1 April, 2010: Scott Island summer resident Tom Stutzman contributed: “There’s still a multiple-acre cube on Indian and remnants in front of the cottage in Stout’s Lower Bay. On the trail only one big maple top needed the chain saw. The Island is sloppy in places.”

OOPS! 31 March, 2010: The ice may be out at Chaffey’s Locks, but there’s a lot of it still in the middle part of the Big Rideau, and Otter Lake hasn’t let go yet. Don’t go roaring around the lakes in the dark just yet, o.k?
Sorry about the confusion in the 29 March posting. I was tied up with maple syrup and didn’t go to look myself.

28 March, 2010: Here’s a comment from the owner of the bubbler at the edge of Newboro Harbour.

I know what you mean about the pump and the ice. I watched a stand-off between 1/4 acre ice sheet and possum dock pump on Sunday afternoon. The pump held its own against that high wind and didn’t allow the ice sheet within 15′. Pretty impressive. What was also really cool was to see the wave action at the back of the ice floe eat away at it. Once the thing had jammed up against Rose’s shoreline it was held in place by our pump. The waves were relentless. The small pieces that broke off added to the chewing, acting like sandpaper. Amazing thing to watch.

26 March, 2010: So much for my prediction of ice-out. It’s bitterly cold out today with a strong north or north-east wind. In Portland the ice hasn’t apparently moved. It’s fortunate that the melt wasn’t more advanced before this session of wind, or there’d be a lot of damage to docks. The only loose floe I saw was in the bay just north of Portland, where a large chunk of ice in shallow water had come adrift and gone ashore. In Otter Lake the ice is still holding with little movement and no damage apparent from the road.

Evening: Newboro Lake ice out from the lock has big holes in it, and it’s clear between the islands, but the ice doesn’t appear to have moved much. The Little Rideau, on the other hand, had a large chunk of the ice break out of the centre and wash up on the south shore. Around Westport Harbour it’s clear, and there’s a clearing down the north shore.

25 March, 2010: Ken Watson’s website reports ice out on Sand Lake yesterday, March 24. http://www.rideau-info.com/local/local_waterquality.html

Notwithstanding the good news from Sand Lake, Newboro has a considerable ice pack, set to become mobile in the right wind. The ice has pulled out about 100 feet from the shore in the main harbour at Newboro. Toward Cherry Island it’s clear because of Tony’s magnum bubbler, but further east toward the sanctuary there’s still a lot of ice poised for mischief. Let’s hope it sinks.

23 March, 2010 Observations: Tony’s bubbler at his dock next to the informal boat launch in Newboro (Newboro Lake) has pushed the ice out well beyond Cherry Island and about 100 yards to the east and 250 yards to the west, toward the public launch ramp. Around the rest of the harbour the ice has sunken to the level of the water and looks weak. It has retreated from docks and shallows which would have attracted sunlight or runoff. The transition from water to ice was very hard to see on a wet, foggy morning, as there was no clear line of demarcation between the two.

19 March Observations: From the Narrows Locks Lockstation I observed the Big Rideau largely clear of ice out to Trout Island. The Little Rideau’s ice is right up against shore, except for shallow bays, where it has melted. At Newboro a bubbler has opened the ice from the shore out to Cherry Island, though ice is tight around the Newboro Lockstation, but dangerously weak along shore and eroded out past the end of the docks at the public boat launch.

Ice out is always a matter of speculation, but I would think another week should do it. I’ll predict ice-out on Newboro Lake March 26th.

18 March, 2010: In Portland Harbour on the Big Rideau the ice has separated from the shoreline. While the ice is black in appearance, the most likely cause of the narrow band of open water is the elevated level of the lake. Road salt and ubiquitous bubblers may well have also contributed to the effect.

9 March, 2010: I walked down to the informal launch ramp on Newboro Lake to see how my friend’s bubbler was doing.  In a day it had removed the ice from around his dock, cutting it vertically about six feet out from the dock.  Ice at the edge looked to be over a foot, but the view across the lake was anything but encouraging for ice travel.  First, the gravel launch ramp area has thawed on its own.  An occasional vehicle has dropped through.  The Township now has it blocked off with snow fence.  The surface of the lake in general looks very black for this time of year.

We finished work on this dock last year on March 15th, and I think the ice is less stable this year now than it was then.  I certainly wouldn’t take my tractor on this.

6 March, 2010: My friend drilled a hole in the ice close to shore on Newboro Lake today.  He reported 8″ of slushy ice.

1 March, 2010: Just read another report on a truck through the Ottawa River in the vicinity of Petrie Island. Missing driver. That’s three trucks and two (likely) dead in a week. My friend worked in 8″ of slush on top of the ice while he made adjustments to his dock on Newboro Lake. It’s time to keep heavy vehicles off the lakes and rivers. The one that went in tonight was trying to free a stuck vehicle.

UPDATE:  This one gets sadder and sadder.  The guy who drowned was not a dumb risk-taker.  Two friends drilled test holes and planned their route carefully, the goal to salvage an abandoned ice shack.  One truck got stuck.  Long cable:  lie down on ice to hook it to undercarriage.  The guy disappeared through the ice.

