Lake trout tips, tricks

When people think ice-fishing in January, lake trout come to mind first for many of the serious anglers out there.
Sure, we all get out and catch walleye, crappie, and whitefish in January, but the lake trout season opens annually on Jan. 1 and we have more great lake trout water across Sunset Country than anywhere in Canada.
Further adding to the appeal is lake trout prefer cold water and are eager to bite throughout the ice season.
When it comes to fishing for lake trout, there are two types of fisheries we can fish across our region. We have the larger bodies of water like Lake of the Woods, Dryberry Lake, or Clearwater Lake (over near Atikokan), which has been kicking out a lot of big fish over the past few years.
On these larger lakes, trout grow large by feeding on massive schools of baitfish.
While numbers of fish may not be as good in these bigger water, you have a legitimate shot at a 20-pound plus fish every time you drop your line in the water.
We also have hundreds of smaller lakes that sport great lake trout populations. In general, these fish don’t grow that large but the numbers in the smaller lakes can be outstanding.
Many of these lakes have snowmobile-only access so they don’t receive a lot of fishing pressure. It is normal to catch dozens of fish each day.
While the same minnow-imitating baits that we use on the larger waters will get the attention of lake trout and trigger them to strike on many of these smaller waters, they eat a lot more invertebrates and bottom-dwelling critters than baitfish in these inland lakes.
When it comes to catching lake trout, the classic white tube jig still produces year after year and remains my favourite lure. I like tubes with a more slender profile like the Northland Impulse 3.5” model.
The slender tubes seem to have a little bit better spiral when they fall, imitating a dying baitfish.
In recent years, four- and five-inch soft plastic “fluke”-style minnow baits that have become very popular across our region for bass fishing have been really good, as well.
I have a friend from Minnesota who visits every year. He uses only a four-inch white twister tail grub and catches all kinds of trout on it. Rig any of these on a 3/8th or half-ounce jig and you are all set.
Many of the best trout waters don’t allow the use of live bait or fish parts, so plastic is the way to go, especially with today’s salted and scented products.
Spoons continue to produce year after year, as well. They are not in my repertoire as often as other anglers, but I have had my butt whipped by friends using spoons plenty of times in the past.
Some days, heavy spoons that get down quickly in the water column are better while some days lake trout prefer a lighter, flutter spoon. It’s all about trying different baits and letting the fish tell you what they want.
One thing anglers should keep in mind is that trout can be anywhere in the water column (they do not only relate to the bottom like walleye do much of the time).
In fact, some of the best days that I’ve ever had lake trout fishing on the ice, I have caught a number of fish right under the ice. I believe that on those days when trout are most active, they chase and push baitfish up against the ice to catch them.
My biggest trout through a hole—a 30-pound fish I caught several years ago—came about 10 feet below my hole and I actually watched it bite my bucktail airplane jig (it was very exciting and something I won’t ever forget).
I was fishing in a portable shelter so I was able to watch my lure down the hole. Though I hooked it close to the surface, it was about 20 minutes before I actually got the fish on the ice.
Obviously, the snow conditions are making travel on our lakes tougher than normal right now but we all go fishing regardless it seems like. It is just a part of living in Northwestern Ontario, right?
The milder weather this week should make fishing a lot more comfortable, at least. I’m excited about it!