Anglers in Canada and the Northern US love to fish for lake trout on ice. These big fish provide heart-pounding opportunities even during the darkest months.
Many less experienced anglers find ice-out frustrating and frightening. However, the consistently cold water allows lakers plenty of space to move. It can be difficult to locate the fish you want, as they are dispersed and active feeders throughout the water column. This is why you will need some lake trout fishing tips.
You won’t know where to look or what to throw if you don’t!
You’ll find the best tips and tricks for spring fishing for lake trout. Keep reading.
Lake Trout Basics
Salvelinus Namaycush, a salmonid cousin to both salmon and Brook trout, is. They are distinguished by their distinctive forked tails and mottled silvery-gray bodies.
Lake trout average 24 to 36 inches but can grow larger with some specimens reaching 100 pounds and more than 50 inches. This species is long-lived and slow-growing so it is important to fish responsibly and catch and release whenever possible.
Although most people prefer to fish on the hard water, smart anglers understand that ice-out is a great time to target lake trout as the fish move to the shallows for food.
Lake Trout Behavior
Spring lake trout are sensitive to warm water. This is the most important thing you need to know about them. Summer is their most difficult season, unlike walleye and perch. Lake trout only can thrive in a small range of water temperatures, ranging from -40°F to 52°F. This means that they spend most of their time below the thermocline in warmer seasons. This limits them to a small area in some lakes. However, they can rise into warmer waters and shallower waters to feed on schools of Cisco.
Ice-out is your best option, except for the hard-water season when lake trout can be found roaming across the water column and throughout their habitat. Spring thaw brings with itself a multitude of insects and baitfish such as cisco, which really sets the stage for lakers. The water is still cool enough to sustain lakers wherever they want to roam.
It’s this dispersal that many anglers find frustrating.
For lake trout, it is important to find clusters of cisco or other prey items. This strategy will help you catch them. Lakers will seek out a place at the table wherever dinner is being served.
Wesley Tibbits is a marine biologist who is an expert on lake trout. He explains that adults “commonly eat deep water fish such ciscoes or lake whitefish, rainbow smelt and alewives (Gasterosteidae). They eat fish from the warm upper layer of a lake (epilimnion), such as yellow perch, white suckers (Catostomus comersoni), or other minnows.
After the Ice-Out, Lake Trout can be found
Ice-out will be a place where lakers are looking for easy meals in the shallows. Since the water is still very cold they can travel far and wide, as well as throughout the water column.
Locating actively feeding fish requires that you find their prey: ciscos and smelt, alewives, small baitfish, and other small fish. These small fish will feed on aquatic insects in spring. The mouths of rivers and streams are great places to locate feeding hotspots.
The big lake trout won’t be found in shallow water. They’re there to hunt. They’ll instead sit in cooler, deeper water, where they can immediately access feeding grounds such as weed beds or another cover that hides baitfish and provide them with food.
Anglers who can know what to throw and wait in ambush can tempt them into a strike with not much effort.
There are also big lakes with large lake trout that live near steep points and humps.
Spring is Shallow
The temperature in the shallows and near the surface is still colder than in summer. This allows lake trout to move close to shore and hunt all of the water columns.
Some anglers are a little nervous about how far lakers can go in cold spring water. But they don’t have to.
Prey is key to unlocking hot spots for ice-out lakers.
Consider the food chain from the bottom. Baitfish such as cisco will be found anywhere there are clusters of aquatic bugs. Lake trout will be looking for food wherever the baitfish gather.
Any stream or river that carries warm water into the lake’s main body is something I love to observe. This is a great spot to hunt aquatic invertebrates and baitfish, and the lakers are also likely to be at this point.
These structures are also hunted by them. Lake trout love to corral panicked fish against any vertical structure. This could be a steep dropoff, a point or a hump, or even an island. These areas are prime feeding spots for trout, especially if there are live weed beds that provide food and cover to the bait.
Lake Trout Gear Tips
The trick is to know where they are located so you can use your knowledge to make sure you have the right equipment to catch them.
Rods and Reels to Lake Trout
Although Lakers can grow big, the best rods to catch them are just as sensitive and tough.
Plummer’s Arctic Lodges is a group of professional guides who help customers catch lake trout. They recommend that 6’6″ to 7’6″ are medium-heavy fishing rods with fast action.
Both spinning and baitcasting fans will be well-equipped to fight big fish when paired with Shimano’s Calcutta 300-400, or Shimano’s Stradic 4000-5000.
Both of these reels are my favorites, and it is clear that Plummer’s guides love Shimano!
The Penn Battle II is another high-quality option. It’s a strong, reliable spinning reel that has been tested on everything, from sharks to stripers. It has 12 pounds of drag, 33 inches of retrieve per turn, and 140 yards mono of 10-pound weight, so it will easily tame Fiesty lakes trout.
