Walleye season may be delayed by frozen lakes

A thick ice cover on inland lakes could threaten the opening of the walleye season in northwestern Ontario next month, and that’s causing concern for some tourist outfitters.
The walleye fishing season in northwestern Ontario traditionally opens on the third Saturday in May. That's less than a month from now, and most waterways in the region remain locked up tight with ice. For the tourist outfitting industry, the opening weekend can be a big money-maker.

A thick ice cover on inland lakes could threaten the opening of the walleye season in northwestern Ontario next month, and that’s causing concern for some tourist outfitters.

Gerry Cariou, executive director of the Kenora-based Sunset Country Travel Association, said business bookings drop off in situations like these.

“Not as many [tourists] are booking opening weekend because of the chance of a dicey ice-out,” Cariou said.

“There are still, of course, the people who are highly anticipatory and want to get out on the water and that is the weekend they pick. We're seeing a lot of people move a little later in May.”

Gerry Cariou of the Sunset Country Travel Association says he's hearing concerns from some of his members. (Supplied)

Cariou said he expects conditions will be good in areas closer to the border, around Lake of the Woods, Thunder Bay and Rainy River districts, but some of the outfitting camps farther north may not be so lucky.

Many northwestern Ontario inland lakes are frozen solid — and a cold spell last week didn't help.

“No one predicted this kick in the shin,” he said. “[There were] no highs above zero for the entire week. [It was] –16 C here in Kenora. There is worry out there. They are thinking there might be some issues."

However, Cariou acknowledged, “things can happen overnight. You can see ice on a lake when you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning it has either melted or assimilates into the lake somehow."

In the meantime, tourist outfitters and anglers alike are hopeful the opening of walleye season will be a go for more lakes in northwestern Ontario.

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