Early Season Trout Fishing
By Daniel Kiazyk
Every once in a while it helps to “change things up a bit” in terms of one’s fishing ‘regimen’. Getting out of the “rut” so to speak is good for an appreciation of the basic components of our sport. Nature, good fishing friends, new surroundings, the variety of species we can angle at different times throughout the year can add a little life to one’s fishing outlook.
Trout season in N.W. Ontario begins the first of year and continues on most lakes until the end of September. The only really viable opportunity to target lakers out of a boat is in the early spring. Of course the region is very well known for its trout ice fishery, but that’s another story. One component that does need to be mentioned about the fishery is that these lakes are situated in country that is absolutely stunning. High rock cliffs, large white and red pines and a variety of vegetation is very pleasing to the eye. I would go so far as to say that after visiting this area I am often left with many outstanding memories of the natural environment and fauna that we’ll see in the area.
So, it was that particular spring, I had decided to pursue lake trout in Northwest Ontario. Many smaller lakes in the region have those qualities necessary for lake trout, depth and good water quality. Of course the trout here are not the monsters of the far north. Firstly the size of lakes here are miniscule in comparison and moreover they have been fished for many years which will have an effect on the size of any fish population. The latter component is also important when thinking about harvesting these trout. Because of the limited size of these lakes and the limited amount of time where they have access to the lake as a whole these trout are going to take longer to get up in size. These trout are not going to grow because their diets are going to be limited as well by the limited biomass that is present in any of these little lakes. So, it follows that if your harvest a better sized fish there are probably a limited number of these fish and a replacement will take a number of years to grown.
Our efforts that particular spring were first directed at hitting the water as early as possible after ice out. In some instances on some of the bodies of water that we visited there were parts of the lake still covered by ice. No matter, the closer to ice out the better the fishing was.
Our trout fishing tactics weren’t especially complex. Spoons and rigs were generally the most effective for covering water. But in the final analysis rigs with live bait were the tactic that proved most effective. My friend from the area, who has a particular penchant for spring trout, would lead us to points, rocky shorelines, and areas where you could visibly see transitions in depth and bottom composition. Trout at this time of year were seemingly at those transitions and edges.
As for presenting our bait to these Northwestern Ontario smaller lake trout, two fine details were became evidently very important. If we were working livebait rigs having just enough weight for each area was key. Too much weight and snags would slow down the troll, not enough and your rig didn’t get down to the fish. Secondly a change in speed by various means meant more bites. Either manually moving the rod ahead/back or increasing/decreasing engine speed brought on more bites! Keeping the rod in a static position or not changing speed meant fewer trout.
The days we fished trout had a few little quirks. I did catch some fish casting spoons but a spinner type or rig with minnows (live or dead) would be our “go-to” method . Also of particular interest was there was one particular west coast spinner rig that worked best. My local friend even noted that there was a difference with the bite in some instances when he would change the colour of the blade from silver to copper. The preference for this rig was so pronounced some days that it no matter what else you’d put on nothing else would work. Have I since bought some of these rigs …Yeah…. but I’ll only share that info with paying guests…. Lol.
Some other observations from our days out fishing these new waters in early spring was that when it did snow the bite dropped off. I guess the water was so cold that to get the bait moving a little bit of sun would help. And so it followed that the best bite occurred when the sun would come out and it would go calm. When we jigged in some areas where we caught trout trolling we would catch smallmouth bass! I guess that’s what the only other boat on the lake was doing in places deeper than we would normally fish bass six weeks later!
Spring trout fishing memories have their own special charms. I’ve got photos of anglers standing in the boat along side a shear rock face where a underground spring had built up a sheet of ice that had not yet melted. Another image burned into my memory is when we arrived at one lake more than a half of it was still covered with a thin sheet of ice. As the day went on you could hear the cracks, crackles and tingling of the sheet of ice disintegrating. Or simply feeling the warmth of the warm spring sun beating down on your face chases away any lingering memory of the past year’s long cold winter. Finally, just the comradery of a good fishing friend that makes any fishing day worth the effort.
Would I go back and do it again, you bet! I would go back if it was just for the scenery and the crystal clear water on some of the lakes we would fish. Spring trout is a good option for changing your fishing outlook.