For Ryan Cunningham, ice fishing has been a passion he seeks to pass on to his children.
Cunningham, a 45-year-old forestry worker, said he’s been a hardcore fisherman for many years ever since growing up in Maple Ridge. He’s both lived and fished all across the province before settling in 100 Mile House, which he describes to his friends as “absolute paradise,” 15 years ago
“The fishing is phenomenal and I don’t see myself leaving anytime soon,” Cunningham said.
He first got into fishing as a child when his father took him out to Mike Lake with his cousin and together they caught “a pile of fish.” Over the years he began to graduate to river fishing on the Vedder River, which he still fishes once a year with his old high school friends. Since settling in 100 Mile House, he makes frequent trips to Kamloops to fish, as well as a yearly trip to Bella Coola. He has also fished the Shuswap for the last 11 years, and invited friends from all over the province to fish with him in the South Cariboo.
“What do I like most about fishing? Just getting out and enjoying nature, the peace and quiet, the fresh air and hanging out with friends while making memories with them and my kids,” Cunnigham said. “It’s kind of nice to bring a meal home every now and again as well.”
Cunningham’s father got him into ice fishing with an annual trip to Loon Lake, which he said he remembers vividly. These experiences are so etched into his mind that he now seeks to pass them on to his own children.
Cunningham says he does a mix of catch and release and fishing for food, as his children really like eating salmon and trout. When they fish for food, he said he teaches them the whole process including how to clean, fillet and prepare a fish for a meal. It’s all about teaching them the skills his father taught him, Cunningham said.
So far he said his children have found ice fishing with him “pretty neat” though some days it can be boring when you don’t catch anything. However, other days, you won’t be able to keep the fish off your line.
When asked where’s the best place to ice fish in the area, Cunningham declined to reveal his best spots. However, he admitted he likes to take his children to Irish Lake due to its low-risk nature, proximity to a parking lot and its closeness to 100 Mile House.
Earlier this month, Cunningham took his children out for the first fishing trip of the season with some friends and said it turned out to be a successful one, with several bites and two fish being caught.
When asked what lake they fished at, he laughed and said “we can call it Zippermouth Lake.”
“The kids love ice fishing, it’s a bit of an event in our house. We tend to pack everything up the night before and when the alarm goes off we’re up and at them out the door right away before the sun comes up,” Cunningham said.
He remembers the first time he took them ice fishing and his daughter, Macy, put her foot in the hole all the way up to her thigh and when he pulled her out her boot was left floating in the water. That ended that trip, Cunningham said. Despite that first impression, both Macy and her brother Owen ask him to go fishing, which he said is heartwarming.
To anyone looking to try ice fishing this year, Cunningham encourages them to be safe and just enjoy the outdoors. Ice fishing isn’t all about the fishing he said, but about making memories and enjoying the winter.
“Out in the bush I’d say the lakes are just starting to freeze up now. There was about five inches (of ice) in one spot and only about three inches in another spot, so this is the time of the year when the ice starts packing on,” Cunningham said, observing that he’s heard some people have begun fishing on Irish Lake.
“We’re extremely lucky to live where we are with the diversity of fish that we have. We have Rainbow Trout, River Trout, Lake Trout, Kokanee and you can fish for all of these species throughout the winter. There’s lots of opportunities to get out and explore.”