Ice fishing rules and regulations are mainly the same for the new season

            Now that we have some colder weather, the idea of getting out on the ice to do some ice fishing seems a bit more popular. Every year officers get asked many questions related to ice fishing. The rules are a bit different, but the majority of rules are the same. Limits do not change, but the methods do.

            Most people have now moved from open water to the confines of an ice fishing shack. Some of the fishing shacks are pretty elaborate and elegantly equipped with couches, chairs, beds and other amenities. If a fisher has any type of shack that he or she plans to leave on the ice, he or she must make sure that he or she marks the shack with his or her name, address and phone number on the outside in a manner that is easily read.

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            Make sure it’s marked in a way that won’t get blown off or fade from the sun. If fishers plan to haul shacks home with them after fishing, then they do not need to mark them with names.

            As a reminder, all shacks south of Highway No. 16 must be removed from the ice by March 15 and by March 31 for shacks north of Highway No. 16. Failure to do so may result in charges and the shack will be seized.

            It is always a good idea to monitor ice and melting conditions as the winter nears its end to ensure that a fisher can get his or her shack off the ice without too much difficulty. While some folks like to cut large holes in the ice when fishing in shallow water, they need to exercise caution especially if they have small children with them. Also be aware of that large chunk of ice. When fishers discard it outside, they should make sure that it is marked so that other users can see it and not run into it with a vehicle or snowmobile.

            Littering is another issue officers sometimes see. Some people empty their wood stove onto the ice, or toss empty containers and other garbage onto the ice. Remember that this material all ends up back in the water, so it’s up to fishers to ensure they haven’t left anything on the ice when they leave.

            As mentioned earlier, the only real changes are the methods. During ice fishing season a fisher is allowed to use two lines. The catch here is that these lines must be within 25 metres of the fisher and must be in his or her view at all times. The reason for this is so that he or she can quickly determine that a fish has been caught and can get to it quickly.

            The use of bait is no different than in the open water season. Baits such as commercially packaged minnows, maggots, meal worms, and leeches are all useful for winter fishing. Even parts of the fish may be used such as the eyes or belly. Any fish where parts are removed to use as bait must be included in a fisher’s daily limit.

            Whole sportfish such as small perch may not be used as bait because they are considered a sportfish.

            Getting a large lake trout, burbot or pike out of an eight-inch hole may be a challenge, so it is lawful to use a gaff to get them out of the water. This gaff can be no longer than 1.5 metres in length and must have a J-shaped hook at the end.

            Can I use a lure that has a light attached to it or that strobes in the water? 

            Lights may not be used to attract fish, but lights that are part of the actual lure are legal.         A lure must also be attached to the fishing line while angling.

            Is chumming legal? 

            There are no rules or regulations surrounding chumming or using fish parts, bone and blood to attract fish.

            Can I ice fish at night? 

            There are no issues with fishing at night. Some of our best predatory fish such as the walleye are active at night.

            Can I drink alcohol in my ice shack if it has a bed? 

            No, the ice shack is not considered a dwelling and is considered a public place. Please leave all alcohol at home.

            Are there any lures or tools that are unlawful to use while ice fishing? 

            Most lures that a fisher normally uses are all legal. Lures that have items such as spring-loaded hooks, spring-loaded gaffs and spear guns are all unlawful items.

            Long-handled spears or forked spears are unlawful. These are sometimes used illegally in shacks that have a large hole in the ice in shallow water.

            Remember that use and possession of any spring-loaded gaffs, spring-loaded hooks and spear guns are also unlawful.

            Is there any restriction as to the size of hole a person can fish out of? 

            There is nothing in the Saskatchewan fisheries regulations that restricts the size of a hole a person can fish out of. But remember, he or she is responsible for that hole and the large chunk of ice that was pulled out of it.

            It’s best to mark the area to make others aware of the potential hazard.

            What are the best sportfish species to catch during ice fishing season? 

            We are fortunate in Saskatchewan to have so many sportfish species to choose from. The most popular species include walleye, yellow perch and the northern pike.

            Many lakes also have great trout fishing in the winter. But please also don’t forget about the burbot. Although ugly, the taste of this fish cannot be beat. My advice… don’t waste the taste!

            Most of the regulations are in the Saskatchewan Anglers’ Guide available at saskatchewan.ca/fishing, but if a fisher is not sure about a regulation, he or she may contact a Saskatchewan conservation officer. Enjoy yourself on the frozen water and always remember ice safety.

            Until next time…keep your rod tip up!

            (EDITOR’S NOTE: Ministry of Environment conservation officer Lindsey Leko has spent more than 25 years as a conservation officer in Saskatchewan. For many years, Officer Leko contributed a column to local papers on a variety of issues related to hunting, fishing, and other resource-related issues. If you have questions, please contact lindsey.leko@gov.sk.ca.)