Go catch a trout

While the fishing season for most species remains open through the fall and winter seasons, anglers who enjoy catching lake trout only have about a week left in the season before it closes from Oct. 1-Jan. 1.
Lake trout spawn in the fall, in the coming weeks, on shallow, wind-swept rocks that are clean of algae and sediment.
After spending the summer in deep water, the cooling temperatures allow lake trout to move throughout the water column. They spawn in relatively shallow water compared to where they spend the rest of the year.
Since trout are on the move, they seem to have a good appetite at this time of year. Fishing usually is very good the later in September that we get.
Last year around this time, my friend, Brian McNanney from Sioux Narrows, and I had an amazing afternoon of lake trout fishing when we filmed an episode of “Fishing with Gussy” on Lake of the Woods.
We spent about three hours fishing and caught around 20 fish, most of which were between 10 and 20 pounds. It probably was the best lake trout fishing I’ve ever experienced.
Most species of fish tend to bite really good just prior to the spawning for a variety of reasons. They need more energy than they do the rest of the year and they show up in predictable locations.
The fact that lake trout are a fish that prefers cooler water only seems to magnify this general rule.
When it comes to finding fish at this time of year, I like to keep it simple by just looking at the first obvious pieces of structure coming out of the deep water. Think about where bars and long points that might act like highways towards the shallow water where they will head to spawn.
When Brian and I had our great afternoon last year, we were fishing a long point that extended out into a deep basin where they spent the summer. We caught our fish in 40-60 feet of water—much shallower than the 90 feet plus stuff that they spent the summer in.
We were able to drive over this particular spot and marked several fish on my Humminbird sonar unit. We also placed GPS waypoints on several of the edges where we marked multiple fish.
We then lowered the trolling motor and trolled over each spot, vertically jigging five- and six-inch soft plastic minnows, like the Northland Impulse Smelt Minnow, on a half-ounce jig.
In between waypoints, we even were catching trout by making a long cast with these baits over the edges we were fishing, letting them sink, then slowly swimming them back to the boat.
I have grown up jigging for lake trout but these fish also can be caught trolling, with both down-rigging set-ups and adding sinkers in front of your spoons or lures.
The electronics available today do such a good job of showing us fish, if they are under the boat, that it makes jigging a deadly tactic because we can put our lures so close to where the fish actually are.
Lake trout generally are active in nature, especially at this time of year, so when they see an injured-looking baitfish alone on its own, it’s often an easy meal, without thought.
Catching big lake trout is a rush for me any time of year because they probably are the toughest fighting fish that we have here in Sunset Country. In some of the bigger lakes, they grow large while in many of the smaller inland lakes, we have great numbers of smaller fish.
The smaller ones are excellent eating, as well. If you get the chance this week, go catch a lake trout!
There are a few tournaments going on this weekend across the region. Out at Shoal Lake, the Last Chance Classic is taking place Saturday and Sunday while the Musky Cup is going Friday and Saturday in Nestor Falls.
And then there is a one-day bass tournament at LaBelle’s Camp on Rainy Lake on Saturday.
Good luck to everybody competing this weekend!