Ice Fishing at Little Atlin Lake

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YuKonstruct member Ksenia recently participated in the Make It Wild: Ice Fishing event at Little Atlin Lake, put on in partnership with the Fish and Wildlife Enhancement Trust. Here’s her report on the experience as a first-timer ice fishing.

It is April 1st and sunny, just above zero. After registering for our Yukon Fishing Licences this morning (required to fish in Yukon), we are walking onto Little Atlin Lake and the snow is crunchy underfoot. There are two red tents and some vehicles in the distance. None of us three friends who drove here today have done this before – ice fishing in the Yukon.

There are about eight of us who arrive on site first thing, around 11 am. More will arrive later. We are warmly welcomed by YuKonstruct volunteer Amy and Environment Yukon’s Conversation Officers Aaron and Matt and Fisheries Biologists Aaron and Robert. Two large red tents are already set up and holes have been drilled both inside and outside of each.
After a quick introduction to each other and ice fishing, the organizers quickly sort out who needs what and we split up towards our fishing holes to try and persuade a Whitefish or two to accompany us home for supper.

Some of us have our own tackle and others need a hand. At Little Atlin Lake, only barbless hooks are permitted – so we make sure to pinch the barbs with pliers really well (read more about Yukon Fishing Regulations). My two friends and I are complete but eager beginners, and we’re in good hands. Everyone gets the advice or help they need and we are set up and fishing in no time at all. Meanwhile, there are two other activities besides ice fishing on the go: tying flies with Aaron and a fun kid’s craft with YuKonstruct.

Within 20 minutes of starting, our tent has caught a Whitefish! Then another and another. It is an exciting experience – you’re jigging your tiny lure to attract the fish and suddenly one will cruise by, looking for a meal. Some will circle your lure, you watching from above. Others will beeline right for the lure. You see straight down to the bottom of the lake, it is better than HD TV!

As the day went on, nine Whitefish were caught by our workshop group. The daily limit on Little Atlin Lake for Whitefish is 5 per person (read more about Yukon Fishing Regulations).  A few pike also circled, but were too wily to be hooked. We also learned facts from each other and the organizers about fishing for Whitefish, and for other fish, but also about preparing this abundant and deliciously sustainable Yukon food source. The Conversation Officers and Fisheries Biologists demonstrated how to fillet fresh Whitefish – ready for the table! We learn that it is important to ensure that your fish is identifiable when you take it home, so that you can show Conservation Officers what you have caught that day. After a few brave beginners tried their own hand at learning this new skill, we began calling it a day.

People packed up and headed back to their cars with smiles. Jean-Sebastien, who had come out with his wife and three children, said “The opportunity offered to be out ice fishing with my family was just great. The day was very nice, the organizers were giving good advice! My youngest son learned how to fish and I caught a beautiful Whitefish!”. Most, if not all, echoed his enthusiasm.
With the right gear and a little know-how, ice fishing is a great way to get out on the land, enjoy time with friends and family, and pick up something tasty for dinner. If this sounds like a good time, don’t hesitate to catch this workshop when it comes around next year –I’ll be seeing you on the lake!