Top 5 Ice Fishing Spots in Central Alberta

With travel being limited, I have talked to alot of people taking up fishing, amungst other outdoor activities.  Although the summer fly-fishing on the Bow River is one of the most popular angling experiences in Canada, there’s no shortage of ice fishing opportunities in the colder months. Within a 2 hour drive you can find yourself on top of huge Pike or beautiful Rocky Mountain Cutthroat. 

Ghost Reservoir

Ghost is notoriously challenging to fish. There are stories of 15 to 20 pound Lakers coming out of the hardwater but these reports are usually coming from anglers who have put a lot of time in on this waterbody. Rainbow, Cutthroat, and Lake Trout are the primary sportfish on this Bow River impoundment. The reservoir can get quite windy so prepare to brave the elements. The Ghost River inflow can be a productive area for some. Just north of the recreation area, the hills provide some cover from the strong westerly winds.

Those who have success on Ghost tell us to be drilling holes before the sun comes up, use a small jig with a minnow or the smallest white tube jig you can buy, and fish in 40 feet of water just off the bottom. Make sure to jig aggressively and pause to give these lakers a chance to attack it. Make sure the fish has taken your bait before you set the hook because it might be the only chance you get!

Historical reports tell us that there were 9 different species found in the Reservoir: Lake Trout, Brown Trout, Mountain Whitefish, Lake Whitefish, Longnose Sucker, White Sucker, Burbot, Brook Stickleback and Longnose Dace. 

The Ghost Reservoir is located 19 km west of Cochrane or about 45 minutes west of Calgary. The Ghost Lake Recreation Area will be on the southside of the highway just after the bridge, 2 km west of the highway 40 intersection. Boat launch area is available in the winter but can be windswept and inaccessible by vehicle.

Chain Lakes Reservoir

Located within Chain Lakes Provincial Park, this reservoir provides fabulous fishing opportunities for numerous species of Trout: Rainbow, Brook, Bull and Cutthroat.  While the Chain Lakes are heavily stocked, some of the heaviest in the province with around 100,000 Rainbow Trout released in 2016, the popularity of these lakes means that most of the fish are in the smaller range of about 12 inches.

What the fish lack in size, however, is made up for by their abundance. These Trout are eager to bite. Brook Trout are also caught in the lakes, migrating through Willow Creek. Combined, the Brook and Rainbow stock make for reasonable assurance of success. Remember, at-risk Bull Trout must be released in good condition.

Spoons, glow hooks and mealworms are good hardware choices for consistent catches in the winter. Use of bait fish is not permitted in any water in the drainage basin and no bait of any sort is allowed in streams. All streams in the basin are closed to fishing from November through May. That said, Anglers frequent the Chain Lakes in large numbers during the winter to make the most of the lake’s ice fishing opportunities. In streams, no Rainbow or Cutthroat trout under 25 cm may be kept.

The reservoir was named for the 3 chain lakes that nearly filled the area. The park lies within Canada’s last large expanse of mostly undisturbed montane landscape between the Rocky Mountains and Porcupine Hills. There are a wide variety of birds in the montane landscape, as well as scenic views of the Livingsone Mountain Range.

Angler’s Atlas members note that the north end can be weedy and that there’s great fishing at the south end.  As well, reports and photos all suggest that there is a great deal of good shore access on the south end. Regulations are different for Chain Lakes North and Chain Lakes South, so be sure to check before heading out.

The reservoir is about a 90-minute drive from Calgary along Hwy. 22, otherwise known as the historic Cowboy Trail. Drive approximately 75 km south of the city, and Hwy. 22 runs along the eastern boundary of Chain Lakes Provincial Park at the south end of the lake.  There are 124 campsites with picnic tables, firepits, and a day-use area. Only communal firepits are provided due to the dry conditions of the area. The boat launch is located just west of Loop A, visit the Alberta Parks website at for more information or for maps.

Lake Newell

Newell is a productive lake in southern Alberta near Brooks and is the largest man-made reservoir in southern Alberta. Users say there are some monster Pike and Walleye if you manage to track them down. Although you might be tempted to take one home, Newell is a strict catch and release lake for pike and is a part of the walleye tag system.

Make sure to check weather reports because, with warmer temperatures, ice can be thin and dangerous. Be sure to check ice thickness often. Newell can see high winds in every season so be prepared and dress appropriately. 

Lake Newell is located 2 hours southeast of Calgary. Head east on the Trans-Canada Highway to Brooks. Exit on Cassils Road when you see the Flying J gas station. Turn left just after the Brooks & District Museum and Tourist Information centre on Southerland Drive. Head south on 7th Street (Hwy 873) for 20 minutes until you see the signs for Kinbrook Island Provincial Park. Turn right and follow for 2km until you arrive at the park. There is vehicle access from the boat launch when the ice is safe and approach is clear.

Eagle Lake

Although not quite 5 metres deep, Eagle Lake near Strathmore supports a reliable fishery for Pike and Walleye of decent size — 5 lbs or more.  As well, Eagle Lake was stocked with 7,500 Cutthroat Trout in 2014. Eagle Lake is rich in nutrients and undergoes dense blooms of blue-green algae through the summer months. Partly because of this and the shallow lake level, Eagle is preferred for its ice fishing rather than as a summer destination.

Locals suggest orange jigs with glow in the dark heads for pike fishing. Some anglers report pulling up 20-40 pike per day in the winter months. Fishing pressure, however, can be intense. Please be considerate of other anglers on the ice. Drive slowly and give space to those setup on a hole.

Follow Hwy. 1 east about 60 km from Calgary centre to Range Rd. 243 on the right side of the highway. The lake is 7 km from Strathmore. There is a recreation area, including lake access, located roughly seven km from the turnoff on the right side of the road.

Crawling Valley Reservoir

Crawling Valley Reservoir, sometimes referred to as Barkenhouse Lake, is an offstream irrigation storage reservoir about 150km east of Calgary. A productive Pike and Walleye Lake, there is decent Whitefish and Burbot fishing mid-winter. In the late 1980’s Crawling was an excellent trout lake after years of building stocks and creating spawning areas. Anglers consistently caught trout over 15lbs! Today, it is a much different fishery with Pike as the main predator in these waters. Locals suggest using a flasher jig tipped with a minnow.

West access is from the recreation area on the west shore at the south end, near the main dam. If you’re travelling from Calgary, take Highway 1 east until you are just north of the town of Bassano, then turn off Highway 1 and continue travelling east for 5 km, then north for 3 km following signage.

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