ICE FISHING EXPEDITIONS by Peter Simpson
Fishing guide and instructor Ron Seney, left, congratulates Frank Hawkins on catching his second trout of the day at Sucker Lake in Upper Northfield. Like Seney, Hawkins has been ice fishing since he was a teenager. (Peter Simpson)
It wasn’t so long ago that ice-fishing tournaments were a big deal on the LaHave River estuary. They were major events — a weekend of fun activities, including a dance. It wasn’t unusual to see 30 to 40 huts on the ice, many tricked out with all the comforts of home.
But ice huts, tricked out or basic, have become a fond, yet distant memory, partly because of wide variances in ice thicknesses during the past several years, creating unsafe conditions. The Canadian Red Cross considers six inches of ice to be a safe surface for fishing.
But there are still some local hardy souls who don’t mind enduring frosty weather and trudging out onto frozen lakes for a chance to hook a tasty speckled trout, rainbow trout or perch.
Located in Upper Northfield, Sucker Lake was the scene recently for the first of a series of ice-fishing learning experiences presented by the LaHave River Watershed Enhancement Foundation and the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg Recreation Department. The Lunenburg County Wildlife Association stocks the lake with trout and plows the off-road parking area.
Registered Nova Scotia hunting and fishing guide Ron Seney said future events will include seminars on the equipment required, techniques, safety considerations and preparing fish for cooking. Registration numbers will be limited to allow ample time for one-to-one instruction.
Seney, 71, has been ice fishing since his teens, but he doesn’t consider himself a sportsman.
“I don’t believe in harassing fish by catching and releasing them. I catch them, then eat them. With lots of Omega 3, fish are a key staple in my diet. Getting out in the fresh air is a bonus,” he said.
Seney said ice fishers should be aware of weather conditions, which can change dramatically, and wear several layers of clothing so they can shed a layer or two and put them back on later if needed.
“My personal recommendation is that at least two people should go on the ice together, and let family or friends know where you are going and when you expect to be home,” he said.
Other tips offered by Seney and his fishing-guide colleagues include:
- Pack a throw line in your backpack. It could save a life.
- Carry a cellphone to obtain weather updates, and for summoning help if needed.
- Record a nearby civic address so emergency responders have a reference point to locate you.
- Bring a thermos containing coffee, tea or hot chocolate, and high-carb snack food.
- Carry out what you take onto the ice, and be a good sport and pick up garbage left by others.
- Ensure your ice-auger blade is sharp and keep the blade capped between uses.
- Be cognizant of your physical limitations and don’t exceed them.
- Carry a basic first-aid kit, including a lightweight emergency blanket.
Frank Hawkins of Bayport is a veteran ice fisherman who stood out from the half-dozen or so guys on the scenic lake when Seney’s group showed up. Hawkins was sitting contentedly on a padded seat attached to fold-out planks on old skis. The planks function as wind breaks behind the seat. When collapsed and placed flat, the entire contraption becomes a sleigh to transport the fishing gear.
Like Seney, Hawkins has been ice fishing since he was a teenager. “I do it for the relaxation and the fresh air. I get to talk to different people, maybe give them advice. I like being on the lake so I’ll sit here all day if I have to, while other days I’ll catch my two fish in half an hour,” he said.
Hawkins took about an hour to catch his two trout that day. He believes science and luck combine to ensure he goes home with supper in the cooler. “I use this to gauge the best time to fish,” he said, revealing a compact, hand-hand barometer. “Some old timers say it’s no good fishing when there’s an east wind. Pressure, not wind, is the best indicator for me, so I watch my barometer.”
According to Hawkins, the fish prefer a high-pressure system. “High pressure gives me good faith to go fishing. If it’s low I’ll go anyway but I won’t have as much faith in catching a fish,” he said.
Although they were not part of Seney’s group, Rhodes Corner residents Cole Baker and friend Nick Corkum, both 24, were ice fishing for the first time and, despite intermittent snow flurries and a rookie miscue, they were happy to sit on their upside-down pails and enjoy this new experience.
“We tried to cut a hole in the ice with an axe, and we weren’t doing so good. Fishing guide Billy Hirtle saw us struggling and brought over an auger and drilled two holes. He shared some tips on techniques and kinds of bait to use. It was good to learn from such an experienced guy,” said Baker.
The day’s bragging rights were claimed by Corkum. “I caught the first fish, and Cole is still waiting for a nibble. It’s a good time, and I’m definitely coming back to the lake,” he said.
Baker laughed off the good-natured one-upmanship from Corkum. “I’m not completely a novice since I’ve fished for bass during the past two summers. I always wanted to try ice fishing so here we are today, our first time on the ice.” said Baker.
“We went from full sun to snow in a matter of minutes today, but the weather is not a problem as long as you dress for it. I’m enjoying it. I guess you could say I’m hooked,” he said.
For details on Lunenburg County ice-fishing programs, call the Recreation Dept. at 902-541-1343.
Written by: Jennifer Falkenham