ST. WILLIAMS – This is shaping up to be a great winter for ice fishing, helped in no small part by COVID-19.
Ice-hut operators registered a noticeable uptick in interest last winter, helped along by ice fishing’s compatibility with pandemic precautions such as social distancing, huddling within your bubble, and engaging in activities out of doors in the fresh air.
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Operators in St. Williams this weekend said last winter’s trend has carried over into 2022 and then some.
“It started at 6:30 a.m. this morning,” Diana Woodward of Woodward’s Ice Fishing said Saturday. “Everybody all at once – the cars were lined up coming down the hill. It’s definitely a good start to the season.”
Norfolk residents who track these things understand that ice fishing is having a moment when huts on Long Point Bay are so numerous they can’t be counted.
The bay was busy last winter too but Woodward said angling didn’t begin in earnest until around the first of February. She noted that activity this season picked up around mid-January with self-sufficient anglers – travelling light – venturing onto the lake with their own equipment and augers to drill their own holes.
“When we’re working with snowmobiles and heavy huts, we wait till the ice is at least seven inches thick,” Woodward said.
Huts, tents and the occasional hardy soul fishing in the open dotted the bay Saturday as far as the eye could see, emboldened by a week of frigid temperatures that has frozen the ice to as much as eight inches in places. Among the latter was Neil Scofield of Brantford, who came to St. Williams armed with rod, reel, tackle, a power auger and a casual disregard for the elements.
“The wind is a little raw today,” Scofield conceded.
The outlook for ice fishing in Norfolk will only improve now that Environment Canada is predicting blast freezer conditions between now and the end of January.
“Last year was busy too, but this is pretty crazy,” said Mike Lounsbury of Bayside Ice Fishing. “Everybody wants to get out and do something.”
No one saw it coming, but partner Anjanette Lounsbury said ice fishing is one of the few legacy, pre-digital industries that has benefitted from the pandemic.
“We picked up a bunch of new people with the lockdowns,” she said. “And there’s fish out there – lots of perch and pike.”