August 17, 2012
For 20 years or so, I've been pulling Eppinger Evil Eyes for lake trout all over North America. From Labrador to the Yukon, from Colorado to Great Bear, few lures have proved more universally effective.
How do we discover such things? Trial and error through many stages. In the 1970s I swore by Williams Wablers. In the 1980s, Joe's Pirate by Renosky Lures took turns with the Williams Whitefish. An old friend turned me on to the Gibbs Canadian Wonder in Quebec in the 1990s, and it took turns Dardevle Husky Jr. on my leader board. These days I'm still trying everything and finding success with a lot of lures, but when the going gets tough, I start digging around in the box for an Evil Eye.
That copper one I'm holding is great in stained water. I think silver-sided baitfish turn copperish in stained water, and Lake Superior runs from pretty stained to lightly stained, depending on where you're sitting. (It's 530 miles long, so water color and clarity are rarely consistent.)
We deliver them on 3-way rigs with 8-ounce to 1-pound weights, depending on how deep they are. This week we were finding them 90 to 100 feet down, so 12-ounce weights on wire line kept us near bottom with about 257 feet of line out at 2- to 3-mph.
Our 25-pound Berkley Big Game fluorocarbon leaders were 5- to 6-feet long. We were camping and that's tough on long rods, so we used 7-foot, medium-heavy Shakespeare Ugly Stiks, which are bullet proof. You don't need expensive, sensitive rods to troll deep with wire and heavy weights. But you do need sharp hooks. Gamakatsu Siwash Hooks are awesome down there. I prefer the big singles because they're easier to remove, tend to create less collateral damage, and result in a quicker release — which is critical in summer. Salvelinus namaycush is an extreme cold-water fish. Hot days and warm surface temperatures can kill them quickly. Not to mention the damage air is doing to their gills. Hold them out of the water for more than a minute and the cells in their gills begin to die.
Best to leave them in the net and in the water until the cameraman (in this case, camerawoman) is completely ready. Take a few quick shots at different angles, let them go within a minute and they'll head for the bottom with powerful strokes of the tail every time. Any rumors to the effect that lakers brought out of 100 feet of water can't be released are just that — rumors.
On the other hand, we always want to keep a couple for the table. Lake Superior lakers in the 2- to 5-pound range are absolutely awesome fried, grilled, baked, or broiled. We made up a recipe this time with the ingredients we had on hand and simmered the fillets in a bit of curry paste mixed with coconut milk, sauteed onions and fresh garden basil. It was delectable. Camp cooking is an art, we're definitely trying to perfect it, and having fresh, bright, orange laker fillets to work with certainly can't hurt.
But without the Evil Eye, we wouldn't be having that conversation.