Undoubtedly, targeting lake trout is near the top of every angler’s bucket list no matter their level of experience. Many anglers may feel overwhelmed by the thought of going after these majestic giants, not just because of the fight they put up, but also just not knowing where to go, how to set up and what to use. By no means were Robyn and I experts when we set out on our first adventure. We’ve been successful on multiple occasions, have learned a lot, and are happy to share some lessons we have picked up along the way.
Manitoba’s Northern Region could be called “Tank Fest” as there are many drive to and fly in destinations where you will find trophy lake trout lurking in the depths during the summer months. Lake Athapapaskow, Reed Lake, Clearwater and other lakes within the Cranberry Lake chain are all home to this grand species of fish. This area of our province is unbelievably breathtaking and most drive to lakes have camp site accommodation nearby.
NEEDED EQUIPMENT TO GET THE JOB DONE
Lakers are known for their fight, the nerve racking head shakes, the endless ripping runs, but you will not need to own a “special laker rod” unless you need an excuse to buy a new rod or catch a big one on a trip and create your own superstitions about such rod! A simple walleye or bass rod, 6.5 – 7 foot medium heavy action with a good spine and fast tip to absorb the action of the fish during the fight is all you need. The use of a spinning reel or bait caster is really the angler’s choice. Robyn and I both prefer the use of a spinning reel when fighting a large fish but appreciate the quick drop of a bait caster when jigging in depths of up to 120 feet.
Your choice of line can be the make or break when reeling in a large fish. You will want to equip your reel with a good quality braided line as your fishing depths can range as deep as 150 feet and you won’t want much stretch in your line. We normally use 20 pound braid with a 10 foot 16-20 pound fluorocarbon leader. The fluorocarbon will act as a shock absorber and make your lure appear natural in the water.
You will want to have your drag set tight enough for a solid hook set and to not put unnecessary stress on the fish during the retrieve yet loose enough to avoid ripping a lip. Setting your drag appropriately is one of those things that comes with experience, and you may lose a tanker during the learning process. Do not get discouraged.
BOAT CONTROL AND LURE SELECTION
Your technique for jigging will depend on the boat you are using. If you are capable of anchoring in a pinpoint location, choose your spot and chum the water for multiple days and park yourself directly over this spot. A trolling motor with GPS spot lock, or the use of two anchors placed in a V formation from the bow of your boat will help you to accomplish this. Be sure to bring enough rope and consider the lake bottom of wherever you will be fishing for your anchor selection.
- Place one of your anchors down with a line length 1.5 times the depth.
- Swing your boat as far as you can perpendicular to the wind direction and drop the second anchor.
- Attach both rope ends to your bow and let the wind push you away creating a v shape in the anchor lines.
The use of chum and jigging technique does require patience. It can take a few days for the fish to come and you may want to consider this depending on how long you will be fishing an area for. It’s not to say, however, you won’t be successful on the first day of your trip with the right lure on your line.
White and yellow tube jigs, 3/8 – 3/4 ounce, with a long thin piece of skin on chum attached to the hook or large heavy spoons can be used to attract your trophy lake trout. Start by dropping your lure to the bottom of the lake. If you are using a spoon, control the decent in order to allow for a straighter line to the bottom of the lake. Bounce the lure off bottom a few times, and then reel your line up swiftly all the way to the top of the water column. Trout love to chase and you never know when they are watching or when they will strike. For example, if you feel slack in your line on the descent back down to the bottom, reel up hard and fast until you feel resistance, then set that hook! We have found some days the fish are chasing from the bottom and other times they are suspended, hitting the lure before it even gets halfway down the water column.
You can stay in one spot all day, makes small moves, or big moves to fresh water and repeat this technique over again. Just make sure you test the depth and fish areas of where depths reach 80-150”.
TIP: Buoys are a useful tool to keep track of the water you have already covered when making small moves across the lake or to mark spots where you hooked onto a giant that you may want to revisit.
If you lack patience and are equipped with electronics, slowly troll around the lake looking for marks (fish) to show up on your screen. When you spot one, throw your boat in reverse to lock on the mark and drop your lure down. A feeding fish should take notice and if your see the mark coming towards your lure, stop, jig, and slowly reel your line in to encourage the chase.
If you are looking for more consistent means of catching fish with a little more action, then give trolling a try! We use manual downriggers with quick clips allowing for multiple lines at multiple depths. Before dropping the canon ball weight you will want to familiarize yourself with the lake bottom to avoid snags. We have found trolling at a speed of 1.2-1.8 mph to be ideal.
The cautious and logical side of my brain, also known as Robyn, would say; read the directions, practice, take it slow, talk to other anglers, watch videos and don’t get discouraged. Mastering the art of down rigging takes time and you may want to allow for less line out in the beginning fishing higher up in the water column until you get a feel for the process.
TIP: When down rigging multiple lines and trolling around the lake, do not make sharp turns with your boat. Subtle turns allow for your lines to slowly transition behind the boat as to not cross with each other or snag on the bottom of the lake.
If you are not set up with down riggers, the same technique can be achieved by weighting your line or using lead line. Keep the weight secured far enough up the line from your lure but not too far up that it impedes you from landing a fish at the surface. Like everything we do and everything we try, we had to start somewhere! We learn every time we head out on the water and tweak our set up based on what worked and didn’t work. Go play outside and don’t be afraid to try something you think might work to hook onto one of these coveted trophies!