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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

'The Ice Fishing Capital of North America'

Ontario's Lake Simcoe an icefishing pageant
This Canadian outpost is billed as 'The Ice Fishing Capitol of North America'

While throngs of American anglers go north each summer, not too many head that way in winter.
So perhaps it seems odd for me to suggest you might want to try a northern foray this month or next; but hear me out, even if you're not an icefishing enthusiast.
If you take a 75-minute drive north of Toronto, you'll find one of the most amazing fishing scenarios you can imagine: thousands of people and thousands of temporary shelters scattered over the frozen surface of Lake Simcoe — this is in addition to a conglomeration of trucks, ATVs, snowmobiles and shuttle vehicles.

In the summer you would call this crowded fishing, but in winter, and on Simcoe, it's a party with a good time being had by all.
Lake Simcoe is part of the navigable Trent-Severn Waterway connecting Lake Huron's Georgian Bay to the northwest with upper Lake Ontario at the Bay of Quinte to the southeast.
covering 287 square miles, Simcoe is a large lake, although fairly shallow. On any winter weekend, people are almost everywhere on this lake.

With an average of perhaps four holes per angler, and with estimates of up to 6,000 fishermen on a good weekend, there are a lot of circles and squares cut through that hard, white lake.

Of course, the ice is thick enough to handle all of this.
(Editor's note: Much of the northern United States and southern Canada has had
a very mild winter so far, and ice is dangerous in some places. Canadian news
sites reported two men died and a third was treated for hypothermia after their motorcycles fell through the ice on Lake Simcoe early Sunday, Jan. 29.)
In fact, from ice level the assemblage of huts, vehicles and people looks more like a territorial community, sort of what you might imagine to be an unorganized gold rush town in winter.
Replace tents with huts, and substitute horses and wagons with many hundreds of trucks, snowmobiles and ATVs, and you have a large temporary prospector's community.
The finny treasure being prospected is about as diverse as you could want.
Simcoe has perch, walleye, pike, trout, herring, whitefish, bass and even muskellunge among its fisheries; though perch (especially early in the winter), lake trout, walleye and whitefish have the biggest constituencies.

We're talking serious icefishing here.

A Lake Simcoe icefisherman holds a lake trout caught from inside a rented hut.

This is where commercial hut operators cut tub-size holes with chainsaws fitted with 36 inches.

Where an auger isn't worthy unless it's powered and capable of 10-inch circles at a minimum.

Where vehicular travel routes are marked like a highway.

Where you drive 5 miles across the ice in a heated vehicle, then brave 20-below temperature for the time it takes to get into a heated hut housing a pre-made ice hole.

Local folks used to call Lake Simcoe "The Ice Fishing Capitol of North America." The canadian Ice Fishing Championships will be held here in late February.

But a decade ago the region hosted the World Championships of Ice Fishing and international participants said they'd never seen anything like this place. Now they've dubbed Simcoe "The Ice Fishing Capitol of the World."

You don't have to visit Simcoe — one of Ontario's largest non-Great Lakes waters — with all of the latest trappings for icefishing.

Indeed, there are many services here that rent huts or even provide "icefishing vacations," which include a heated fishing hut, pre-cut hole, bait, ice transport and expert advice, in addition to B&B accommodations and meals.

Just bring your own tackle, food and drink, and appropriate clothing, headgear and footwear.

The huts, which accommodate four to six people, are so warm inside that you will be compelled to take your coat off and stay quite a while to fish. Outside temperatures, however, can range from a balmy day in the 20s to a frigid one with a bad windchill factor.

it's been several years since my last visit to Lake Simcoe. If I was not tied down for the winter writing a book, I'd be tempted to visit again next month.

When I last fished there, it was with the owner of JR's Fish Huts, John Reddings, who has since passed away, and Toronto pal Jimmy Kano.
Reddings transported fishermen via Bombardier Caterpillar to his heated huts and helped them get set up. On busy winter days Reddings took as many as 70 people across the ice to his contingent of shacklike shelters with pre-cut ice holes.

His Bombardier was a 20-foot, go-anywhere motorized rig that epitomized all-wheel-drive. This vehicle, or others used today, are necessary not just for transport, but because Simcoe ice can be tricky.

A power auger is a necessity for Simcoe's iceanglers.

Pressure ridges build up in various spots on this 30-mile-wide lake and aren't safe to cross just anywhere. Hut operators regularly scout the ice, check thickness and constantly establish safe travel routes.

