For many, when the last salmon run ends in the fall, fishing season is over. But in the Mat-Su Valley, that's only the beginning of the "hardwater" season. From Lake Louise to Denali State Park, ice fishing opportunities abound in the Mat-Su Valley.

There are more than 80 stocked lakes in the Valley alone, making it an ideal destination for ice fishing. You'll find everything from lake trout to char to landlocked salmon and pike. No matter where you're headed, you'll find a suitable lake within a few minutes.

One of the most popular spots is Big Lake, where you'll find endless spots to try your luck. In the Palmer area, Finger Lake and the Matanuska Lakes State Recreation Area offers several different lakes that are easily accessible. The Nancy Lake State Recreation Area near Willow is also popular, as is Byers Lake in Denali State Park.

Ice fishing a great family-friendly activity that doesn't require a ton of fishing gear. You can get started simply with an ice fishing rod and a few lures, along with an auger and an ice scoop. As you get more experienced in the sport, you can add equipment like an ice shelter and sonar fish finder to the mix. Kids absolutely love catching fish on the ice, and it's a great way to introduce them to a new outdoor experience. 

One of the best ways to get introduced to the sport is to go with a fishing guide and learn about what it takes. They spend lots of time on the ice and know the best places to go, what the fish are biting on and best of all, they have all the gear you need to get started, in a comfortable setting.

"A quick two-hour trip is all you need to get the experience of ice fishing! We provide everything in our packages from heated shelters, fishing poles, safety gear, chairs, and bait if allowed. Our shelters can reach a temperature of about 65 inside, so everyone will stay warm and have fun. Winter is a great time to get out and go ice fishing," said Sonia Praslowicz, owner of Drill Team 6 Fishing Excursions, a veteran-owned and operated business that specializes in guided ice fishing trips.