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Alternative Trout Strategies

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Alternative Trout Strategies

When ice fishing lake trout in Northern Ontario, a white or silver tube jig is often the very best presentation. • Credit: Gord Pyzer

Try these strategies on your next Northern Ontario ice fishing trip

Lake trout typically grow big dining on large silvery baitfish like ciscoes, also know as tulibees and herring.



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When you are ice fishing it pays to play the field, especially for lake trout in Northern Ontario where you can enjoy access to more lake trout lakes than anywhere else on earth.

Indeed, there is such an eclectic mix of picture postcard lake trout waters in the northern three-quarters of the Trillium Province that it pays to expand your potpourri of presentations.

At least that is what I kept telling myself yesterday as I stuffed what seemed to be a never ending number of ice rods and reels into the sled I had hitched up to my snowmachine. Did I really need all these different presentations?

I probably didn't, but like a good boy scout, I like to be prepared. I've also discovered over the years, that it often pays big dividends to be able to fine tune your trout presentation and to be able to give the fish what they want.

sunset country lake trout While 4- and 5-inch white tube jigs are often best for catching smaller and medium size lake trout, they attract bigger trout as well, like this dandy In-Fisherman publisher, Steve Hoffman caught in a medium size lake in Northwestern Ontario’s Sunset Country. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Indeed, on giant lake trout lakes like Lake Huron, Georgian Bay and Lake Superior, the biggest freshwater lake in the world, as well as slightly smaller behemoths like Lake Temagami, Lake Simcoe, Lake Muskoka, Eagle Lake and Lake of the Woods, lake trout typically grow big dining on large silvery baitfish like ciscoes, also know as tulibees and herring.

When I am fishing in one of these huge, typically crystal clear waters where you have an excellent chance of catching a 20-, 25-, even 30-pound plus lake trout, it pays to use a lure that will attract the fish from a distance and then trigger them to bite.

One of my favourite big fish presentations is jigging a relatively large spoon like the famous Williams Ice Jig that is the same size, shape and colour (my favourite is the Nu-Wrinkle half gold / half silver) of the herring the trout are devouring.

In big fish waters like these, it is critical in my opinion, not to make the mistake of downsizing your lure too much. You need something large enough and flashy enough to first catch the trout's attention and call them over to your location, and then trigger them into biting.

Spoons like the Ice Jig do that, and when you add a large smelly fish head to the treble hook -- I like adding the head from a smelt -- you have at the end of your line, the best of all possible worlds.

Indeed, I'll never forget the time I was ice fishing for lake trout in Lake Superior near Caribou Island, across from Sleeping Giant Provincial Park, near Thunder Bay. I was jigging a Williams spoon tipped with a smelt head in the traditional lift-pause-flutter-pause cadence with the intermissions lasting for about five or six seconds.

 Northern Ontario has more lake trout lakes than any other jurisdiction in the world, offering winter ice anglers like Leavon Peleikis the opportunity to catch the trophy of a lifetime. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

In Ontario you're allowed to fish with two lines in the winter, so I had another hole rigged with a tip up, and every few minutes, I'd lay my jigging rod across the handle bars of my snowmachine, while I walked over and checked the set line.

The first time I did this I heard a strange smacking sound, turned around and saw my rod flying off the snowmachine and sliding across the ice, about to be pulled down the hole.

Fortunately, I grabbed it just before it plunged into the icy water and landed a gorgeous lake trout of about 12- to 15-pounds.

Not thinking anything more about it, I jigged for another ten minutes or so, before laying the rod down again on the snowmachine and checking my set line. You got it. I wasn't ten feet away when I heard the same, now familiar sound, turned around and ran to rescue my rod, this time with an even bigger trout on the end.

The same thing happened three times that morning and I like to tell folks at seminars that it was the first time I was ever out-fished by my snowmachine!

Another great, big, winter trout option in large Northern Ontario lakes is skewering a swimbait -- my favourites include the X-Zone Swammer, Bass Magnet Shift 'R Shad, and Berkley Hollow Belly Swimbait -- onto a 3/8- to 1/2ounce jig head. But I tend to fish swimbaits a little differently, often sending them right to the bottom where I let them plunk down into the mud and silt, sending up a fish-attracting cloud of debris. Then I retrieve the soft plastics, minnow like, swimming them slowly all the way to the surface, punctuated with frequent short pauses.

When I am doing this, too, I always keep my eyes glued to the sonar screen and when I suddenly see a trout shoot in and chase after my bait, instead of stopping the retrieve and making it easier for the trout -- which is the natural reaction of most folks -- I reel even faster and try to take the lure away from it.

It is the deadliest lake trout "turn on" you can employ.

lake trout When In-Fisherman Television host Doug Stange wants to film an ice fishing adventure for lake trout, Northern Ontario is at the top of his list in terms of where to go. (Photo credit: Gord Pyzer)

Interestingly, however, while these same spoons and swimbaits work well in the more modest size lake trout lakes across Northern Ontario, scaling down your presentation slightly often pays big dividends.

In these more modest size waters, silver and white soft plastic tube jigs typically reign supreme. I especially like using scented Exude and Power Bait tubes when the trout are acting finicky, but when they're actively chasing the squid baits, a tube with plenty of glitter like the Pearl Flash made by Anglers Choice and Tinsel Tube by Bass Magnet look like disco balls in the water.

Along the same lines, I've been attaching 4- and 6-inch ciscoe lookalike pearl coloured grubs to CL Fishin Fluffy Shiner Jigs this winter and the results have been mighty impressive.

Although, when you're ice fishing for lake trout in Northern Ontario, impressive is a word you find yourself using repeatedly.

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