Routes change because there's current in Simcoe, and because the places where these operators fish vary.
Many relocate huts as necessary, according to fish movement, angling success and species sought.

Many private anglers benefit from the efforts of the hut operators, too, coming out in late afternoon to fish the holes they've vacated, or following their tracks through the snow and ice and across pressure ridges.

The access to the lake is so well traveled that the near-shore area becomes like a deeply rutted road of dirt or sand.

Most iceangling here is done with bait, primarily 2- to 3-inch shiners.

On Simcoe, few anglers use jigs; they prefer multiple-bait rigs for trout and whitefish, using a spreader to keep shiners apart, as well as having another shiner higher up.
There's a lot of baiting and chumming in the holes. Ten or 12 baitfish are frequently scooped out of a bucket and placed without water in a small container, which is covered and shook vigorously. The disoriented baitfish are dumped into the hole, usually swimming straight down.
Like everywhere else, some Simcoe icefishermen seem to do better than others, and many are primarily out for the social camaraderie.
There's certainly no lack of company.

Vehicular travelers are regularly pulling in for progress reports and to see what there is to eat or drink.
With a cacophony of saws, augers, snowmobiles, ATVs, trucks, Bombardiers and even chair-bound anglers with radios, Simcoe in winter is an interesting spectacle. But it is not your peace-and-quiet, contemplative, Canadian-wilderness fishing.

But with a third of Canada's population in the province of Ontario, much of it relatively close to this region, what else would you expect from a capital lake?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Bikers die in Lake Simcoe plunge

Bikers die in Lake Simcoe plunge

Two men are dead and a third was treated for hypothermia after their motorcycles fell through the ice on Lake Simcoe early Sunday.

York Regional Police say the three men were riding across the lake on two motorcycles at around 3:30 a.m. when they went into the water between Snake and Fox islands.

The lone survivor, a 22-year-old man, was a passenger on one of the motorcycles.

Investigators say he was able to leap clear as the motorcycle went into the water, and made his way to a patch of ice, where he called police with his cellphone.

The other two men fell into the water, where they apparently died of hypothermia.

Members of the Innisfil Fire Department found the survivor at about 8 a.m. Sunday.

He was taken to hospital, where he was treated for hypothermia.

The bodies of his two companions were recovered from the lake on Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Angus Yachts becomes Cruiser Yachts

See part on Orillia at the very bottom -

Canada. Angus Yachts becomes Cruiser Yachts and Mainship dealer
Tuesday, 24 January 2006

Angus Yachts of Toronto Ltd. has boldly entered the powerboat market by adding Cruisers Yachts and Mainship Trawlers complete lines of products to its sailboat product offerings.

Angus Yachts was recently named the world’s Number One Dealer in 2005 for Hunter sailboats – a sister company of Mainship Corporation. Angus has also represented world-renowned Jeanneau Yachts and Lagoon catamarans for several years.

Al Patterson, president of Angus Yachts, claims that part of the dealership’s success is related to its recent move to Port Credit Harbour Marina on Lake Ontario at Mississauga, where they enjoy higher customer traffic for both sail and powerboats, newly refurbished offices, and a “permanent boat show display” of boats right outside their sales office. The award-winning retailer has been in business for 34 years, and also provides brokerage sales, parts & service, yacht charters, and instructional programs for both power and sail.

Why Powerboats?

Angus’ expansion into power reflects the Company’s mission to provide a complete range of leading brands for the boating market, with emphasis on the cruising enthusiast. “We are seeing a significant number of customers switching between sail and power, and vice-versa”, said Patterson. “We are now in a position to offer our clients a one-stop-shopping experience”.

Cruisers Yachts will represent the cornerstone for Angus’ powerboat lines, encompassing the express cruiser, motoryacht, and sports sedan categories with fourteen models from 28’ to 56’. “We are delighted to be awarded the Cruisers Yachts dealership for most of Ontario”, said Patterson. “Cruisers is a well established brand that is renowned for its quality craftsmanship, exhilarating performance, and care for its customers”.

Mainship Trawlers will augment Cruisers Yachts with its dominance in the trawler segment – one of every two new trawler buyers now choose a Mainship. Interest is growing in trawlers because of the on-board living space and the appeal of classic, traditional trawler styling with today’s baby boomers - coupled with the superior fuel efficiency and reliability of diesel power. Mainship’s line of comfortable cruising boats from 30’ to 43’ is renowned for its classic styling and elegant simplicity.

