Ask most near-shore observers this weekend and the report will be about water, water everywhere that ice anglers walked last week.
Not so along part of the Lake Simcoe shoreline; anglers are continuing to get out onto solid (8- to 9-inch) ice, says Jerry Kucharchuk at Peninsula Resort on Holmes Point Road at the mouth of the Pefferlaw River.
Protection from wind damage behind Thorah and Georgina Islands at the northeast corner of Simcoe rendered the Pefferlaw area accessible out to about 20 foot depths for the past two weeks.
Partner Ken Maciejewski and I made the run to Peninsula Resort at Pefferlaw on Jan. 10 and 13 for what was an interesting reconnaissance run on about the only ice available just north of Toronto.
This outing afforded an opportunity to check out new gear, newer accommodations at Peninsula Resort and see how the perch are running in the Simcoe shallows.
The Kucharchuk family recently celebrated 50 years of fishing-resort operations. Since 1962 the resort has provided anglers access to the Pefferlaw River area of Lake Simcoe. Son Jerry noted that recently the restaurant went through a Canadian version of “Restaurants Impossible” to enhance a hut operation that provides transport to heated huts daily throughout the ice season.
Fears of thin ice kept most anglers off Simcoe ice, so Mach and I had a choice of huts both days out. The perch bite was unbelievable, the count was exceptional. But numbers were so-so for keeper-sized ringbacks worthy of a fillet knife.
Mach and I took separate huts the first day and caught perch in the hundreds. Mach kept about 25; I pulled just 17 bigger ones from 20-foot depths teeming with fish life close to bottom.
Both new products tested out well from the start of the first day, Marcum’s new ShowDown sonar unit and TomBob’s Scent Fusion lure.
The ShowDown, a hand-held device that can shoot through ice as well as water, picked up moving schools of perch near bottom and the occasional suspended fish passing under the hut. Bait schools were minimal and hungry fish of all sorts, mainly perch, showed throughout the day both days we fished.
Battery life in this new unit is impressive. By the end of the second day, battery power was still strong.
The TomBob casting spoon with impregnated scent made a difference. Working two jig rigs, the line used with the spoon as a bottom weight got more attention with either a minnow or a waxworm as a bait on the treble hook.
Along with perch schools, on one occasion a northern pike moved through and bothered fish around both of our huts. Mach had him on the line for about five minutes, but he eventually “spit the hook.”
During decades of runs to Simcoe, incidental catches of whitefish often occurred while perch fishing in relatively shallow waters. Ice over the lake trout and whitefish grounds out deeper remain well out of reach now.
On this trip, a juvenile whitefish, measuring less than 12 inches, hit one of my perch rigs. Most regulars would say “you probably caught a cisco (coregonus artedi or lake herring).” Not so. That mini whitefish fought with the double-pump head movements typical of its species. Also, hours later I hooked into a 12-inch cisco to make the distinction.
These ciscoes are showing in increasing numbers each ice season on Simcoe, but Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources personnel do not foresee a season opening soon.
Just two recent year classes — 2004 and 2008 — came off successfully. Officials note that the earlier year class was substantial but the species has a life cycle of 10 to 12 years. Unless additional year classes emerge successfully, that fishery may remain closed.
As seen last year, solid ice at Simcoe could form later, with nice catches of sizeable perch coming from deeper waters in late January and throughout February and March.
To get an update on the fishing and ice conditions at and around the Pefferlaw River, check with Jerry Kucharchuk at (800) 565-5253.