Hard-water hopes for lake trout through the ice
Finally, a cold snap and hopefully one that’s cold enough, and lasts long enough, to button up my favorite ice fishing spot: Lake George. Thomas Jefferson called this 32-mile long gem the “Queen of American Lakes.” But those of us who trample on its frozen surface refer to it as “The King.” The annual King George Fishing Derby in September follows the same logic.
However, if Lake George doesn’t provide enough ice then I’ll have to hop in the truck and drive a little further. Fortunately, all over New York there are deep glacial lakes that are home to the togue; more commonly known as the lake trout.
More than any other type of ice fishing, this angler would much rather spend a day on the hard water either running and gunning or setting out tip-ups in hopes of landing a pair of keeper lake trout.
Two is the creel limit on Lake George, and they must be 23 inches as well. That’s a little more conservative than the statewide regulation that allows anglers to ice three lakers at minimum of 21 inches. Some fisheries, such as Schroon Lake in the eastern Adirondacks, have a minimum creel size of just 18 inches.
What is it about lakers? I really don’t know. My perch-pounding buddies always seek to fill their buckets and freezers. But I’m not much of a fish connoisseur and other than walleye (and admittedly some perch), fish are fish to me.
Most of all, I just like catching big fish as opposed to small ones. Just as much as I enjoy trolling for spring trout, I too get the same thrill from wrestling a big largemouth off a sunken tree trunk. Lakers through the ice provide that same thrill.
There’s no method to my madness, really, as some days I strike out alone with just an auger and a few jigging rods. Swedish Pimples, spoons, tubes and smelt-imitation swimbaits on a 3/8-ounce jig are usually my standards. I do like to put a little meat, such as part of a minnow, on all but the swimbaits and dress them up good with some sort of smelt oil.
Always in my sled is a flasher where I can watch my bait and see the the fish come in; then the game is on. I try to be strategic in my locations, constantly looking for drop-offs, deep holes, sunken islands or weedlines. And I always pay attention to where brooks flow in, big or small.
If I’m not jigging, I’m relaxing with a full set of tip-ups out. Although expensive, suckers are my chosen bait, often placed just above the bottom, but I will place one or two at other depths, and also jig nearby. I also use the flasher to set my baits, rather than “sounding” the hole. This is a real time-saver in deep water.
And yes, I eat lake trout. My favorite way to cook them is on the smoker using apple wood. And several years ago my wife and I adopted a gluten-free form of a recipe for pike sticks that we found right here in New York Outdoor News.