Fishing in the New Year 

During the open water season the most prominent date for most anglers every year is the third Saturday of May, marking the opening of a new walleye season. During the ice season, the January 1 Lake Trout opener is certainly the date that most anglers look forward to. Active under the ice, lake trout are fun to catch, grow large and the small ones are excellent eating.

There are some lake trout anglers out there who catch these unique fish during the open water season when they are found in deep water. Under the ice they kind of act like sharks, constantly on the move, looking for the next meal. They love cold water and are more active under the ice than any other species in Northwest Ontario.

We are fortunate to have as many opportunities as we do for lake trout across the region. The deep, clear waters that hold these fish are dotted across the region in all directions. Head west and you must go way north to find lake trout. Head east there are some waters but not nearly as many as we have. South, very few lake trout fisheries.
The variety of lake trout waters that we have access to across Sunset Country is unique. Some offer numbers of lake trout for anglers, some kick out big fish and others provide a combination of both. The general rule is the larger the lake, the bigger the trout get. Of course there are some exceptions out there. Some of the most memorable ice fishing trips I can remember as a kid are of catching numbers of lake trout in the smaller inland lakes where action was constant all day. The scenic background was always classic Canadian shield with steep, rocky bluffs and pine covered shorelines.

Jeff Gustafson with one of the biggest trout he’s pulled from the ice, back in 2007

After the recent cold snap, the warmer weather that is forecast for the next week is going to be welcomed by ice anglers. The good news is that all of the recent cold should have improved ice conditions and tightened up some of the slush that was popping up on many area lakes. I know that I’m looking forward to catching some lake trout on opening day.

When it comes to catching lakers through the ice, I usually just grab a few baits out of my open water bass box. Lures that are bright and attract attention are good choices because as I mentioned earlier, lake trout are active under the ice and often on the move, looking for food.

Bright colored soft plastics in white or chartreuse are always good options. Tube baits, twister tail grubs and jerkshads are all great minnow imitators that lake trout eat. Rig these on 3/8 or ½ ounce jig heads and start jigging. Other proven baits for lake trout under the ice include spoons, lipless rattle baits and airplane jigs. Again, baits that make some noise or attract attention are often the best, especially when you first drill holes on a new spot. Get a loud, bright bait down there to get the most active fish before your buddies.

Many anglers today no longer use meat for lake trout fishing. The truth is, you don’t need it on most days. Artificial baits continue to improve, plastics are scented and baits are more life-like. Many of the best trout waters have regulations that do not permit the use of fish or fish parts for bait, so artificial baits are mandatory. Of course, tipping your baits with minnows or strips of sucker belly meat will still work great on the waters that allows their use, just don’t think you need it to catch fish.

Lake trout are beautiful fish and fun to catch. They fight hard and grow large in many waters across the region. If you catch a few, take care of them and release the big ones. Happy holidays and all the best in the New Year.

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