For some, when the temperature plummets and the snow and ice take over, it’s the time of year to stay indoors and keep warm. But for thousands of hardcore ice anglers, my self included, this is the best time of year! Growing up on the shores of Lake Simcoe turned me into an ice-fishing fanatic; Lake Simcoe is touted as Canada’s best ice fishing destinations for Jumbo Perch, Whitefish and my favourite fish to case when ice fishing, Lake Trout! If you have yet to experience the adrenaline rush that comes along with chasing these wrist busting, line peeling, eating machines, you don’t know what you are missing out on!
One of the best parts about chasing Lake Trout through the ice on Lake Simcoe is the accessibility of it. You don’t need to spend thousands of dollars on fancy equipment, but having a portable hut and a flasher or graph will make your experience much more enjoyable and productive. You can simply walk out to most of the hot spots on Lake Simcoe and with Navionics available on smartphones and tablets now, finding new spots is a breeze.
Top 3 Tactics when Ice Fishing for Lake Trout
Over the past 10 years, there have been dramatic changes in the way anglers target Lake Trout when ice fishing. Gone are the days of sitting over a hole watching a tip-up or jigging a spoon on the bottom for hours on end hoping for a fish to hit. The tool most responsible for the dramatic change has been electronics, allowing us to use “The Chase Technique” when ice fishing for Lake Trout. The Chase Technique is not a secret anymore and has been bringing Lake Trout topside for years now. What has changed over the years are the types of baits anglers are using with the Chase Technique.
#1 The Lipless Crankbaits/Rattlebaits
Lipless Crankbaits like the Live Target Golden Shiners, Rapala Rippin Raps and Rapala Clackin Raps in white, silver, and gold are my go-to lures. The combination of flash, rattle, and vibration calls fish in like no other bait and elicit the most aggressive strikes from Lake Trout. You want to work these baits aggressively throughout the water column, ripping it hard and trying to draw attention. Start ripping the bait 20-50 feet above the bottom and watch your flasher for an aggressive fish to shoot up from the bottom and start the chase. If the fish is coming fast immediately start reeling away to entice the fish to chase faster, usually you can’t reel fast enough and the fish will be on your crankbait in seconds. Many anglers keep reeling the bait away until the fish strikes, but I take a different approach. I watch the fish follow the crankbait on my flasher, and right before the fish and the crankbait become one mark, when the fish is about to reach my bait, I stop my retrieve and 99% of the time a vicious strike follows.
#2 Swim Baits
Swimbaits, such as the Bass Magnet Shifter Shad and Anglers Choice Sniper Shad have become incredibly popular with anglers ice fishing for Lake Trout over the past few seasons, especially on Lake Simcoe. My favourite way to fish a swimbait is on a second rod doing nothing. Deadstick the swimbait 20 feet off bottom while ripping a Lipless Crankbait 30-40 feet off bottom (editors note: Lake Simcoe allows two rods through the ice, please check your regulations for the body of water you are fishing before using two rods) The aggressive flash and rattle of the crankbait gets the fish looking up and the swimbait, and it looks like an easy target to a Lake Trout. Every few minutes drop the swimbait to bottom, stir up a dust cloud and reel it back to the 2-foot mark and let continue to dead stick it. Watch you flasher for an aggressive fish to shoot up off the bottom and then begin to reel your bait away as the fish approaches. Many days the fish will be key in on one the swimbait over the crankbait or vice versa, other days you will catch even numbers of Lake Trout on both, turning you into a rod juggling fish-catching mess of an angler. I rig my Swim Baits on 3/8-ounce football head jig or darter head jig in white or chartreuse. This is my number one tactic for Lake Trout on Lake Simcoe; it has put a lot of fish on the ice over the past few seasons.
#3 Tube Jigs
Arguably the most popular Lake Trout bait over the past several years has been tube jigs. Days, when fish are lazy, is when I like to use a tube jig, not to say they will not work any other day. I tend to rig my tubes on light jig heads from 1/8 to 1/4 ounce to achieve a slower fall rate. The slow circular fall of a tube is what grabs the attention of the Lake Trout as your bait drops to the bottom. Fish the tube throughout the water column, but generally keep it up 15 feet or more above the bottom, watching my flasher for a fish starting the chase. Once you see the Lake Trout moving in start reeling, forcing the chase. Most tubes are designed equal, any tube will work and white has always been the favourite colour for Lake Trout. Over the past few seasons, my favourite tube has become the Bass Magnet Tinsel Tubes in white and chartreuse pearl. The bait has a Mylar body and tentacles with a durable plastic tube; it generates a lot of flash and has the perfect profile to imitate the shiners that the Lake Trout love chasing.
If you haven’t experienced the excitement of ice fishing for Lake Trout, I strongly urge you to give it a try, you’ll wish you had done it sooner!