Spring Camping and Ice Fishing on the North Shore

How to Camp on the Ice

On the North Shore, there are so many ways to enjoy the late-winter/early-spring time. In my family, it’s spring camping and ice fishing!

I’m probably just like you (maybe) – I love the outdoors and outdoor activities, but you probably won’t find me camping and ice fishing during the deep freeze (although many people do). But when March rolls around and the days are longer and warmer, the conditions are perfect for staying a few nights on the ice for spring camping and ice fishing. For this trip, the forecast called for highs 35 – 43 and mostly sunny – not too shabby!

Two Bedroom, One Bath Estate on Mystery Lake

This was our family’s spring break vacation – four nights on the ice. The location is a remote frozen lake on the North Shore, about 30 minutes inland from Lake Superior. Once you get to the parking area, you have to snowmobile for several miles to get there. So, it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.

snowmobiling to winter camping and ice fishing

Snowmobiling to the lake

Our two-bedroom, one-bathroom estate consists of one “permanent” fish house, which stays there all season. There are also two pop-ups. The permanent house sleeps two, and one of the pop-ups sleeps one. The second pop-up is the potty room. And, yes, there is heat in all three!

winter camping and ice fishing

Two-bedroom, one-bathroom estate

I consider this fairly luxurious, primitive camping. Luxurious because the main house has a wood stove, bunks, a cooking area, and fishing holes, so you can be pretty comfortable. Primitive because you’re miles from anywhere, and you have to pack in and out all of your supplies and waste (yes, your poop).

Have you ever used a Luggable Loo? It’s a fantastic little portable potty that you can set up anywhere! It goes in the aforementioned pop-up potty room. 

Luggable Loo Portable Potty

Luggable Loo…there when you need it.

Speaking of gear and supplies, having all of the right specialized equipment is important for a successful (and comfortable) winter camping and ice fishing experience. Think portable shelters, wood, food for four days, cooking utensils, fishing gear, bait, sleeping gear, personal gear, and more.

All of this filled up two enormous sleds pulled behind the snowmobiles. Having reliable gear for the elements is so important! One of my personal favorites is my Duluth Pack Round Duffle because it’s rugged and stays dry. My hubbs has a couple of traditional Duluth Packs. They’re made for this stuff! 

Duluth Pack - winter camping

My Duluth Pack is one of my favorite gear items for camping and traveling!

And Now For The Fun

Once we get settled in, it’s time to continue the fun! Get the tip-up lines out, and the rattle reels hooked and baited. A typical catch on this lake is walleye, northern pike, and the occasional perch.

I caught a few of each on the rattle reel lines inside the house! It’s actually pretty lazy fishing. When a fish takes the bait, it triggers the reel to turn, and the bell inside rings – your official notification that you have a bite!

The boys fish the tip-ups outside. There’s plenty of fish, which we delightfully cooked up daily. 

Walleye caught ice fishing

One of my walleyes!

The mild conditions were perfect for being outside on the ice. “No coat” weather! Temps in the low 40’s and sunny for the most part. But as much as I love this, I also enjoy relaxing in my bunk with the dog and a good book. The wood stove keeps it nice and cozy, toasty.

Some of my other favorite things to do while spring camping and ice fishing are: 

  • Cross country skiing (the tracks from the sled make a great groomed track!)
  • Eagle watching
  • Campfire sitting
  • Picture Taking
  • Playing with the dog
  • Noticing the beautiful things in nature, like the morning ice crystals on the trees and brush.
  • Napping

Others enjoy snowmobiling, fishing, and visiting with other ice fishermen. 

Tracks from the sled make a great cross country ski trail!

Tracks from the sled make a great cross country ski trail!

a Bald Eagle making a steal from the ice

a Bald Eagle making a steal from the ice

However, the Chores are Relentless

In addition to all of the outdoor recreation and napping, and there’s a ton of work to be done! I’m pretty sure this is true with any camping trip, right?

The chores are relentless – keeping the wood stove going, making sure there’s hot water on the stove to wash, preparing meals, stoking the wood stove, cleaning up pots and dishes, maintaining fishing lines, stoking the wood stove, etc. Phew. And when I say “clean the dishes” It’s not like there’s a sink…so its a whole process.

wood stove inside of ice fishing house with Duluth Packs

Cozy up inside the fish house, keep the wood stove going.

The Simple Life

The best thing about spring camping and ice fishing is that you can truly get away. First, you’re in the middle of nowhere. Whatever stress is happening back in the real world – it just doesn’t matter out on the ice. You become immersed in doing what you are doing – whether you are relaxing and having fun outside, or doing the chores that maintain your comfort. There are no modern distractions like TV, internet, and cell phones. You’re living the simple life!

ice fishing and winter camping

ice fishing and winter camping

It also allows you to spend quality time and connect with your people. On this family getaway, we talked and got goofy, listened to the radio (either WTIP Community Radio, or one of the few Canadian stations), helped each other with the fishing and the chores, explored together on snowmobile, lit off toy rockets, played with the dog, built a campfire, looked at the night sky, had meals together, and basically hung out.

hangin out inside the ice fishing house

hangin out inside the ice fishing house

It was a blast, and so nice to spend quality time family together! My teenager was still indignant most of the time, but we don’t let that spoil our fun!

Plan Your Own Spring Camping and Ice Fishing Experience

Want to head into or near the wilderness for an early-spring outdoor getaway? Check out these places on the Gunflint Trail! 

Bearskin Lodge
Hungry Jack Lodge
Poplar Haus
Loon Lake Lodge
Gunflint Lodge
Tuscarora Lodge and Canoe Outfitters 

You can also purchase or rent equipment from Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply in Grand Marais.

You may also like

Snowmobile Drag Races: Devil Track Lake

Snowshoeing the Kadunce River Gorge

Springtime Ski and Hike in Lutsen

Sled Dog Tour: Fall Training Run

 

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