The community of Georgina, on the southern shores of beautiful Lake Simcoe has a long history of ice fishing. In the winter, ice cream parlors have shut up shop but bait stores are still open and fishing huts dot the frozen lake. Lake Simcoe, world-renowned as an ice fishing destination.
Today, the landscape is white-on-white and it feels more like being in northern Canada than a little more than an hour away from downtown Toronto.
Ken Heyink grew up on the ice. He is the second-generation operator of Hank Heyink Fish Hut Rentals, which organizes ice fishing trips on Lake Simcoe. Ken says his love of ice fishing started when he was 12 years old, when he’d race home from school and go fish on the lake for a few hours, ignoring his homework.
You don’t need to be an expert fisherman—or woman—to try your luck ice fishing. You don’t need access to a boat to reach lake trout – all you need is a pole and some bait.
Ken’s dad, Hank, was one of the operators offering ice fishing trips on Lake Simcoe back in 1952. Then, anglers walked out on the ice or catch a ride in their Model A 1927 pick-up truck. Today, Hank Heyink Fish Hut Rentals own 17 huts on the frozen lake and have swapped their truck for a vintage bright red 12-person bombardier. This ‘snow bus’ was originally used in Quebec by emergency services and eventually school buses and to help deliver the mail.
We travel two miles out onto the ice where huts dot the landscape. The bombardier bumps along the ice, snow kicking up from the ground on to the windscreen. The view outside is variations of white and grey. What our ride lacks in comfort, it makes up for in utility. Before GPS, Christmas trees would dot the frozen lake every 100 metres or so, like lights on a runway, guiding ice fishing outfitters and seasonal anglers across the ice. “I’m sure I could do this blindfolded,” says Ken.
Lake Simcoe is home to over 40 species of fish in the lake. The most popular catch for ice anglers are yellow perch, lake trout and whitefish, as well as Northern Pike. For purists, ice fishing is about making a hole in the frozen water, dropping a line and sitting on a stool bracing the elements as you wait for a fish to bite.
If you’re looking for some comfort, Hank Heyink Fish Hut Rentals and other operators in the area will bring you directly to ice fishing huts during the frigid winter months. The comfortable huts are heated using vented propane furnaces. There’s a stove at the back – to make a hot drink to keep warm or fry up your day’s catch. In the centre of the ground is a large hole cut into the ice, where you can drop your line and try your luck dangling your line in the ice-cold water.
Ice fishing poles are usually shorter than the ones you use in the summer as you’re casting into a small hole. If you don’t have your own equipment, outfitters will rent them to you. We try our luck with a tip-up pole, made from wood. When a fish bites, a trigger activates and lets you know you have caught something.
Padded benches line the inside of the hut on either side of the fishing hole and we’re also provided with a bucket of minnows to lure our catch. The fishing hole is equipped with tip up stands so you can rest your line. Like fishing during the warmer months, ice fishing is a game of chance (we leave empty handed) and patience. There are some techniques you can employ – such as switching up your bait or slowly moving your tip up and down.
Maybe the fish are having an off day and after an hour of fishing, we leave empty handed. If we did have better luck, the beauty of ice fishing is you can leave your catch on the ice until you’re ready to take it home. For Mike, ice fishing is about the challenge of finding the fish during the winter months, as fish move under the frozen lake. Even on a day where the weather could be best described as ‘inclimate’ there’s a sense of adventure in rugging up, embracing the Canadian winter and experiencing Ontario’s lakes in a way you normally can’t.
The ice fishing season on Lake Simcoe runs from January until mid-March.
What you will need:
- A valid fishing license before your rod hits the ice. You can arrange a license online or visit your local Canadian Tire store.
- Winter clothing – even though the transport and huts are heated, you’ll still need to dress to stay warm.
- If you have your own fishing rods and tackle, bring them along. Outfitters can also rent you a tip up style rod and tackle is available for sale.
This summer we put out a call for stakeholders wanting to partner with Central Counties to bring the stories of temperance and temptation to life. Central Counties spent the better part of a year researching the history of our small towns as they relate to the history of alcohol production, consumption and opposition and brought them to life through audio tours for self-guided participants and actors and music for the guided tours.
We then asked our partners to further enhance the experiences by doing something special for participants upon their arrival. Our partners have truly stepped up, offering special treats whenever a participant uses the secret code upon arrival. This is a new approach for Central Counties and we have been thrilled with the response we are getting from both stakeholders and the public. The tours are designed with one main purpose – to drive people to our region and give them a reason to spend time and money within it. I recently took three people on a test run of the Durham Tour and we added up the total spent (not including a fill-up of gas in Whitby). Between the food and the bottles/cans we purchased to bring home, we were just over $400 or $100 per person. And we didn’t even get to see and do everything on the tour because of time constraints.
As an industry, we have to do a better job of demonstrating the economic impact of tourism to our municipal, regional and provincial stakeholders. All partners of the Temperance and Temptation tours have agreed to collect and share visitor data with Central Counties so that we can tell the good news story of the experiences. Temperance and Temptation is not a one and done program. Our goal is to grow it year after year, adding new stories and new partners. In five years, I would love Central Counties to be as synonymous with bootlegging and temperance as Kentucky is to bourbon!
