Ice-out trout a tradition

Now that walleye season is closed for the next month and our lakes are free of ice, anglers are itching to hit the water to catch something.
Spring lake trout fishing is tradition with many anglers across Sunset Country because the cold water allows trout to spend time in much shallower water than they reside in for the rest of the year.
As well, these spring lake trout are much more aggressive than any other species in our lakes right now.
Deep, clear lake trout lakes speckle the region and most should be ice-free by this weekend. The best waters are remote, tough to access lakes that receive little angling pressure.
I can remember annual trips when I was a little kid into Williams Lake, north of Kenora. My Dad and his friend, Bob Clemmens, used to take us kids to Williams at least once every year and as a kid, it was always the highlight of the whole fishing season for me.
We had to cross one lake and portage to get into Williams, and it was always full of adventure.
One year, we came over the portage (which was pretty much a mountain, by the way) and found the lake still frozen. Another year, the wind came up so bad that we weren’t sure that we were going to make it back.
One thing we always did there, though, was catch a lot of lake trout.
The fun thing about fishing “lakers” in the spring is they can be caught by anglers using a variety of methods or techniques. Trolling likely remains the best technique for catching a lot of fish because it is the best way to put your lure in front of as many fish as possible.
Trolling spoons and crankbaits is a proven method that can be done without the down-riggers or special lines that are needed later in the season once trout move deep.
Williams Wabler spoons always were my favourite trolling baits, but Rapala Shad Rap and Tail Dancer crankbaits work really well, too.
If there are a couple of people in the boat, it pays for one angler to use a crankbait and one to use a spoon to see what the fish want.
The famous white tube, tied on the rod of nearly every angler that ice-fishes for lake trout, works well out of the boat, as well. Casting and retrieving tube jigs in the spring is a surefire way to catch fish.
Tube jigs, or any kind of jig for that matter, work great when anglers use them on very specific locations, like main lake points or humps—places that trout likely are going to be feeding.
White generally is the best colour in my experiences, and don’t be afraid to try twister tail grubs or jerkshad baits, as well.
During our trips into Williams, part of the experience I enjoyed the most was when we would fish from shore. The method called “beer-canning” was my favourite.
We would always catch a sucker or two in one of the creeks on our way to the lake, which we would use for bait. We would cut a piece of belly meat off the sucker, put it on a hook, and cast it out as far as we could from shore.
After that, we would lay the fishing rod down on the ground, wrap the line around a bottle or can, sit back, and wait. When a fish picked up the bait, the can would be pulled over and we would hit the fish.
It should be noted this method should not be used if you plan on releasing all your trout because some fish can get hooked deep and need to be kept.
It’s a fun way to fish, though, especially on cold spring days. Sometimes we’d even have a fire.
On a final note, anglers should know the lake trout season in the Clearwater Bay area of Lake of the Woods does not open until the third Saturday of May (the same time that walleye season opens back up).
Bass season is open across Sunset Country, but it is a catch-and-release season so you can’t keep them, with the exception of a couple of small fish on select waters.
Crappies and pike are open season, and should be moving into shallow water by this weekend.
The weather looks great for this weekend, so get out in the boat and have fun!

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