If you’re into fishing and have never tried lake trout ice fishing, it’s high time you heed the challenge. This freshwater fish is fun to catch and also delicious to eat. But you’ll not use the same tricks used on other fish to catch lake trout as they’re unlike the other species.
The fish thrives in cold water and will give you a real challenge getting them out of the ice in winter when they tend to be big. Ice fishing lake trout will need you to learn tips and tricks, especially if you’re a first-timer. So, before you set out for this fun exercise, man yourself with these tricks in this helpful guide.
How to Fish for Lake Trout in Ice Water
As you get ready to go ice fishing for lake trout, you’ve got to understand that this fish stays in the deepest and darkest areas with the thermoclines of the lake/reservoirs. The fish also move in groups and are hard to find and catch when you’re lake trout fishing during winter. So as an angler, you need to learn how to do lake trout fishing plus the best season to catch this rare fish.
But you can catch them by;
1. Identifying Their Hiding Spot
When out for lake trout ice fishing, the first thing you need to do is locate the fish hiding place. Usually, lake trout love moving around during winter as they search for food like baitfish. They’ll keep moving from structures to the shallow waters during this time. Lake trout will, however, go back into the deep-water structures after eating to its full. So, you need to identify the best location to ambush the lake trout and trick it out of the water.
You can use a fish finder or bathymetric map to help you identify this spot. Look for an area with more baitfish and smaller gamefish between 10 and 80 feet. You can also target the underwater humps, shallow waters, sunken points, and between islands.
You can read more: Brook Trout vs Brown Trout – What Make Them Difference?
2. Strategically Place the Cameras/Fish Finders
After that, use the fish finder or underwater camera to determine if the lake trout is in that area. You can also look for the fish prey like baitfish as they’re the signs that lake trout can come here. Make zig-zag or grid pattern holes where you’ll place the cameras. Then put the cameras on different depths and structures to increase your chances of seeing lake trout.
3. Have The Right Fishing Equipment
Lake trout ice fishing will also require you to use the right lure. A larger lure will create a lot of action and flash when you jig it. Go for a 5–8-inch flash spoon, then attach the fishing line about 3 inches away from the lure. Alternatively, the heavy jig heads combined with soft plastic can do.
Additionally, you’ll have to carry a heavy action jigging rod as lake trout ice fishing is full of challenges. The lake trout will break an average jigging rod and fight hard in winter, requiring strong strikes. The heavy jigging rod and the bigger lure will enable you to catch lake trout easily.
But don’t forget you’ll need a reel with a good drag system that won’t be affected by the ice. Then also carry the right fishing line that is strong and not likely to break as the fish struggles to unhook.
4. Start Fishing
You can then start lake trout ice fishing. When you’re in the water, target the spots you identified above. Then cast your baits in the desired depth to have them in the strike area. You can add weight to the rig. Use a medium-size spilt shot or add an 8-inch monofilament line to keep the bait deep in the water. This combination will enable the lure to struggle against the hook attracting the lake trout’s attention.
You can read more: The 23 Types of Trout Species
Which Is the Best Lake Trout Fishing Season?
Lake trout ice fishing is an ideal exercise during winter when the fish tends to be active. Although such weather conditions are not suitable for most anglers, catching the biggest fish will be your motivation. But to win when you set out for this noble course, you’ve got to employ the best tricks and techniques. Also, you have to drill holes through the ice before dropping the lure into the water.
Lake Trout Ice Fishing Tips and Tricks
The following lake trout ice fishing techniques will help you prosper while in the cold water;
Run Your Lure in Shallow Water
One of the best lake trout ice fishing hacks is luring them into shallow water. This is where baitfish relax as they look for enough oxygen supply. As lake trout follow their prey (baitfish), you can trick them just some feet below the ice water. Jig immediately at the top of the water as the lake trout will become aggressive as it senses the jig.
Be Ready to Tackle a School of Lake Trout
Usually, the lake trout move in groups, so you’ll hardly encounter a solo lake trout. When you’re lake trout ice fishing, bear that in mind and be ready to catch more than one at a given spot. Remember that others will follow immediately as they look for food after one comes.
So, work with multiple poles and have a helping hand if possible. If your partner pulls a lake trout from a given spot, do drop your jig in the same place without hesitation.
Use The Best Ice Fishing Baits for Lake Trout
While ice fishing for lake trout, you need to have the best baits to attract them. The fish can eat any bait size; however, you should use a bigger lure for big lake trout. You can opt for live baits like a 6–10-inch dace, gold shiners, sunfish. After identifying the bait, rig them with a 1/0 or 3/0 hook below the dorsal fin to enable it to stay lively while in the water and for the lake trout to t-boned it.
