Do you want to knock a spectacular fish species off your bucket list, and in the process add a new name to your can't-wait-to-go-back-and-do-it-again directory?
And do it right now.
And do it right now.
For the many who have never before caught a splake, the hybrid offspring created when a male speckled trout mates with a female lake trout, hence the name, you're in for the surprise of your life.
"I am giddy about splake," says HT Enterprise ice fishing guru and good friend, Wil Wegman, who just returned from a splake fishing trip to the Gogama area. "The fish we caught averaged between three and four pounds, but there are plenty of six, seven and eight pounders in the lakes. They're absolutely gorgeous, fight like samurai and are one of the best tasting fish to eat."
As aquatic history buffs are aware, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (OMNR) has a long track record of rearing the hybrid splake to create a deepwater predator that would grow faster and mature at an earlier age, thus negating the impact of invading sea lamprey populations in Lake Huron.
Unfortunately, the rehabilitation efforts didn't unfold according to plan. But the good news is that in the process, the OMNR developed the ideal fish for stocking in the plethora of small and medium size lakes scattered across the northern half of the province where previous plantings of brook trout and lake trout had been unsuccessful.
Indeed, because splake retain the characteristics and genes of both their lake trout and speckled trout parents, they are ideal candidates in bodies of water characterized by steeply sloping shorelines that are generally too vertical for speckled trout and yet, have basins too shallow for lake trout.
"They're a fascinating fish, to be sure," says Wegman. "Because one day you find them acting like brook trout, while the next day they are behaving like lake trout. Because of this, you need to take their subtle nuances into consideration.
"For example, when we were fishing the splake lakes south of Gogama recently, we would look for a rocky point with a fast drop off that was also close to a beaver lodge or shoreline with fallen trees.
"The beaver lodge and toppled trees are typically where you catch brook trout, while the steep rocky point is where you are more likely to fish for lake trout. When you can locate these disparate types of habitat adjacent to one another, you've generally found an ideal spot to start ice fishing for splake."
Because of the variable, capricious, almost flighty nature of the splendid splake, Wegman says a good sonar unit is an ice fishing essential.
"You can't diminish or undervalue its need," says Wegman. "I was using a Lowrance Elite Ice Machine on manual mode so I could highlight the bottom.
"I was also using the three hole method that you've talked and written about so often. With my transducer down the middle hole, I was able to monitor the spoon I was jigging in one of the adjacent holes. Splake are crazy curious, so when they see the spoon bouncing up and down, they're attracted to it. But, they often hit a plain white tube jig better, so that is what I was also jigging in the third hole."
For the record, Wegman's two favourite spoons are the Blue Fox Moresilda and HT Jig A Whopper Rattle Spoon in either gold/black or gold/red. He especially favours the latter spoon with the noisy rattle, when he is ice fishing in a lake with tannic stained water.
As for tube jigs, Wegman says any white model will work, my personal favourite being the Bass Magnet Ice tube in either Simcoe Pearl or White Silver shade.
It is worth mentioning, too, that Wegman "doctors" his soft plastic by trimming off a bit of the tentacles so they're not as long. And he always inserts the jighead inside the tube so that it is not flush with the nose, but rather about two-thirds of the inside the body. Wegman says when you do this, the soft plastic spirals when you let it fall and hangs horizontally in the water column rather than nose down.
"I know a lot of good ice anglers who use fluorocarbon line when they're fishing for splake," Wegman explains, "and others who favour a similar strength braided line with a fluorocarbon leader. But day in and day out, I find six- to eight-pound test monofilament is hard to beat. The other lines don't provide the stretch that monofilament offers, so anglers often loose nice fish at the hole when they go to land them. A longer, 36-inch rod with a parabolic action also helps keep fish pegged."
For a complete list of the lakes in Northern Ontario that are stocked with splake, contact the local OMNR District Office in the area you plan to fish. Or visit the OMNR's Fish-Online website.
But be forewarned: after you catch your first splake, you'll be hooked for life.