February 22, 2010: This last weekend was the time to wander all over Newboro Lake. My Ranger joined a Yamaha ATV as a group of boaters from Indian Lake Marina went gunkholing, using the Izatt Lodge in Newboro as their base of operations. Sounds as though the winter fleet is likely to grow. To judge from the reviews, this may become an annual event, whether the dog races run or not.

Our son and his pals tapped the woodlot yesterday. Seems very early, but conditions seemed right. On a scarier note, two trucks dropped through the Ottawa River yesterday, with one fatality. Time to think spring.

February 14, 2010: Lots of ice out there for the Newboro Ice-fishing Derby today. The turnout was very good, and the parking lot around the weigh-in station off McCaskill’s Island would put a local supermarket’s to shame. No sign of movement from the ice, though.

The fish actually bit this morning, with the winning northern pike weighed in at about five and a half pounds, if memory serves. A few good black crappie and perch came in, as well. To save space on the leader board, Doug Burtch, the organizer, will only write an entry up if it exceeds the weight of the current entry in that category. Thus my fishing buddy Tony’s 2lb 13 ounce pike, like many others, failed to get onto the board.

The social part of the event centred around Mrs. Helen Burtch dishing out a pickup-truck-load of door prizes from local contributors. From a large barbecue a guy named Andre served a variety of hot dogs, chili, beef stew and such. Spectators and diners alike gathered downwind to enjoy the aromas. A charming young border collie named Molly had pulled her master’s sled to the festivities, then held court while the weigh-in ceremony revolved around her.

Not a bad morning, all around. Here’s hoping we get enough snow this week to allow the dogsled races to run next weekend.

January 24,  2010: While ice fishing yesterday we drove the Ranger over the northern half of Newboro Lake and encountered solid footing everywhere and about 12- 14″ of hard, crisp ice.  Water is low and there is little current at this time, though that can change overnight.  Snow accumulation wasn’t a problem anywhere we went and little loose snow is available to drift after the melt cycle.

This morning was even crisper.  Frankly I found it cold out there, even with full snowmobile attire.  My chin grew very cold in the wind.  The only driving hazards I encountered were the many frozen ruts in the snow.  I make a policy of never wearing seatbelts on the lake, but I found myself reconsidering that after a few lumpy crossings of angled tracks of frozen slush.

January 22, 2010:  First drive on Newboro Lake

I loaded up the Ranger and “launched” at Newboro at the public dock.  The other access site is blocked off for the season due to the risk of unstable ice because of the bubbler near the road, though it’s temporarily out of the water now.  I spoke to a guy named Phillips who is a local fire fighter.  He’s been working on a boat house on the water, and reports ice depths of 8″ to 14″, with the only iffy section in the middle of the lake, where the drop in water depth created a dish which filled with melt water from the snow during the warm weather.  That area is still slushy.

A drive out onto the lake proved what he said to be true.  There’s lots of evidence of truck tracks breaking through the top ice once you clear the line of islands outside Newboro.  Things were reasonably well frozen for a thousand-pound vehicle this morning, but I did my reconnaisance at full throttle and beat it back to more secure ice.  The region around the village seems to be good going, to judge from the ploughed road and the many independent truck tracks.

January 20, 2010: After a promising start to the winter, the ice has received a major setback with a couple of weeks of mild weather.  Yesterday Otter Lake was open in the middle.  This morning I noticed that it had frozen over.  Woe betide the snowmobiler who tries to cross that thin skiver of ice!  Chances are it will open up again the next mild day.  Yesterday was mild and overcast, so I looked around for a potential ice fishing site.  Portland showed deep ruts in the slush from an ATV grinding out to a fishing shack.  Opinicon Lake at Chaffey’s Locks has a lot of open water, as it usually does, though with little current.  The big surprise was the pair of trumpeter swans which buzzed the cedars at the end of the point.  Man, are those birds big!  I counted seven of them in all on the ice at Chaffey’s.

Without a week of very cold weather the ice will remain no good.

January 5, 2010: There’s ten inches of ice in the bay at Portland, but the middle of the Big Rideau is still open.  Ominously, the opening in the middle of Otter Lake seems to be growing larger as snow accumulates on the ice.  To judge by the lack of tracks, people are staying off the ice so far.

December 20, 2009:  A couple of test holes on Newboro Lake a hundred feet out from the village shore show five inches of ice.  While helping my friend adjust his bubbler so as to allow the northern boat launch ramp to freeze properly, I noticed that there’s a decent gravel bottom along shore once a bit of the sediment is washed away.

December 18, 2009: The Big Rideau at Portland and Otter Lake seen from Hwy 15 both showed full ice cover as far as I could see this afternoon.

December 16, 2009: The run of cold weather is firming things up.  Apart from the spots of open water caused by bubblers under docks, the Newboro end of the lake seemed to have formed a nice sheet with a little snow on it.

December 12, 2009: The ice is back, folks.  I noticed that Morton Creek was mostly frozen when we drove by on Hwy 15 yesterday.  Ice formed overnight in the bays and the village end of Newboro Lake.  Indian Lake wasn’t frozen over when I looked earlier today, but we broke a half-inch or so of ice to make way for a bubbler on a dock on the Newboro waterfront.

