The cold water lakes in which lake trout occur are usually fairly deep and for several months of the year in winter they are ice-covered.
Understanding the annual weather cycle of you favourite lake and knowing the lake trout's response to these temperature shifts will increase your chances of 'landing the big one'.
In summer, lake trout love cold water, but must have oxygen and they will frequent the 'thermocline' (the mixing zone between warm upper water and the cold water down deep) where temperature, oxygen content and presence of forage fish create a 'comfort zone'.
In autumn, the weather gets colder and winds increase thus cooling the surface water causing a 'turnover' of the lake water. This destroys the familiar thermocline and for a brief time the whole lake is a 'comfort zone'.
In winter, ice forms a barrier between lake water and the
atmosphere and ice-covered lakes go into what might be called a state of
'hibernation' when the water-moving action of the winds and the warming action
of direct sunlight is removed. During winter the densest water in the lake
gravitates to the bottom where it stays unaffected by internal lake currents
.The water achieves an early homogeneous temperature gradient from 32 degrees
farenheit ( 0 C) just under the ice to39 degrees farenheit (3.9 C) in the
Lake trout, being cold-blooded, will seek the depth where it is most comfortable (warmest).They'll be looking for the winning combination of temperature, oxygen and forage fish - the ' comfort zone'.This means that in the winter lake trout roam through all depths of the thermal inversion seeking high-protein baitfish.
All ice fishermen know that the technique of jigging works wonders for lake trout. Ice fishing is always done from bottom to top, because fish often suspend in reference to the bottom structureor in the current. Fish could be running two, four or six feet off the bottom. This can be a problem in winter as most fish have a short strike range and will move only short distances to attack a lure.Just rig a spoon or a weighted jig/bait combo to a monofilament line ( not less than 10 lb test) and methodically pump the lure up and down at various depths with short, slow, jigging strokes with long pauses.
Winter fish usually strike the lure when it is stopped or at rest and the bite is often extremely subtle.Spoons are deadly because fish sense both the water displaced and their flash as the spoon sinks. The weight of the spoon speeds the fall and will assist in keeping the slack out of the line so you can detect strikes from wary game fish. Letting the spoon hit bottom is a good idea and will draw attention to the lure. This aids in attracting fish, even from some distance.
Where regulations allow 2 lines per angler, set one line with live or dead bait and jig spoons from the other. Lightweight and compact tip-ups rigged with not less than 10-pound test line terminated with live bait hooked onto small, short-shanked hooks in single, double, or triple combinations. Use a sinker or weight at the very bottom with 6- to 12-inch lead-offs spaced a couple of feet apartdirectly above.
Fish living in cold water have slower metabolic rates. Ice fishing for lakers usually involves using live bait fish to trigger the semi-dormant fish into feeding. When activity is slow, try rigging your minnow so it is placed upside down - its unusual movement sometimes attracts fish.
REMEMBER : YOU ARE WALKING ON WATER
No ice is safe. Anyone who decides to go out onto a
frozen body of water must make a personal decision to do so, realizing that
there is a degree of risk associated with this choice. Ice seldom freezes at a
uniform rate. What constitutes a safe depth of ice is difficult to apply in all
cases.While three-inches of ice on a farm pond may pose little danger, that
same three inches on a moving stream or lake with springs, stumps and currents
could be very dangerous. On the Great Lakes, one step from three-foot ice may
lead to nothing more than skim ice on the next step. For these reasons, we
do not advocate the use of relative ice thickness guides. It is crucial
that anglers, and others considering recreating on the ice, take individual
responsibility in evaluating the quality and soundness of the ice on the
particular body of water in question.Avoid ice formed over flowing water near
shore, around inlets and outlets of streams, or on lakes with springs. Avoid
aeration devices such as warmwater bubblers used near marinas. Be suspicious of
gray, dark orporous spots in the ice as these may be soft areas. Ice is
generally strongest where it is hard and blue. Be especially wary of river ice,
as it can be highly variable in thickness due to the erosive action of the
underlying river current. One can be standing on ice eight-inches thick on a
river and just a few feet away, the ice may be only two-inches thick. Carry a
couple of large nails and a length of light nylon rope. If you should go
through the ice, the nails could help provide a "grip"on the slippery surface
and aid in getting out.
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Last modified on Oct 26, 2004
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