“Both Cruisers Yachts and Mainship are leading the way in new products, innovative designs, and outstanding value. We are delighted to add them to our product mix with our other leading brands and look forward to the same great partnership that we enjoy with Hunter Marine and Jeanneau America”, stated Patterson.

A New Sales Division

“We’re making a serious commitment to powerboating by creating a separate sales division for our powerboat lines,” said Patterson. “This division will be led by John Armstrong as Director of Sales and staffed by experienced powerboat professionals who are familiar with both Cruisers Yachts and Mainship products”.

A New Location in Orillia

Additionally, Angus Yachts will open a second office location at beautiful Starport Landing in Orillia to provide sales and commissioning service support for its clients on Lake Simcoe. Several sales and service staff from Starport Yacht Sales, the previous Cruisers Yachts dealership, have joined Angus in Orillia to provide continuity for Cruisers owners.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Winter wind sports Festival - lots of fun last year!

Winter wind sports

Keswick, Ont.

While most people cower indoors to escape the winter wind, devoted enthusiasts of wind sports flock to frozen lakes for the chance to streak across the ice at speeds that would earn you a ticket on the road. This weekend, the fourth annual Lake Simcoe Wind Sports Festival showcases such eclectic diversions as kite skiing, kite snowboarding, skimbats, uniboarding and ice buggy driving. Beginners are welcome to watch — or sign up to ride along with certified instructors.

Cost: Free.

When: From Saturday, Jan. 21 to Sunday, Jan. 22, from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Where: The foot of Glenwoods Avenue in Keswick, about one hour north of Toronto by car.

How: For more information, call 416-497-9463 or visit

Dogsled tutorial

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Lost Simcoe Fishermen reeled in

A couple of fishermen got themselves into a bit of a jackpot in Lake Simcoe Thursday night.

The two were on their way into Innisfil Park around 5 p.m., just after sundown, when their outboard motor cut out.

The boat started drifting eastward in rough water, to the point where they couldn't radio to the police with an exact location.

Nonetheless, rescue crews arrived from Georgina Fire Service, to be joined by Barrie Fire Service, the Canadian Coast Guard, South Simcoe and York Regional Police around 7 p.m., to find the two fishermen suffering from exhaustion and hypothermia. They were taken by fire boat to Innisfil Park where they were helped by ambulance personnel.

Police do not recommend boating on Lake Simcoe this time of year, at least not without emergency equipment, proper dress for winter and fully-charged cell phones.

New activities planned for Winterfest

Winterfest 2006 takes place at Little Lake Park and the North Simcoe Sports and Recreation Centre on Friday, Feb. 3, and Saturday, Feb. 4.

A new and exciting activitiy planned for this year is a Pop Star Idol Contest, featuring Canadian Idol finalist Faith McMillian, on Friday evening.

Part of the fun will also include a petting zoo, dog sled rides, pony rides, sleigh rides and many more favourites sure to please the whole family.

Volunteers are needed to help the event run smoothly.

For more information or to volunteer, call Nicole Hutton at 526-4770, ext. 3206.

The Ida Burton was a top Simcoe steamship

Before the coming of rail and road networks, water provided the quickest, most comfortable, and most efficient means of transportation in Upper Canada.

For the better part of the 19th century, therefore, Lake Simcoe played a major role in the development of what became Central Ontario.

Barrie, naturally enough, was a major port.

Originally, the boats plying the lake were canoes, bateaux (large, flat-bottomed row-boats measuring nearly 50, in length), and schooners.

Eventually, a veritable fleet of steamships replaced these earlier modes of travel, many of which were handsome vessels that enjoyed long and distinguished careers.

The Ida Burton was only one of many such vessels, but she was notable for many reasons, none the least of which is the distinction of being the first steamship built in Barrie, and the last side-wheeler built on either Lakes Simcoe or Couchiching.

A handsome vessel, capable of sustained steaming at high speed, the Ida Burton was launched on June 13, 1866, by George Burton and his partner Llewellyn Oliver.

Oliver was the county coroner, a distinguished doctor, and a dabbler in various business interests. Burton was the son of lumber magnate William Burton and, as chief stakeholder, it was his daughter's name that graced the ship.

The Ida Burton sailed daily with passengers who had disembarked from trains at Barrie bound for the luxury hotels on the Muskoka Lakes.

She would sail to Orillia, and hence across the length of Lake Couchiching, to connect with stage coaches at Washago on the Severn River.

