January 30, 2021
By Justin Brouillard
If you read Part 1, you learned that catching lake trout through the ice is a thing, and its actually easier than most would think. From the first ice that forms through the middle of winter, lake trout are caught in deep water. They are aggressive and if you can find them, there is a good chance they will bite. As the season progresses and the temperatures begin to plateau, lake trout begin their move shallow and the fun and excitement of catching a large fish on a small rod remains the same, but different. Once the long part of winter is over, from January until the lake is defrosted, Trout can be found, seen, and caught shallower.
How Do You Find Trout?
Although the depth range may change where lake trout migrate to in the spring, the locations may not be as far away as you think. Trout frequent the shallows more during late ice versus early ice but will still be fairly close to deep water. During this time, target shallower humps near the channel and the shallow portion of ledges adjacent to deep water. Another common area that holds lake trout is a steep drop off or a ledge; the last shallow water on a flat prior to a drop off into deeper water. A 10- to 15-foot flat near a steep drop off to 50-foot or more is just one example. Just because lakers frequent the shallows more doesn’t mean the tactics and methods in Part 1 won’t work; it is just not as affective. Trout are food oriented and if you find the baitfish, you will find trout.
Late Ice Techniques?
From mid to late ice, you can catch trout the same way. They are aggressive enough that they will still react to a swimbait type bait being work upward in deep water but will also eat live bait on a tip up. Utilizing both techniques will result in more bites but focus your efforts near shallower water. When trout are aggressive and chasing a bait from deep water towards the surface, you can get away with heavier line and less natural looking, bright color baits. Anytime you get near shallow water, your bait has to be as natural looking as possible. Chumming with live bait is effective to attract lakers and keep them in the area. Utilizing both a jigging and live bait presentation will allow you to cover water while targeting both aggressive and more lethargic lake trout.
The best part about lake trout being shallow and aggressive is the possibility of watching them eat your bait. On most northern lakes where it gets cold enough to freeze, the water clarity is usually clear. Drill out as big of a hole as you can and keep your eyes open for fish swimming below. On the shallower humps and reefs adjacent to the deep water, lake trout will pull up and feed. Work your bait erratically in the water to draw lakers close by. If you are ready with a bait, the fish will come in due to curiosity and circle around. Trout get a real good look at the bait before deciding to bite. The more natural looking the bait to the main forage on your body of water, the better chance of getting bit. With shallower water comes lighter line. Look to utilize smaller swimbaits and lighter sized jigheads as well to increase the likelihood of getting bite. The sight fishing game works the best inside a shanty. The darkness will allow you to see in the water a lot better than being outside where it is bright.
Even though you are focusing on a shallower water area, it is still worth your while to have a few tip ups out. A lot of places that hold fish are larger and you simply cannot effectively cover it all with a jig rod. It is best to set a few on the shallower side of the area and a few on the transition points. Since lake trout roam, it is not uncommon to catch fish on a deep-set tip-up and a shallow set tip-up throughout the day.
For tip-ups, the dead baitfish technique will still work. Smelt, perch or suckers are great for chumming and dead sticking techniques. On the other hand, fishing in shallower water, you can opt for a live bait approach as well. In less than 15-foot, a live bait tip-up will allow the minnow to roam around a bit and draw attention to itself. As the minnow roams under the ice, it will remain within the strike zone for trout. For shallow/deep transition zones, the dead bait rig remains a favorite off the edges in the deeper water on the bottom. Chumming in general for lake trout is a good technique as it keeps them within the area. When they come in to feed, be ready and you may just be able to watch them bite.