Ice fishing at Tobin Lake is a little bit safer thanks to one man’s initiative.
Trevor Freemantle started the Tobin Lake Fishing Report, a Facebook group, in March 2016. The group has since accumulated almost 900 members.
Before the Report was started, Freemantle was overwhelmed with requests about ice conditions and catches.
“So many people would contact me because I lived right there,” Freemantle said in a phone interview Jan. 16. “I was usually the first guy on the ice and lots of times I had my ice shack out there in the middle of December if not earlier.”
Safety on ice
The Report ensures more people know about ice conditions like depth, heaves and cracks. It helped long-time Nipawin ice fisherman Brent Lindman last March when a large ice heave came up in the flats.
“Without that Tobin Lake Report, I probably would have headed out and drove right smack dab into it because I’m an early riser and I like to be out there before first light,” said Lindman Jan. 17. “Because I checked the Report, all of a sudden I knew there was an ice heave.”
Freemantle will post ice depth, but he recommends that each ice fisherman tests his own ice thickness. He recalled measuring one area at 8 inches, and finding ice only 1.5 inches thick about 70 yards away.
“I have a lot of respect for Mother Nature,” he said. “It isn’t worth risking your life to go fishing.”
Rules and regulations
More and more, Freemantle hopes the group is a space to encourage fishermen to follow the rules and respect the fish.
Once he’s removed the hooks, the fish is brought up for a quick picture, then sent right back into the water.
“Their eyes freeze so fast and their gills freeze so fast and that to me is just respect for the fish to let it go so someone else can go and experience the same thing that I just experienced.”
Freemantle warned that just because a fish swims away, doesn’t mean it’ll survive.
“There’s a lot of good fishermen on that page who follow it that are not shy to voice their opinion on proper etiquette,” he said. “It is good education because a lot of people were never taught the proper way of handling a fish.”
Regulations like catch-and-release and barbless hooks are credited with the quality of Tobin Lake’s fishery.
A little bit of fun
The Report also comes in handy during the summertime.
“We were in a couple of tournaments this year and we were doing live reports right on the water in the boat,” said Freemantle.
Gary Lehmanngoes out to Tobin Lake from Saskatoon. He grew up at Candle Lake, where his biggest catch was 8 pounds.
“My first year going out to Tobin Lake, I caught a 24-pound pike,” said Lehmann Jan. 17. “They do a great job in making sure that with the slot limits and stuff like that, that generations to come are going to be able to continue catching these trophies.”
Fishermen are encouraged to post their catches, whatever the season, for the group to appreciate.
Chris Garland is a Tisdale-based ice fisherman who has been making trips to Tobin for over a decade.
“It’s close, and obviously it’s a record-breaking lake,” said Garland Jan. 18. “Now, I get spoiled because it is such a great fishery.”
He said the Fishing Report is “a good group of guys, guys that are willing to share where the fishing is, what they’re biting on, the hotspots and whatnot.”