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Sniping For Lake Trout

Liam Whetter hooked this gorgeous lake trout sharp shotting with a Rapala Jigging Shadow Rap • Credit: Gord Pyzer
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Sniping For Lake Trout

Autumn angling just got more fun

If you love fishing for Lake Trout in Ontario, you’d be wise to hone your sharpshooting skills, specifically during the month of September.



Throughout history, snipers and sharpshooters have played decisive roles in the outcome of military conflicts. During the Napoleonic War, for example, the famous British Green Jackets were both feared and revered for their skill at picking off enemy troops, slowing their advance and demoralizing their spirit. If you love fishing for lake trout in Ontario, you’d be wise to hone your sharpshooting skills. Especially, during the month of September, when the fish are feeding greedily on soft silvery forage fish like ciscoes, smelts and alewives as they prepare to spawn. Gotta’ confess — it’s my favourite time and way to catch them.

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Just like columns of advancing troops, the trout stick out like sore thumbs on your sonar screen. You will find them hanging out around deep rock reefs, underwater points, rock saddles between islands — anywhere that serves as a good ambush location — looking for baitfish to attack. When they spot one, they’ll streak up from their hideout and wreak havoc. Sometimes, you’ll even find a trout prowling through the middle of the water column — like a lion hunting on the savannah — looking for a helpless ciscoe to chase down and eat for dinner.

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Knowing this, a favourite technique of many anglers is to troll bright flashy spoons and minnow-imitating body baits behind downriggers, lead core lines, dipsey divers and jet divers. It is an especially effective technique when you’re on big open water like the Great Lakes or an inland sea like Lake Temagami, Lake Nipigon and Big Trout Lake. But as good as trolling can be, I prefer to sharpshoot and snipe, especially when I am fishing one of the many small and medium size picture-postcard trout lakes that dimple Northern Ontario.

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Lake trout will hide around deep structures and then ambush prey hovering above them

Liam and I were out the other day and the sniping was downright intoxicating. After we got into deep water, we started circling around every good-looking structure — underwater point, boulder bar and rock reef — that we could find on the bottom. We’d slowly cruise over the top and around the rim, looking at the sonar screen for a telltale trout trace. When we spotted one, whoever was driving would ram the throttle into reverse and quickly back up on the fish. The sniper, on the other hand, was armed with a medium heavy action rod spooled with a 12- to 15-pound braid with a three-foot monofilament or fluorocarbon leader. In the end, we relied on two main lures.

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The first was a Williams Bully spoon that is compact, stout and heavy for its size. In fact, even though it’s only 2 5/8 inches in length, it weighs an ounce. So it gets down to the fish fast. The second was a Rapala Jigging Shadow Rap. It’s slightly lighter, but perfectly matches the size and shape of the suspended trout prey and drives lakers crazy.

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Liam was first up to bat, and when we spotted a lake trout in 70 feet of water, hanging in the shadow, off the lip of the hump, I backed up on it while he dropped down a Live Smelt coloured Shadow Rap that has plenty of pinkish purple baked into the colour When the lure hit the 50-foot depth and was still falling, the trout shot out from its lair and smacked it like Babe Ruth hitting a home run. Liam’s rod buckled under the weight of the gorgeous trout and the fun began. After I netted it, we took a couple of quick pictures and then let the ten-pounder swim free. It is critical in September to release the bigger fish, as fully 85 percent of the trout are egg-laden females bulking up for the spawn.

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Trolling is an excellent technique for catching lake trout, but Gord Pyzer prefers to snipe and sharp shoot them 

Then it was my turn at the plate, as Liam took over control of the boat and we searched a narrow inverted V-shaped spine that joined together two islands. The first thing we saw off the side was a cloud of baitfish that got my heart beating faster and then, maybe 100 yards away, the unmistakable arc of a nice fish sitting like a billy goat on an underwater mountain slope. I dropped my favourite half gold/half silver Bully over the side of the boat and the fish reacted like Liam’s, scooting up to intercept it. But then it stopped and circled the spoon as though checking it out. I gave the rod tip a sharp pop and it was like I had applied an electric shock to the trout. It exploded like a Polaris missile and enveloped the lure.  

Did I tell you I love sniping for lake trout in northern Ontario?

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