You can read more: Can Dogs Eat Trout? Is it safe to eat?
Bumps Don’t Mean You’ll Lose
As you are busy lake trout ice fishing, know that this fish has good eyesight, and it will see the flash of the spoon or the tube jigs skirt immediately after you jig. The lake trout will try rushing towards the spoon and might bump into your jig to test if it’s something edible.
Don’t be quick to look at the lure if you realize this. Instead, be patient and continue jigging. The fish will later come back to bite at your bait, and you’ll have a better chance to win it out.
Use Scented Lures
Despite lake trout relying on their sight to look for their food, some sweet scent or taste will provoke them to bite. When you’re out in the water ice fishing for lake trout, use scented lures to attract them and trigger a bite. If you’re using the larger lures with a rig, use a small minnow on both sides of the treble hook. But you can sweeten the one with a minnow head.
Incorporate The Strongest Fishing Line
Before you set out for lake trout ice fishing, it’s best to understand that this fish has sharp teeth. If you use a weak leader, it will be damaged as lake trout tries to free itself. So, use a strong line to pull them out of the ice holes. A strong fishing line that’s at least two inches is better.
Create Consistent Rhythm
When lake trout fishing, remember to create consistent rhythm and not erratic movements. The rhythm will enable these fish to get to the hook with their mouths. It’s advisable to maintain more rhythmic moves and be consistent with the jig.
Doing this will help the fish come looking for the prey in a rush. But ensure the jig moves are aggressive to attract the fish’s attention. Then pause while the lure maintains its pulse to keep it lively. You can also shake the jig to enable lake trout to feel it.
Rely On the Sonar
Technology can save your back when you’re out for lake trout ice fishing. Include a sonar to view the fish presentation on the ice water surface. Ensure you use the narrowest beam to have a clear view of the fish. But don’t ignore the presence of baitfish as they’re the main target of lake trout.
Avoid using the traditional 19 degrees cone in deep water as it may display excess clutter if you turn the gain up. But a narrow beam when you’re group fishing will reduce interference from other sonars.
Try Your Luck in The Overlooked Areas
It’s a common occurrence that most anglers who are out for lake trout ice fishing only target specific areas like the humps, saddle areas, or main lake points. However, the shallow weedy areas attached to the deep spots are overlooked.
Take that chance and fish for lake trout in these areas and see the difference. The shallow weedy area ranges between 25 to 50 feet and is popular for perch fishing. But the lake trout has a similar pattern to the perch, so you’ve got to be keen.
Use Tip-Ups with Live Bait
You will be successful in the water after using tip-ups with live baits. When you opt for this method as you’re lake trout ice fishing, do also attach high-quality rigs to pull out heavy fish. The best tip-up should have an adjustable drag setting that you can tighten when using bigger live baits. Such settings will protect your bait from coming off from the tip up, giving you an easy time in the water.
You can attach a thick 30-50 pounds monofilament or fluorocarbon line to the tip-up to help you pull out a bigger lake fish. But since lake trout are sensitive to lines, especially in heavily fished areas, add some length of fluorocarbon/monofilament to the line.
Then tie a bigger barrel swivel to one end of the tip-up and add about 2-6 feet fluorocarbon or monofilament line to the other end. This will make the laker not recognize the line from far but bite it without a second thought. Also, consider adding weight to the tip-up to get the live bait to the desired depth.
Safety Equipment You’ll Need When Lake Trout Fishing
Before you leave for lake trout ice fishing, you’ve got to be prepared for any emergency as anything can happen. This requires you to have some equipment that can save you from danger. The safety devices you should have with you include;
As you’re ice fishing for lake trout, you might need help if your vessels get stuck in the ice or feel you’re in danger. A phone will come in handy as you can use it to alert others about your situation. Make sure the phone is functional, then put it in a Ziplock bag to keep it dry.
You will require this when you’ve spotted lake fish and want to kneel to pull it out. A floatation device with a 50 feet line will be good for you.
Since you don’t know what may happen to you while ice fishing for lake trout, carry with you an ice pick. It can rescue you if you accidentally fall in the water. You will pull yourself out with ease using it.
What’s The Right Depth to Fish for Lake Trout?
You need to know the right water depth for lake trout ice fishing to reduce the challenges in the water. The lake trout like hiding in deep waters of between 60 and 200 feet. But since they love moving around looking for food, you can also target them in shallow waters where there’s baitfish (prey).
Lake trout ice fishing can be fun if you prepare well and know the best tricks to get the fish out of the water. Before setting out for the water, assemble the right fishing tackle and identify the best fishing spot. After that, you can employ any of the above tricks and tips to have a good catch.