Updated: Jan 3
On an ice out adventure to Lake of the Woods, we shared in a fun method for catching early season lake trout. With professional guide Tim McNanney of Indianhead Lodge at the helm, we carefully picked our way between the islands, reefs and marker buoys, until arriving at Whitefish Bay. This area in Lake of the Woods is known to hold the majority of lake trout action and is also the primary draw for largemouth bass fisherman during the Kenora Bass International Derby held every summer.
Backing off on the throttle, we coasted up to a saddle, located between two large islands. We began making slow circles with eyes glued to the high-resolution graph. It showed large arcs located just off the bottom, and that’s all it took for Tim to crack a smile and say “they’re here “. We pulled out the heavy artillery, consisting of 9-foot spinning rods (similar to a down rigger rod) and oversized reels filled to capacity with 220 yards of 12 lb mono. The bait rig was a semi frozen Cisco threaded on a long-shanked hook, first thru the mouth and then out the belly. A large bell sinker was placed up the line 18 inches and held there by a small split shot to prevent back travel towards the bait.
This technique requires opening the bail and dropping the rig 30 to 40 yards from shore, in 15 - 30 feet of water. In areas where you can walk to a rocky point that is adjacent to deep water, a long cast from shore can prove effective. Tim explained how very little pressure was put on the trout stocks, because all the resorts were relatively empty until the walleye opener a few short weeks away. He couldn’t understand why more people didn’t get out earlier for bug free fishing.
We beached the boat and propped our rods in a holder made of nearby rocks, with the bail still open. Then we placed a clean empty soup can beside the rod butt and wrapped the line around the can. Now it was time to open the thermos and share those tall tails from past fishing seasons. Within a few minutes our conversation was cut short, when we noticed a giant musky cruising by in the warming shallows. It had to have been at least four feet long, and simply glanced up, almost knowing we had nothing to offer him. But that didn’t stop a bunch of professional anglers from turning into little children, as we ran back to the boat turning over tackle boxes looking for large Rapalas.
Lake Trout often scavenge and use their highly developed sense of smell to locate bait fish. When they do feed, they pick up the prey sideways and make a short run to distance themselves from other feeding trout. At this point the prey is then dropped and re-swallowed head first.
This initial strike tips the can over making both a visual and audible alert. Watching those cans flip and roll all morning makes things a lot more fun. Be sure to let the line spool out until it slowly stops, then wait until it starts moving again before setting the hook.
Lake Trout are located in every Canadian Province and offer opportunities at ice out to use the minimum in gear for the maximum in fun. The best action occurs from first daylight until noon, and within a short 3-week window of opportunity when the shallows remain cool enough for foraging lakers. Lake trout prefer the coldest water temperature of any game fish and will drop off into the depths at moments notice.
The delayed hook set method often hooks fish deep in their mouth, so long needle nose plyers should be kept on hand. Remember to handle these fish with care if you plan to release them. Optional baits can include frozen smelt or jumbo sucker minnows. Check all your area regulations for seasonal dates, possession, size limits and bait restrictions before heading out.
“Can fishing “is tailor- made for social anglers and can be an easy way for the kids to get into some lunkers. So, if you’re looking to get rid of those winter blues, book a cabin pre - season and get into some great action, where even the fish get “a kick at the can “.