9 Responses to “Ice Report: Winter of 2009-2010, Rideau Lakes”

  1. stephane Says:

    february 3 2010, hi I am going fishing in portland on the weekend of the 5th and really want too catch lake trout, is there any good spot where I don’t have to go too far from portland boat lanch please let me know

    • rodcros Says:


      Lake trout and splake is closed all winter on the Rideau Lakes: the Big Rideau, the Upper Rideau, and the Lower Rideau. Both splake and lake trout are open on Newboro, Indian, Opinicon Lakes, as well as tributaries such as Upper and Lower Rock Lake. Because of the difficulty in distinguishing between lake trout (forked tail) and splake (square tail like a speckled trout), the Ministry has chosen to do away with seasons on native lakers on Indian Lake, for example, and close the winter season on splake on the Big Rideau.

      You’ll have to stick with pike and crappies this time of year on the Big Rideau, but there is a cluster of ice huts just out from the boat launch in Portland, and I am sure you will find space to put down a hole.

      Good luck,

  2. Tim Welch Says:

    Hi Rod,

    First off, thanks for doing this blog, it’s been really insightful. My family has a cottage on Newboro Lake and we spend many months up there during the summer. However, we have never been up during the winter months. But we are looking forward to heading up in a couple of weeks to go to the sled dog races and do some quality ice fishing. We had a few questions that we were hoping you might help us answer before we make the trek up there. This summer, we talked to a nice woman at the public loading dock who told us that she frequently drives over the ice in the winter. Our cottage is south of McCaskill Island. Do you think there will be marked “roads” on the ice? If not, but it is indeed drivable, is there any sort of protocol as to how far we should keep away from the shore? Our small SUV has 4 wheel drive, but would tire chains be useful/necessary? We will be staying at the cabin, so do you think that we could keep the car parked on the ice overnight?
    We’ll be doing some ice fishing as well. During the summer months, we typically use either live bait or soft baits. What would you suggest during the winter months? Is live bait available at Burch’s or Norris’s or anywhere else? From your previous posts, it sounds like we should be looking for pike for the most part.
    You mentioned an ice dip in your last post on Newboro Lake. We’re curious as to where that is. We’ll be staying on the north end of the lake. Will the ice dip be an issue?
    Since we’ll be up there soon, maybe we will catch you at the sled dog races! Thanks again for all the information you’ve been posting. It has been very helpful.

    Take care,

    • rodcros Says:


      Thank you for your comment.

      I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know McCaskill Island by name, so I can’t be very specific in directions. There are well-traveled routes on the ice at this time of year. All you need do is follow a pickup truck. Drill a hole or two to get an idea of ice depth. Your small SUV should do fine without chains. If there’s much snow, be sure to avoid deep drifts between islands and such. Common sense indicates that you drive without seatbelts and with windows down.
      Generally I find a jigging spoon like a “Mr. Champ” or its equivalent works as well as anything, but don’t expect much.
      The Newboro Ice Fishing Derby runs the Sunday before the dogsled racing weekend. Dozens of pickup trucks will be on the lake then.
      Of course you stay out of The Elbow, and don’t try to cross onto Clear Lake with your SUV. It won’t do well getting across the snowmobile trail on land. The Ithsmus opens up whenever there’s a current, so all of Clear Lake is suspect.

      If there’s slush, traveling the lake is somewhere between unpleasant and gruelling. If it’s hard going, you should be fine among the islands.


  3. Tim Welch Says:


    Thanks for the additional update about the fishing derby. We heard the dog sled races are cancelled due to lack of snow, but we will be heading up anyway to do a bit of ice fishing. Did you have any success fishing this past weekend? What did most people use to catch fish? Did anyone use live bait or were most fish caught on jigs and spoons?

    Thanks and we’ll keep an eye out for your Ranger this weekend,

    • rodcros Says:


      Quite a few pike came in for weighing, though many were small. A few perch and crappie bit. Shiner minnows on single hooks should work best. Norris’s Bait Shop has them just north of Newboro. The reason I suggest single hooks or jig heads is that a lot of largemouth bass come along to keep the anglers company at this time of year. All you do is gently lift the fish out, remove the hook from its lip, turn it around and watch it languidly swim back down through the hole. Because nobody wants to hurt a bass, a gentle hooking motion without allowing the fish to swallow the bait seems to be the order of the day. Needless to say, a treble hook increases the risk to the fish. Generally you can hook a pike using this approach without bothering with a leader. Of course a hefty pike on 6 lb. test makes for an entertaining few minutes on the ice.


  4. chris Says:

    Hello Rod,

    What is your best guess for ice out (relatively unobstructed boating) for Newboro, Clear and Indian Lake? thanks


  5. rodcros Says:


    Check Ken Watson’s chart for Sand Lake entitled “Ice Out” to give a relative indication.


    Private thinking suggests ice out will be two weeks early in Eastern Ontario this year.


  6. chris Says:


    thanks for the great postings. even though we are down here in NJ, we feel like we live right on the lake!!!!! Happy spring!


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