Who ever would have thought when I was planning my trip to Montreal that I would spend an afternoon ice fishing? Sure enough, I was introduced to a hugely popular winter experience only minutes away from downtown Montreal and I was impressed.
Opened January 12, 2013, Peche Blanche Vieux Montreal has already been attracting crowds from Montreal and abroad. In the few hours I was there, I met a family on vacation from France, locals who came out regularly and another group of guys were arriving just as I was leaving! They have had nearly 5,000 guests since they opened! I have to say, this Montreal based ice fishing business is off to a great start. They have only been open for less than 1 month and its popularity is growing!
Pêche Blanche Vieux-Montréal has everything you need to get started on something that is somewhat of a Canadian winter tradition. Their accessibility makes it perfect for anyone of any ability to get out on the ice and give ice fishing a try. They are situated right on the edge of the St Lawrence in the Old Montreal Port Marina making this seasonal fishing village literally minutes away from town (it took me less than 15 minutes to walk from my hotel). In no time, they had me set up with a day fishing license, rods and a bucket with minnows. I was taken to a pine ice shed (aka: ice shanty) that was the ultimate in comfort. The smell of fresh cut pine lingered in the hut that was heated with not one, but 2 heaters! In spite of how cold it was outside, inside I could undo my jacket and take my gloves off! All the holes were pre-drilled and ready for my fishing line.
I wasn’t sure what I would do if I actually caught a fish but Jean Desjardins, owner and founder, assured me that all I had to do was yell! They would be there to do all the dirty work! Even better…they would also package up my fish so that I could take it to one of the local restaurants to have it cooked up for dinner. They really have thought of everything!
Jean’s passion for fishing is evident as he talks about his business. He also runs summer fishing tours out on the St Lawrence River. He wants Montrealers and tourists alike to discover Montreal as a four-season fishing destination and so his dream of opening the Ice Fishing Village in the Old Port was born. As we sit in the warmth of the ice shanty, Jean shows me the depth charts for the river on his phone and talks about the nuances of fishing for the various fish in the area, including walleye, perch and burbot. He explains to me that one of the reasons people have been so successful in catching fish within the enclave of his fishing village is that the marina provides a protected environment for the fish with no current compared to further out on the river. It is the perfect fishing ground. While it was catch and release for us today, the average catch for walleye has been between 1.5 and 4 pounds.
The fishing village has 30 heated shelters with more space for open air fishing on the ice. The various shelters can hold groups of 8 – 12 people. Weekends get quite busy – it is recommended to make a reservation.
Early in the season, just like with a skating rink, Jean worked at flooding the surface and creating a solid base of ice for the village. He had me in stitches over his stories from the Christmas snow storms. With record snow fall, Jean needed to get the snow packed down and levelled off for the ice village to take shape. Armed with a group of friends and snow shoes, they spent the days running back and forth, packing down the snow. It has paid off…the ice is currently a meter thick and it is expected that the village will stay open until the end of March. It looks like Peche Blanche Vieux Montreal is in for a great season!