Remember the movie Groundhog Day, in which Bill Murray played the egotistical weatherman who kept reliving the same day over and over until he finally straightened out his priorities? It is happening with the lake trout fishing across Northern Ontario. Every outing is the same... or better.
Indeed, around this time last winter I said that 2018 was shaping up to be a blockbuster year for lake trout. Well, if our early 2019 ice adventures are any indication, it is Groundhog season all over again. Or, should I say... Ground-hawg!
Several friends from Manitoba travelled to Northwestern Ontario's Sunset Country over the holidays and met up with my grandson Liam and me to join us on our annual lake trout adventure into the backwoods. It is an opening day escapade we start looking forward to long before the leaves have fallen and the first signs of ice appear.
Part of the appeal is travelling on snowmobiles through fresh powder in picture-postcard scenery. Another highlight is seeing someone catch their first lake trout ever through a hole in the ice. This year that honour went to buddy Mike Watt, who was jigging a white Bass Magnet tube jig one minute and then almost had his rod yanked out of his hand the next. Mike set the hook hard, though, and hung on for dear life as the trout peeled gobs of line off his reel, making the drag sing the sweet song of success that we all were waiting to hear.
Eventually he manoeuvred the trout's huge head into the hole, where I was able to grab it behind the gills and gently slide it onto the ice. I reckon it weighted 15 pounds, which is mighty impressive for your first ever lake trout. But it also created a dilemma. It was much too big to keep for shore lunch, so Mike joyfully released the gorgeous trout down the hole where it flapped its fin in a farewell wave of good-bye, while our stomachs started rumbling in anticipation of lunch.
That is when Brennan Tait hooked not one, but three gorgeous lake trout, the smallest of which we kept to ease our pangs of hunger. Oh, did I mention that Brennan's dad, Cameron, is a two-time gold medal winning Canadian chef at the Culinary Olympics? I always joke that some folks like to chum around with billionaires, while I hang out with folks who can really make you feel good.
And I'll say this as well. If you've never feasted on a fresh fish shore lunch in the winter, you have to add it to your list of things to do. It is the highlight—the crowing glory—of every day on the ice. And to show you how easy it is to accomplish, along with a lip-smacking recipe, watch the following short video of Cameron and me preparing the trout. But be forewarned, you are going to drool on your device.
But it is Groundhog season, right, it keeps on repeating itself. So a couple of days after our backwoods adventure, I woke up to unseasonably warm sunlight streaming into the bedroom. I wiped the sleep out of my eyes, looked out the window at a stunningly gorgeous morning and decided there is only one way to celebrate: go lake trout fishing.
By the time I had had breakfast, hitched up the snowmobile trailer, loaded the Eskimo EVO 1 ice shelter into the back of the truck and drove to a favourite lake trout lake, it was almost noon when I drilled my first hole. And are you ready for this? It was the only hole I drilled all day! I caught a lake trout the first three consecutive times I dropped down my half gold / half silver Williams Bully spoon. That is like the first three batters for the Blue Jays each clubbing a home run. It was crazy.
By the time I packed up and headed for home at 2:30 in the afternoon, I had iced 10 trout, releasing all of the bigger fish and keeping the two smallest to treat the family and friends to an epic feast. And get this: I battled five more trout that I failed to land and saw at least another dozen chasing my bait across the screen of my Humminbird Helix 7 sonar unit.
That's right—in less than three hours, I played with almost 30 magnificent lake trout, the biggest a beautiful fish of about 14 pounds that I kissed and then sent on her way.
If this is the way the rest of Northern Ontario's Groundhog lake trout season is going to unfold, don't ever let the movie come to an end.