Most folks returning home from a trip to Whistler Blackcomb will be packing their skis, their snowboards and their goggles.
Not many will be bringing back a rainbow trout.
But the lucky ones – the ones who've bypassed the ski hills in favour of one or two of the many frozen lakes dotting the Whistler-to-Pemberton corridor – will be coming home, not only with a good-sized rainbow, but perhaps also with a bull trout, a coastal cutthroat or a kokanee.
Ice fishing may be far from the top of the list of winter recreational pursuits in the region, but it's right up there when it comes to cold-weather Canadiana.
Book an ice-fishing expedition and you'll be provided with transportation to and from the fishing sites, gear and bait, full instruction, and refreshments. For their part, participants need to bring warm clothing and boots – absolutely necessary, even given the heated ice huts that are usually erected – freshwater fishing licences, and cameras to record the one-of-a-kind photos ops that will present themselves.
Even though some are taking fairly recent notice of a pursuit most associate with eastern parts of the country – the Fairmont Chateau Whistler has an ice-fishing package that's new to its repertoire of guest activities this year – locals have been hunkering down over their holes in the ice for some time, says Scott LeBoldus, a year-round guide with Pemberton Fish Finder.
The company has a variety of packages on offer throughout the calendar, including one designed for bachelorette and stag parties. (LeBoldus, who's been fishing since the age of three, notes he had a particularly memorable outing last year, when he was the guide for an especially spirited stag party for 20-odd beer-swilling fellows. Half of the group played ice hockey on the lake while the other half fished. And then the two groups switched off.)
The Fairmont's ice-fishing package usually runs from November through to early April, with the largest catches up Pemberton way. (Trout from the Pemberton area easily reach upwards of 10 pounds, according to the Fish Finder website.)
Closer to Whistler, however, there are also a good number of suitable lakes, including Lost Lake, which has recently had ice thicknesses of eight inches – "thick enough to drive a truck on," LeBoldus says. (If you book the ice-fishing package and it's not cold enough to do it safely when you arrive, then a river fishing trip can be substituted.)
The Fairmont has been partnering with Fish Finder on its two-night "Break the Ice" package, on offer for $1,575, based on double occupancy. It includes two nights hotel accommodation, a five-hour guided tour, a gourmet picnic lunch, and dinner for two in the hotel's Grill Room (in which hotel chefs will prepare and serve the guests' catch of the day – and if you happen to be unlucky enough to not catch anything, you can order something else from the menu).
"Getting on to a frozen lake is intrinsically Canadian," says Michelle Leroux, the hotel's director of public relations. It was Leroux who came up with the offering after the challenging skiing season last year, when good snow was at a premium.
"I was really focused on developing an experience that would be unique and allow our guests the chance to get off the beaten tourist track here in Whistler, while not completely relying on good snow."
Now when you head up to one of North American's premier skiing destinations make sure to bring your fishing rod.
The author's ice-fishing excursion was courtesy of the Fairmont Chateau Whistler. It did not review or approve this article.