With this past Saturday marking the trout opener of 2014 I decided I was going to attempt to fish for these species for the first time on hard water. I did my research, going from page to page finding tips, finding out what they eat and when, what depth they normally cruise at, I checked out the current DNR stocking report, and took a look at a lake map of the depth.
With the info in hand I packed up my car and got up early morning to head out to the lake, with a little over an hour drive ahead of me. I arrived around 6:30am and unpacked the gear from my SUV onto the sled and trekked out onto the lake. I then started to punch holes from the shoreline in a zig zag from 5 feet to 10 feet of water with my buddy scooping out the slush from the holes behind me. We started hole hopping one by one with my flasher until I finally marked my first fish, inching closer and closer to my bait until he took ahold and started running! Could it be???….. no it was a crappie.. So I unhooked him let him back in the water and continued hole hopping until I reached the end of the holes we drilled along the shoreline, picking off a few small sunfish along the way.
Then we started drilling more holes out deeper in the 10 feet to 15 foot range switching back and forth from my spoon tipped with a frozen minnow and my jig with a plastic tipped with 3-4 waxies and marked some fish but couldn’t get any of them interested. So we moved on to the 15′ to 20′ range flats before it dropped off to a deep 40 foot hole as the sun started rising. The moment I dropped my transducer in the water I marked a fish at 5 and 7 feet deep. I quickly reached for my pole with the spoon and minnow knowing that Rainbow trout love to sit in the top half of the water. It didn’t take much jigging to catch his attention and then BAM! Fish on! Drag started peeling downwards and the fight was on.
A few moments later I pulled up my very first hard ice rainbow trout, not by any means a trophy but fun nonetheless. I drilled a second hole for my buddy to fish nearby and it was not long before he hooked into one as well, resulting in his first ever trout. After this it started to snow pretty hard and I knew that the fishing was on! Every time we dropped our hooks in the water before it could even go a few inches below the bottom of the ice we were getting hits pulling up trout after trout, some bigger then others.
I decided to check out the water clarity and dropped my jig down, I could not believe how many fish I saw racing for my bait! They kept circling over and over darting at my bait one by one, there must have been 50+ trout down just below the ice.
At this point I decided to go hike back to the car and grab my portable fish house to use as a dark house to sight fish a little better. I was working depths from right under the ice all the way to the bottom at 18 feet picking off fish wherever my bait stopped. We caught about 150+ trout before noon as well as two 1.5 LB bass off the bottom. It got to the point that it didn’t matter what kind of lure or bait that we tossed down there, they were by far more aggressive then I have seen any fish all year so far. Before we left at 1pm we were catching them on both bare jigs and spoons. It was more then worth the little farther of a drive and it most defiantly paid off. I even get a meal of smoked trout for dinner!
A few tips for anyone that is thinking about going out trout fishing this year, or future years to come. Trout, like other fish, go shallow at dawn and dusk to eat, with the exception of lakes like I was fishing on that has steep drop-offs straight off shore and not really any shallower then 5 feet deep. Look at lake maps for areas that are flat before a sudden drop off with a depth change. The DNR has a designated area on there website with a list of the dedicated trout lakes and streams that they stock with different kinds of trout from lake trout, rainbow, brook, brown ect. Be sure to check the lakes regs before fishing on it! Most you can only use 1 rod (Even during ice season!) and you must use dead bait, some you can only keep a portion of what the state limit allows, some there is a continuous season. Also don’t forget to pickup a trout stamp! For a resident of MN they are currently 10$
Trout feed on different things throughout the year depending on what kind of trout also depending on whether its a lake or stream. They will primarily eat insects, grasshoppers, mayflies, ect. But will also eat smaller minnows. Typically ice fishing for trout I use the same lures as I would go crappie fishing. You can use smaller spoons such as a UV buckshot or slender spoon tipped with a frozen salted crappie minnow (Remember there are some lakes that allow live minnows!) Or when the fish are more lethargic and require some finesse put on a smaller jig with or without plastic bait and add 2-5 waxies or colored larva. It helps to have you jig be perfectly horizontal in the water. A tip to keep your jig horizontal is every time you bring your jig out of the water to either bait or take a fish off take your line and bend it down towards your hook, if you set it in the water you can see that your bait is now sideways and not straight up and down!
Like every other species, every day you go out fishing what they bit on yesterday they may not like today, even within the same day they will change what they are in the mood to eat. I hope you enjoyed todays blog! And GOOD LUCK FISHING!