Coaches would then carry the weary travellers to Gravenhurst, where they would embark upon yet another steamer to reach their final destination.

She was a success from the start, but George Burton didn't get to enjoy the accolades for long. He drowned in Lake Simcoe on June 10, 1869. He was only 33 years old.

After his death, the Ida Burton was taken over by his brothers, Martin and James Lindsay, a pair of ambitious businessmen.

Though she continued for a time in the passenger trade, the steamship's fortunes were undermined when the Northern railway extended all the way to Gravenhurst. Instead, she was increasingly utilized as part of the Burton Brothers' industrial aspirations by towing logs from timber limits around the lakes to their sawmill at Barrie.

In 1875, the Ida Burton was badly damaged in a collision with another vessel. With their timber fortunes now being made at Byng Inlet on Georgian Bay, there was no real reason for the Burtons to rebuild their little steamship, so she remained moored along the Barrie docks.

Her end came a year later when her machinery was removed for sale and she was sunk alongside the Orillia shore to serve as the foundation of a wharf.

Presumably she lies there still, forgotten somewhere under the waters of Lake Couchiching.

The Ida Burton passed with one final distinction: that of the last side-wheeler to ply its trade upon the waters of Lake Simcoe.

Barrie Downtown master plan approved

Downtown master plan approved

Endorsing a 15-year master plan to redevelop downtown Barrie takes the same kind of vision and long-term commitment previous city councils demonstrated in developing the city's waterfront.

That's what council veteran Steve Trotter told his colleagues Monday night, just before they approved in principle the plan created by commercial master planner Patty Xenos.

"It's great to have a plan and I'm glad we have a plan. Our biggest task before we even begin implementation is to listen to the words of Ms. Xenos about this being the inspiration," said Trotter.

Known for her work with Intrawest Resorts, Xenos and her team worked on not only Blue Mountain and Mt. Tremblant, but most recently Queenstown, New Zealand, and many other waterfront communities in between.

Xenos stressed the plan – a 161-page document that outlines phases, timing and business planning as well as land use and what new buildings should go where – is "a guide and an inspiration" for the community today and tomorrow.

She based the plan on a series of neighbourhoods, or districts.

For instance, Collier Street would be a professional/financial district, while Dunlop West would be entertainment, Dunlop East the main shopping district, and Mulcaster Street the artistic walk. These neighbourhoods, along with other specialty areas, would be tied together with new pedestrian walkways that link to destinations, such as a new history-inspired market square near City Hall and a marine building at the foot of Mulcaster Street and the heart of downtown, Memorial Square.

"These things have happened before and in all cases, they were a piece of land one believed in and other developers walked by and said we can't do anything," she said, as she showed slides of the old port of Montreal, now an area of prime real estate. "You can make it happen."

Barrie has an advantage in that people already believe the city can be more with its waterfront so close to downtown, she said.

She suggested improving sight lines to the lake, as well as creating a boardwalk along a canal that allows Kempenfelt Bay to lap at your feet. She suggested creating bridges to link downtown with Heritage Park, as well as developing the rear facades of Dunlop Street shops and a new specialty boutique area behind them.

She suggested possible sites for hotels, for a cultural centre area that would include a performing arts centre, as well as a waterfront restaurant on the Bayfield Street pier.

"It's a big job, but it's realizable," she said, advising the city to set up a development corporation to oversee and manage the multi-phase project.

"(Other) cities have done it."

As the city starts with phase one – creating a canal along Lakeshore Drive between the road and Heritage Park, getting approval to fill a site for a new bayside restaurant (at the end of the government dock), getting approval for the new, two-lane Simcoe Street – energy and interest will pick up in the development and general community. Phase two, in five year's time, would be the construction of an icon building, such as, but not necessarily, a performing arts centre.

"It's an incredible opportunity and it's an incredible responsibility to leave something significant behind," she said.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Toronto Boat Show starts! Jan 14-22

links: show details

Show features and special event areas are part of the reason so many people love Canada's Largest Boat Show! The 2006 show will be no exception and will showcase something for everyone! Stop by the feature areas to "Put Some Summer in Your Winter!"

Province comes clean with new act

But how legislation will impact Durham water sources still needs review

DURHAM -- A step towards securing clean drinking water for Ontarians was taken last month with the introduction of the provincial Clean Water Act.

What the changes would mean for Durham Region water sources is still up for review.