I highly recommend that each of you take time this summer or fall to enjoy at least one of the self-guided tours to see how partners are stepping up to enhance the consumer experiences. Through the year, we will be researching our next experiences that we believe will be a hit with the types of visitors that frequent our region and will keep you posted on opportunities to partner as they arise. And remember, if you have an idea for saleable, trackable experiences that you want to bring to market, please reach out. We are always looking to assist those that are looking for new ways to drive visitation.
Have a great summer and check out our partners in the Temperance and Temptation tour!
Best regards, Chuck Thibeault
Building on the success of last year’s Ultimate Road Trip campaigns, with recording breaking visitation of more than 240k consumer visits to www.yorkdurhamheadwaters.ca, Central Counties is once again Ontario’s Ultimate Road Trip Destination this summer! The Road Trip Magazine featuring some of Central Counties member businesses was circulated to 120,000 Globe & Mail customers.
Our businesses are reporting excellent results from the campaign:
“One of the guest couples just checked out after spending two nights with us and they mentioned the reason they booked was the Ultimate Road Trip magazine. Getting immediate results from that campaign made my partner and I do a little happy dance in the kitchen this morning. We cannot thank Central Counties enough for all the work you do to enhance tourism in the YDH region. We look forward to building upon these successes as we continue to improve the tourism landscape in the Town of Erin with Central Counties.” Trevor Crystal, Tailwinds Bed & Breakfast, Hillsburgh
See the Road Trip Magazine Below:
Hold onto your hats. I know for many of you the busy season is right around the corner. Central Counties is hard at work launching our summer campaign which includes the Road Trip Magazine, supporting content on yorkdurhamheadwaters.ca, lots of media FAMS and bloggers to write about the great things to see and do in our region and the launch of the Temperance and Temptation experiences. The Road Trip Magazine gets distributed through the Globe & Mail, the Ontario Travel Information Centres and CAA. All of the articles have a call to action to visit yorkdurhamheadwaters.ca which expands on the content and helps consumers choose what they want to do while visiting our great region. Once they get an idea of the opportunities here in Central Counties, they will be able to click directly to your website to make their plans.
Last summer we worked with a few stakeholders who placed a meta tag on their websites which tracked where their web traffic was coming from. If you haven’t already done so, I suggest that you set your site up with Google Analytics. It is a great way to see what methods are working the best. We were able to track more than 27,000 leads (clicks from our website to the stakeholder site) just from one campaign. We would love to know how many leads get sent to all of you from our website and online activities.
Summer is also a great time to get a better understanding of who your customers are. It really doesn’t take a lot of time. I am sure you have been to a grocery or retail store and get asked what your postal code is as you checkout. It really is as simple as that. If you train your staff to collect the postal code and city/town for each customer, you will be able to utilize our consumer data analysis program. The $99 package includes full customer analysis, training on how to interpret the data and suggestions on how to utilize the information to drive more visitors to your location. The world’s most successful businesses spend a good chunk of change figuring out how to get the most bang for their limited marketing dollars. Central Counties is making it reasonably priced even for the smallest business. More information about the program can be found here.
As I write this month’s update, I am listening to the audio files for the Durham Temperance and Temptation self-guided tour. Delivered with the reserved properness of the early settlers, each chapter recounts the history of the area and the divisive effects of alcohol consumption and the temperance movement on the communities – illustrating them with interesting and funny stories. I am really excited about these new self-guided experiences which are set to launch in early July. Participants will take an incredible journey back in time and will be directed to visit several businesses along the way and encouraged to take as many “detours” as possible to visit even more of you during their travels.
What sets this apart from all of our other routes and itineraries is that the stakeholders are actively participating by providing a special experience for the participants, supporting the program through their marketing channels and tracking all of the visitors who come through the doors. It really is taking our experiences to the next level and I look forward to speaking with you about how you can get involved with this or other new experiences we are creating. I believe it is going to set us apart from the rest of the province and I can’t wait to jump in my car and take the journey’s!
Have an incredible and prosperous summer. If you need us for anything, I am just an email away at email@example.com.
Best regards, Chuck Thibeault
Congratulations to Landman Gardens and Bakery, King Township and The Second Wedge Brewing Co. who were this year’s recipient of the Member Spotlight presented at Central Counties June AGM. The Member Spotlight is presented annually for each region to a business that represents a strong tourism ready business model and works with Central Counties, its partner organizations and their community to build a product that keeps evolving and reaching for excellence.
Close to 100 region members attended the AGM at the newly opened Marriott Toronto Markham to learn about Central Counties programs and opportunities, hear the road the Member Spotlight recipients followed to boost their success and get an update from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) on how to work through the Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, that came into effect this year. Nothing beats seeing the speakers in person, but if you missed the AGM, the TIAO, Central Counties and Member Spotlight presentations are posted here on centralcounties.ca – your B2B resource.