Penn Battle II
Ideal for trolling are 7’6″ to 9’6″ medium-heavy, fast-action rods. For this technique, reels such as the Shimano Tekota500 are ideal.
The Tekota is a great product. I have reviewed it before. With 16-pound mono, the 500 can handle approximately 285 ards. You can also run braid if you wish. This reel is fast, despite having a 4.2 to 1 gear ratio that picks up 25 inches per crank. You won’t be outgunned by 18 pounds of drag.
You might consider purchasing the Penn Fathom Lever Drag 15 if you are a laker angler. It is a bit stronger than the Tekota, has a higher capacity, heavier drag, and more muscle when it matters.
Penn Fathom Lever Drag 15
The Best Line for Lake Trout
High-quality braids like Power Pro or Sufix 832 are more likely to be thrown the more lines I have. These lines are extremely sensitive and transfer your rod’s power directly because they stretch so little, usually no more than 8%.
This can increase hooksets and lockup. It is especially important when trolling with a lot of lines out or jigging deep.
Because the braid is smaller in diameter than its strength, it cuts the water with less drag. This reduces blow-back when trolling as well as the amount of line required to troll at depth.
However, the braid is not strong enough to withstand shock and maintain its integrity.
Because it can’t stretch further, it isn’t very forgiving to sudden strains. Because the Dyneema or Spectra fibers it is woven from are extremely slick, they don’t bite well on their own, resulting in low knot strength, typically 65%.
Three things are important for savvy anglers:
- They’ll first recommend that you use a foot of high-test mono as your shock leader. This will give you some shock absorption and still offer all the benefits of the braid.
- A second tip is that experienced laker anglers will show you how to tie the right knot. I recommend the FG to connect your leader to your line.
It’s a common saltwater knot and is ideal for connecting a thin mainline to a leader.
- Because braid has a low knot strength, they will advise you to increase your weight to compensate.
Plummer’s pros recommend braids weighing between 30 and 40 pounds, but monos weighing 17 to 20 pounds.
Dodgers/Flashers Lake Trout
Lake trout are very aggressive and will bite if they see another fish eat.
This is why flashers or “dodgers”, whatever you call them, are so useful.
The dodger mimics a fish-eating your bait or lure, and it can be pulled behind your downrigger weight or line to increase hits.
There are two styles.
The first is the single dodger. This Mack’s Lure Double D Dodger measures 4.4 inches.
The second uses smaller, more subtle blades to trick lake trout. This model is by Panther Martin.
Both styles are great and I keep a variety of colors on hand for when I am looking for lakers.
The Best Lake Trout Lures
Lake trout lures share one thing: they are big!
Hungry people are hungry and want a good meal. This usually means offering them a variety of large options.
Daredevil’s Huskie Delve is one of the most trusted and tried-and-trued. It’s a solid 3 1/4-ounce spoon and is available in a variety of colors. The lure’s chunky shape makes it irresistible, no matter how slow you troll it or how slowly you work it across a drop-off or point.
To reduce damage to the fish and prevent hooking its lower and upper jaws, some lake trout anglers swap the treble for a Siwash hook such as those from Gamakatsu. This is a strong gesture towards the future of the sport. The trick is to use a single hook that is the same weight as the fish.
The Yakima’s Flatfish, size T-60, is another favorite spoon design for trolling. It is a favorite of the most sweltering lakes in Canada. The unique shape makes a loud thump every undulation. This acts as a dinner bell for hungry predators.
I can almost guarantee that anyone on Kasba and Great Bear will have at least one or two of these in their boat!
Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbaits are extra-large soft baits that can be used to kill fish. They can also be used along drop-offs and pulled around weed beds. The soft plastics are perfect sizes for trophy hunters and can be rigged on a #6/0 or #8/0 hook.
A bit of ripping followed by a pause can be a great way to excite a strike. You will see the hit on the fall more often than you might think.
A magnum-sized tube Jig from Kodiak Custom Tube Jigs is one of my favorite tools for working for weed beds. These 6-inch tubes are rigged on a heavy head jighead, and the flair with every tug, making them irresistible. These are not for ice fishing, but you can use them throughout the spring to catch ciscos.
A few Basstrix Paddle Tail Swimbaits are essential for me to get out on the water, especially if I’m fishing for perch or shad. These crankbaits are great for lake trout because of their powerful motion and the vibration from the BBs that they contain.
Big lake trout have more territory to explore as the ice melts. But don’t let this stop you from going on your hunt for a trophy.
These tips and the right gear will allow you to extend your lake trout fishing into spring.
These tips may have been helpful to you. If you have any questions or suggestions, please leave a comment.