The proposed act aims to deliver safe drinking water through legislation that would protect drinking water sources such as rivers, lakes, streams and groundwater. If passed in the legislature, the act will enable communities to identify potential risks to drinking water and take the necessary steps to reduce or eliminate the risk. It also would empower local authorities to take preventive measures before a threat to water causes harm.

Conservation authorities would co-ordinate planning across watersheds by supporting local municipalities, gathering information, assessing and ranking threats, consulting, and integrating municipal strategies into larger watershed plans.

"We are glad the legislation is finally out," said Gayle Soo Chan, director of groundwater resources for the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority. "We have been waiting a long time for it and we are encouraged by it."

But as far as any official comments on the impact it will have in Durham Region, Ms. Soo Chan explained there is much detail to be reviewed in the legislation before comments can be made.

"We will be going through it with a fine-toothed comb with our partners," Ms. Soo Chan said.

Durham Region is covered partially by three source protection regions: The Lake Simcoe Region group, the Trent Coalition group and the CTC, made up of the Credit River Conservation Authority, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority and Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority.

The CTC Region is currently reviewing the legislation, including the draft regulations released this week and Ms. Soo Chan said it will likely take one month for that process to be completed.

Ontario Environment Minister Laurel Broten introduced the legislation Dec. 5.

"It is ground-breaking legislation that safeguards the health of Ontario families by protecting the natural sources of drinking water across watersheds," said Anne O'Hagan, a spokeswoman for the minister.

Little Ice Age (Canada) -- Summary

Little Ice Age (Canada) -- Summary
In order to better understand the nature and possible causes of modern global warming, it is important to know what preceded it and why. In this summary, we briefly review what has been learned in this regard from pertinent studies conducted in Canada.
Futter (2003) analyzed data on ice break-up dates and length of ice-free season for several lakes in Southern Ontario, Canada. However, only one lake had ice break-up dates extending back beyond 1910 (Lake Simcoe, to 1853), and only one had ice-free season data extending back beyond 1971 (Lake Simcoe, again to 1853). Hence, Lake Simcoe was the only lake that had sufficient data to determine, in the words of Futter, "whether the trends in Lake Simcoe ice phenology were due to the end of the Little Ice Age, or to more recent warming."

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Search is on for Canadian Lake Monster

From a fellow blogger - hmmm..maybe it IS out there!

Search is on for Canadian Lake Monster

Friday, January 06, 2006

Lake Simcoe Coffee Table Book

For an absolutely stunning pictorial of all we love about the lake:

Lake Simcoe and Lake Couchiching

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Don't use illegal bait, anglers warned

Don't use illegal bait, anglers warned

With ice fishing season well under way in many areas of the lake, anglers are being warned about using illegal bait.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters and the Bait Association of Ontario are concerned invasive species, such as the round goby will get into the lake and devastate the sports fishery.

Lake trout and whitefish season opens New Year's day.

Round gobies were found in Pefferlaw Brook last year and a controversial plan to poison the river was carried out.

It is not known if the program was successful.

Due to its winter fishery, Lake Simcoe is the most intensively fished inland lake in Ontario.

Anglers, bait dealers and bait harvesters each have a critical role in stopping the spread of invasives, MNR scientists said.

It is illegal to take bait fish from one body of water and deposit it in another; to possess live goby or to use round gobies as bait, or for anglers, bait dealers and bait harvesters to store live baitfish that are not from Lake Simcoe or the watershed, in live holding boxes, cribs or receptacles in Lake Simcoe or its tributaries. It is the angler's responsibility to know the origin of bait.

Resident anglers who want to catch baitfish for personal use must have a valid fishing licence.

Licensed anglers can possess up to 120 baitfish they caught themselves (dead or alive) or got from a dealer without needing a receipt. They can have an unlimited number if they have a valid receipt from a legitimate baitfish dealer.

To help stop the spread of invasive species, anglers should not dump bait buckets into any lake or on the ice of any lake because it could introduce invasive fish species or microscopic invasive organisms which could harm the fishery.

Check bait buckets carefully for invasive or non-bait species before going out on any lake. Remove and freeze minnows suspected of being an invasive species and call the OFAH/MNR Invading Species Hotline at 1-800-563-7711 or visit

The ministry is strengthening its enforcement efforts to stop the spread of invasive species.

Call 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667 to report a natural resources violation or contact your local ministry office during regular business hours. You can also call Crime Stoppers anonymously at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).