When your “go to” lures just aren’t cutting it.
So many water bodies and so many species to target, ice season is back and with it come endless opportunities for fun on the ice. I love a good fight with a stocked rainbow now and again and definitely don’t mind steamed trout occasionally. I could go down to the grocery store and buy a farmed trout at an affordable price, but they always seem to taste better fresh caught, and I will spare you the many other reasons I justify fishing as much as I do. With many provinces stocking trout of a few different species each year, winter is as good a time as any to get out and try to catch a few.
Once ice conditions are safe my first few trips each season are typically for trout. Be it trophy or table fare, no matter my intentions the offering on that hook needs to be convincing. Different bodies of water have different regulations and after reading them over, it becomes clear one thing is common: no live baitfish is permitted on stocked trout waters. That’s fine with me as I rarely use live baitfish with any of my fishing and there are plenty of options out there to fool or trigger a fish to bite. I have a few places I like to go for stocked rainbows and it was on just such a day when my “go to” lures weren’t producing and I was searching through the options in my tackle trays.
We all have lures that we have confidence in and most folks will stick with them, rarely breaking out of their comfort zone. There is always one person in our group who will spend some time each trip trying new lures and combinations no matter if the bite is on or not as it expands our knowledge of the fish we are after and lake we are on. We knew the trout were around and the standards just weren’t cutting it but with some trial and error we were able to get a few fish to commit, and increase the level of confidence in more of our tackle that day.
Within a few minutes of changing tactics we had the first hook up on a small marabou jig fished four feet away by one of my fishing partners. The fight that these trout are so well known for was on and it wasn’t long before a nice plump eating sized rainbow was on the ice. Marabou along with other styles of hair jigs can mimic different baits and when matched to the hatch often trigger a vicious strike. From mass produced to hand-tied the options are almost endless and if you end up making and tying your own it can be very rewarding to land a fish on such a lure. Light conditions, forage base and water clarity can play a part in colour selection but white, brown or black can usually be a good starting point.
Not necessarily “go to” choices for many trout anglers, soft plastics are another great option, often overlooked I might add and the market is full of them. After not getting takes on my trout paste rig, I had tied on a small scented plastic minnow imitation, lightly bouncing it on the bottom, disturbing some sediment and raising it a few inches with a pause. Some days this method can attract fish, while others however it has been a deterrent. If they do smack it out of aggression, hunger or inquisition, the scent or taste can often give you an extra split second for setting the hook.
There are a lot more than just minnow imitations, with many life-like options to help you match what the trout are feeding on. I often have a few packs in my pocket that are geared towards panfish and give them a shot on trout, sometimes more successfully than others. Some are scented and others are not but that is easily changed with a soak in a tub of Gulp or a watered-down trout paste slurry. The Impulse Mini Smelt and the Berkley 2 Inch Power Minnow have been able to fool a trout or two on a few occasions where baitfish or yearlings were present. But when baitfish are minimal or not a preferred food source there are plenty of other options like the Impulse Scud Bug and Bloodworm or the Trigger X Nymph and Mustache Worm. When you can see the fish below and how they react to lures and cadences there is no better time to try them and decide for yourself.
A day on the ice no matter what you are after is typically a day well spent. Trout of all different species can be challenging fish to crack especially on unfamiliar lakes and the more options you have along the better. While these may not be groundbreaking lures or techniques they have worked for more than just trout and are worth considering. We all have our reasons for fishing, from the pursuit to the fight or the lake to the table and few things can beat a properly steamed Rainbow Trout after a day on the ice.