Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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‘Pass-shooting’ put-and-take trout

By James Lindner

Angling Buzz

State fisheries departments across the Midwest stock an incredible number of lakes with trout, yet many ice anglers overlook these ice-water browns, brookies, rainbows, and splake.

That’s too bad, because these fish stay active and on the move all winter, providing a fun challenge for hard-water fishermen. Plus, while annual stockings of these “put-and-take” trout results in most of the fish being caught during their first year, many survive for several years and get big. In Great Lakes waters, you can catch monsters.

Another plus: You usually can let these fish come to you. Because these fish move constantly and often high in the water column, a big part of catching them is setting up over spots that naturally corral them. This could be a steep bank or any corners or points that can funnel the fish into a confined area such as a bay or harbor. 

Once you find a good spot, you can “pass-shoot” the trout that swim through your zone. Just hunker down in a fishing shelter or hub house – the fish often are up high enough in the water column that you can sight-fish. 

Be as quiet as possible. Most of these trout fisheries are in extremely clear waters without cover, and noise can spook the fish.

Lure and line are extraordinarily important aspects of the trout-fishing game. 

Many of these fish feed on microscopic bugs and freshwater shrimp in super-clear water. Small-profile baits often trigger bites best. Small spoons, rattle baits and tungsten jigs tipped with waxworms, butter worms, or Eurolarvae are good options. Jigs that mimic mayfly larvae work, too. These fish can be line-shy, so 3- to 5-pound-test Sufix Advance Fluorocarbon is hard to beat. Even in the Great Lakes, where 20-pound-plus trout are possible, 6- and 8-pound test are the heaviest lines we use.

The right rod and reel  depends on the size of the fish. For inland, smaller trout from 1 to 3 pounds, I pair a 34-inch St. Croix Tundra, light-power, extra fast-action rod with a Daiwa QZ 750-size spinning reel. For Great Lakes trout weighing 8 to 20 pounds, I beef up to St. Croix CCI 36-inch, medium-light, extra fast-action Spoon Hopper rod with a Daiwa 2000-size reel.

Most states require a trout stamp or special license to target these fish. Note, too, that many of these stocked lakes have unique regulations. For example, in Minnesota you can ice fish with two rods on most lakes, but you’re limited to one rod on many trout lakes. Live minnows are against the rules on many stocked trout lakes in Minnesota, too, but you may fish with bait such as waxworms and spikes. Check your state’s regulations.

Last but not least, automatic hook-setting devices such as Jaw Jackers and the Automatic Fisherman are popular among Great Lakes trout anglers where it’s legal to use multiple rods. It’s like tip-up fishing with a rod and reel. 

Now is a prime time for catching trout through the ice. If you haven’t tried it yet, trust me; it’s worth the effort.

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