My son and I are going fishing in Frontenac Provincial Park this July. We'll be catching smallies, lake trout and brook trout from a canoe. I'm pretty confident about the bass, but I have never really fished trout before. Any suggestions on lures, techniques, etc.?
St. Mary's, Ontario
While most people troll for lake trout in the summer, and trolling can be great, it is not, in my opinion, necessarily the best way to catch lake trout. As a matter of fact, we have discovered recently that it’s often much more productive to fish for summer lakers using methods more like you’d use in the winter.
What we’ve been doing with great success is locating the high-percentage structures—sunken humps, reefs and deep underwater points—and then vertically jigging over them using white tubes with a 3/8 ounce jig. The nice thing about this technique is that you don't need any specialized boats, motors or tackle. You can use the same walleye or bass rods and reels (and tube jigs) that you already own.
We use 10-pound test Fireline or Suffix braid, attached to a 12- to 18-inch fluorocarbon leader of the same strength. Then you just tie on your white tube jig and drop it over the side of the boat. Let it fall all the way to the bottom and then start a nice lift, fall, pause routine. Not a violent jig—just a gentle lift, and a controlled freefall. The pause after the fall is critical. Pause at least 5 to 10 seconds and lightly shake your rod tip to get the tentacles on the tube vibrating.
If you don't get a bite, simply repeat the process with another lift, fall and pause. Start on or near the bottom, for 5 minutes or so. Then reel up 10 feet and go through the same procedure. If you catch nothing after another 5 minutes or so, bring it up another 10 feet and go through the same routine.
After you hook a trout, remember how far off the bottom you were jigging when the fish hit, and then go back to that depth, since it's probably the key depth/zone the fish are inhabiting that day. This is a very simple procedure, but it is deadly.
And if you want to take it to the next level, use sonar to watch your lure as you slowly drift around the structure’s top and edges. You'll see trout shoot onto the screen and chase after your bait. When that happens, take your lure away from the fish by starting to reel it up to the surface, as though your tube is a small baitfish running away. The trout will turn on the afterburners and chase it down!
Four-inch-long white tube jigs have been our staple for this technique, but 3/8 ounce jigs tipped with four-inch long twister tails are excellent also. And lately, we've been experimenting with Rapala Clackin' Raps and Kopper Live Target lipless crankbaits and they are deadly, deadly, deadly!
I am actually hoping to do a feature on this technique for Outdoor Canada sometime next year. There are a whole bunch of fine tuning details I could get into, but this will more than get you started.
By the way, remember that during the open-water fishing season, lake trout frequent water with a temperature range between 48 F and 58 F. They will certainly chase after a bait (your lure) as it rises up to the surface through the warmer surface waters, but when you're jigging to attract the fish in the first place and you get up to within 30 feet or so of the surface, stop and go back to the bottom.
Because you're vertical jigging you can keep your lure in the sweet zone and over the sweet structural spots constantly, something even the best lake trout troller can't accomplish. And to make the presentation even sweeter, you'll catch whitefish as a bonus. Trust me, this technique works!