by Keith Sarasin (c) 2001
|With lake trout season almost upon us, it's time to explore
some tactics for catching them.
Have you ever had the pleasure of landing one of these great fighting trout on a spinner rig?
No downrigger or fish-finder was available on one of last spring's trips, so we looked for the areas we had fished the previous winter. Knowing of a deep channel, we headed for it and used the line with a large sinker attached to find our depth. (Of course, if I had marked the spot with the GPS last time out, it would have been easier to find!)
If you are not familiar with the water you will be fishing, look for deeper holes or troughs, as the lake trout prefer deeper, colder water.
This lake trout, which weighed in at just over eighteen pounds, was taken on a light spinner, rigged with a large minnow. We were trolling at a depth of eighty- three feet and fishing just off bottom.
I personally choose a bait-casting rod and reel for trolling. I like the ease of retrieval and the preferred drag on the level wind reel with rather light 10-pound test mono line. We placed a pair of chain sinkers six feet ahead of the spinner to make sure we could stay tight to bottom while trolling. The spinner was one used for walleye or bass, with one significant difference. Instead of the usual jig-head with a plastic tail, we placed a tandem hook on the jig-head and used a large minnow. Trolling at about one and a half-mph, the blade seemed to attract the fish and the minnow was just too good to pass up!
Although this method has regularly proven quite successful for me, I also use other "old faithful" methods.
If you have a downrigger and a fishfinder you can actually see the fish you are after and tell at a glance what depth they are swimming at. Now all you have to do is choose the proper lure or spoon, send them down to the known depth and wait. If you pass the school with no luck it is easy enough to make a wide circle and come back over the trout again. If you do this more than twice with no hits, change the bait. Try using a smaller or larger spoon, different coloured spoon or different lure. Northern King makes a trolling spoon called blueberry muffin that the trout can't resist when trolled.
Floating Rapala's work fine for this as they will not dive into the bottom, but will stay a few inches up for every foot of line you are away from the cannonball. Being about twelve feet away, I guess I was fishing about two feet up from the bottom. Far enough, anyway, not to keep bumping or hooking the bottom.
Jigging is another tactic that is often deadly on lakers. Some baits that work well are white tube jigs four inches long jigged from a drifting boat. Let the jig-head tap the bottom on the down stroke and lift only about one foot on the up stroke. This causes a normal looking rise and a fluttering fall to the jig. The trout will usually take the tube on the drop, so keep the motion of jigging steady so as not to miss any bites.
You can also try jigging the trout from the boat as you drift slowly over the area you marked with the fish-finder. I like doing this with a four-inch Williams Whitefish spoon. You dont need to tip the spoon with a minnow as they work well straight from the box, although I always set the side hooks to the very outside, just enough to hold them in place. If they become hooked on a rolling fish, they will swivel enough so as not to pull loose.
Another good jigging tip is a swimming rap jig. As you jig this it will swim in a large or small circle, depending on the speed of the jigging and resembles a baitfish.
Sometimes just using a three-way spreader tipped with live minnows works equally as well. As you can't always find a way to balance this, try letting it sit on bottom for a count of three and then lift the line up a few inches to feel the weight of the spreader. If you feel a fish, set the hook and haul in the line making sure to keep the line tight and not to allow slack as this will let the trout swim off the hook.
Scouting the lake for the telltale drops and holes will save you a lot of trolling time and will help make your trip a success.
Always remember to keep a weather eye out for approaching storms or high winds that could turn a calm body of water into a dangerous situation! Fast approaching storms can sometimes catch you out on the lake and it may not be wise to try and reach your start point. A radio or cell phone may be a wise choice, and also a sheltered bay is a good place to wait out a storm.
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