The Fish Nerds were invited to “Icefishing for Lake Trout”: an Outdoor Adventure Talk hosted by NH Fish and Game Department and presented by Scott Jackson of the Outdoor Learning Center. Scott shares more than 30 years of experience catching lake trout and in his talk he covers important topics like lake trout behavior, prey species, the best lures, hot techniques and secrets to cooking this fabulous fish.
Notes from the Talk
- Presenter: Scott Jackson, licensed NH and Maine guide and owner of the Outdoor Learning Center since 2004.
- Lake Trout Names: togue, Mackinaw, grey trout, lakers, lake char (biggest member of char family)
- Avg. Size in NH 4-6 pounds; more fishing pressure = smaller fish
- Food Chain is based on plankton, then bait fish (smelt) and then big game fish.
- Rainbow smelt is schooling fish that is primary food for lake trout and landlocked salmon. They form large bait balls.
- In the winter, lake trout can be found anywhere under the ice, because the whole lake is the same temperature.
- How to scout a new lake? Look at topography of the shore line for clues to underwater topography, then drill holes to test. TIP: Download Navionics for smart phone for real time mapping and to mark gps coordinates.
- Terms: a bench is an underwater plateau; ideally 20 ft on top; A saddle is the deeper spot between two benches.
- Lake trout are very good to eat; they take smoking well because there is a fat layer underneath the skin.
- Lake trout fishing is best done early in the morning or last light; anglers should be drilling holes as early as possible (in NH the taking of lake trout between two hours after sunset and one hour before sunrise is prohibited). See regulations for details.
- Best Bait: smelt, shiner and nightcrawler. Worms rarely get short strikes. Keep smelt warm when hooking so they don’t freeze and die. Common white sucker is a good bait. Cut along the throat to get the belly meat. Fillet half the skin off; cut a “V” like frog legs; hook skin through skin and meat; be sure to scale the sucker meat.
- Top Lures: white bucktail jig with cut sucker meat and airplane jig. Best lures are flashy and make sound.
- Pounding the bottom with a bucktail jig creates a crater in the bottom of the lake that can be used to “hide the bait”; then you can tease them in the crater and trigger a strike.
- Ice fishing tip-ups, also called traps: Scott recommends Jack Traps because they are well made and they operate smoothly. Use light weight, #8 hook, 8-10 ft of leader of fluorocarbon 6 – 8 lb test.
- Scott recommends hooking the bait fish through the back, just behind the dorsal fin.
- For rods, Scott likes one with enough backbone to really set the hook hard. He recommends a 32″-36″ stiff rod.
- He uses Cabela’s underwater cameras.
- Flashers (sonars) are good to have too, because they can “see” the entire water column. You should fish all parts of the water column.
- Lake trout rarely travel alone. Always have two rigs together to catch both that come in.
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