Midwinter means lake trout for many ice anglers across North America. From upstate New York to the Rocky Mountains, lake trout are an apex predator on many lakes and reservoirs. These top-of-the-line predators are fast and powerful, a fish that can actually become more active under the ice. We picked the brains of ice anglers who obsess over these fish to offer interesting insights.
1. A room with a view. That’s how Colorado Ice Team Pro Bernie Keefe describes the best locations for finding lake trout. Find ledges, points, reefs and shelves that drop off into deep water. The type of location that would provide an incredible view if the location was not on the bottom of the lake. No matter where lake trout swim, primary structure coming out of deep water seems to attract trout.
2. Don’t be afraid to use finesse. While these powerful predators are notorious for slamming 7-inch tube baits that are getting reeled up as fast as you can reel, don’t be afraid to downsize to smaller flutter spoons and fluke tails when the bit is off. Some bodies of water also seem more conductive to requiring finesse which often seems dictated by the forage. Baitcasting rods and reels are often preferred by lake trout anglers who fish deeper than 50 feet while spinning rods and reels can work extremely well on inland waters where fish can often be found in less than 50 feet. Braided no-stretch line shines for deep water hook-sets.
3. Watch your angle. Lake trout are often found on big bodies of water. Whether you are targeting fish on the Great Lakes, big reservoirs or large natural lakes, there is often a pulsing current that moves through these deep water abysses. Trout often turn on as the current starts or stops and this current can often be seen on the line. On some bodies of water, the current can become so strong that finding the lure can be difficult on your electronics where a second hole is needed to get the transducer over the jig or spoon. When the current stops, the jig or lure will settle right below the hole, but good fishing often coincides with a swing in current. Watch the angle of your line to anticipate these feeding windows.
4. More lake trout have been caught with a classic white tube jig than any other presentation across North America, particularly in the Canadian Shield, but don’t overlook other soft plastic baits and colors. Dark colors like purple, motor oil and pumpkinseed can be very productive. Remember as well that classic lake trout forage like kokanee, ciscoes, lake herring and whitefish are common but lake trout are a versatile predator that will also target yellow perch, burbot, rainbow trout, suckers or even invertebrates.
5. The right hook set with the right line can mean more lake trout. Across many fisheries, braided line has dominated winter lake trout fishing because of the depth. Setting the hook on a fish that is 50 feet below is much more efficient and effective with a no stretch line. If you haven’t switched over to braid yet, try it. When setting the hook, back away from the hole as you set the hook. Depending on the depth of water, take two to four steps backward as you set and this will allow you to catch up to the fish and get the hook set when fishing over deep water.