Snow and slush everywhere. Tough to get around is the way professional angler Jeff Gustafson describes conditions in Northwestern Ontario. Gussy loves to fish lake trout and early January is one of the best times to catch some big fish, as long as you can get to them. If you plan on heading out, its snowmobile only and travel in a group in case you get bogged down out there in heavy slush.
I can remember a similar winter a few years back when you we had to leave a snowmobile on the lake. We just couldn’t get it out no matter how hard we tried. Luckily we were able to go back once March rolled around and get it off when all the snow had left the ice. This might affect mobility this year, which is a key when finding active lake trout.. It’s not unusual to try at least ten different areas in a full day on the hard water. Locations will change depending on time of year and the type of lake that you are fishing. Over the years I have tried a multitude of spots but have had the most success in these different types of structures.
- extended flats in thirty to fifty feet of water
- shoreline points that drop off into deep water and
- sharp dropping granite bluffs that lake trout use to herd ciscoes.
- shallower bays that hold some weed growth and perch
- shoreline inside turns that hold a variety of structure
- funnel areas that have some water movement (careful here with ice conditions**)
LAKE TROUT LURE SELECTION: Having fished lake trout for about thirty-five years now through the ice, there are always things to learn and new lures to try. Luckily when you ice fish you can use two rods. For a few years now, Manitoban Kevin Siemen has been using big baits to attract lakers, then using a more natural presentation like a white tube jig to get the fish to bite. He particularly likes the baits pictured below.
These are made by Musky Innovations. The big one is a 14″ walleye model. The smaller ones are 11″ walleye and golden tail sucker models. There are about 10 different colors. Here are Kevin’s comments on why he started using these lures.
“I use these with both a vertical and horizontal presentation. Vertical presentation while jigged triggers a more aggressive response from trout while the horizontal presentation is meant to hang on a dead stick to draw in the attention of more lethargic fish. This bait is mainly used as a “decoy”. I use this bait in tandem with a 4″ tube or a small jigging spoon hung slightly above the Jimmy to trigger the bite. The bite at this point is usually hard and fast from a “hot” fish.
I discovered this method during an outing when I caught a small walleye. As I was reeling up the walleye, a Laker rocketed up from the bottom and slammed the walleye. As I was scrambling, I reeled up my tube jig to the depth of the Laker on my Vexilar, and caught the 37.5″ Laker. I thought about the whole experience on the drive home and used a Musky lure on my next outing that resembled a small Walleye, and duplicated the experience.
This has been a very successful though unorthodox method for me to catch Lakers on LOTW, and I always have one tied on my rod. “
I have four different boxes of lures to match the mood of the fish that particular day. Big aggressive presentations include the airplane jig, buzz bombs and big jigging spoons.
For neutral fish, I like smaller jigging spoons and blade baits like a Live Target or Swedish Pimple. I have also caught quite a few lakers on a Rattlin Snakie Jigging spoon. For inactive fish, those hugging bottom, a small jig with a dropshot Powerbait can be deadly. On the last trip a two inch gold flecked model got the job done. One of my all-time favourite baits is the Walleye Flyer jig from Lindy, either in a chartreuse or orange tipped with a small power grub.
If you ask Gussy what is favourite is, he will tell you a white Northland tube jig. He says the tentacles on the back are longer than a normal tube and very soft, which means they supply way more action in the water. He also has a chartreuse marker to colour up his bait.
Many trout anglers will use a braided line with a flurocarbon leader connected with a small swivel. One of the keys though is making sure after you tie on your tube or jig that it glides forward and not spiral, a key element in catching lake trout.
Further to that, most of my success in catching lake trout through the ice over the years has been with baits that glide and dart through the water column. Baits like the Walleye flyer jig from Lindy, tipped with small Berkley power grub with the tail cut off, then tipped with small slice of sucker cut in a thin triangle (belly piece is always the best) . The key when rigging your jigs is not to overpower the lure so it becomes unbalanced. Smaller airplane jigs still catch trout as do jigging spoons but these are aggressive presentation for aggressive trout.