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Downrigging August Trout on Sturgeon Lake

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Downrigging August Trout on Sturgeon Lake

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Fish with Dale Matthews of Whiskey Jack Lodge, either on Sturgeon Lake or on another of several outpost lakes in Northwestern Ontario.
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Whiskey Jack Lodge is one of several facilities on Sturgeon Lake.

Summer heat drive the fish down, so a downrigger is the ticket!

...it doesn’t take long before the rod releases and thumps with the protests of our first fish. I land a 20-inch laker, the first of five that would land over the next hour.



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Fishing for lake trout with downriggers isn’t the most popular technique on northwestern Ontario’s inland lakes, but it is effective, especially in the depths of summer. A mid-August trip to Sturgeon Lake, along remote Highway 599, gave me a chance to experience this.

Despite its name, Sturgeon Lake does not hold sturgeon, at least not that Whiskey Jack Lodge owner Dale Matthews knows of. Whiskey Jack is one of 10 lodges on the 55-mile long cold-water lake. Besides the main lake, Matthews offers clients access to eight outpost lakes.

After unpacking, fishing partner Dave Metselaar and I check out the dock and boats. Matthews’ boat is a 17-footer with a single downrigger mounted at the stern. The next morning, as we travel along shorelines of pine and sloping granite, he tells us he recently installed the downrigger for summer lake trout fishing.  Expectations build as Matthews talks about lake trout averaging seven pounds and one he figured was 20 pounds that he had up to the side of the boat before it threw the hook. The lake record is over 50 pounds.

One of the bonuses of Sturgeon Lake is it also holds lake trout. The author with a nice example of Sturgeon Lake lake trout.

We fish off Hotel Point, mid-way down the lake, and with the warmer surface waters of mid-August, we fish down 70 feet. The sonar shows fish scattered through the water column. Matthews says Sturgeon Lake’s trout usually concentrate around the thermocline but are now scattered after recent high winds and waves.

Matthews sets the downrigger with a monkey puke Northern King spoon on a single rod. I am first up, and it doesn’t take long before the rod releases and thumps with the protests of our first fish. I land a 20-inch laker, the first of five Metselaar and I would land over the next hour. The next fish has a little more shoulder behind it and the 25.5-inch laker wages a worthy battle. We end up with eight fish caught from a single rod before the growing wind and waves scatter the fish further and the bite turns off.

In the early season, anglers fish for lake trout on Sturgeon with one or two ounce minnow-tipped jigs. But when the fish move down with the summer heat, a downrigger is the ticket.

Although Sturgeon Lake doesn't have the reputation of nearby Lake St. Joseph, it still produces some great walleye. Dave Metselaar holds a hefty Sturgeon Lake walleye.

We don’t catch any lake trout near the lake record 50 pounds, but we experience exciting action for a couple of hours of angling. And the great thing about Sturgeon Lake is, if the lake trout aren’t biting, the walleye fishing is great.

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