Early ice fishing for Great Lakes Trout is quickly becoming one of my favorite times of the year to target trophy Trout! There are several factors that make early ice one of the best times of the year to have a chance at that 15+ pound Trout!
For starters, early ice happens to coincide with the Brown Trout spawn. Browns can spawn from October through March, but the majority of the Browns spawn between mid November and late December in my experiences. These Trout return to the rivers and harbors that they were planted in as yearlings to spawn.
Another factor that is special about early ice is the ability to reach areas that you cannot access without either a boat or permission from the landowner. There are many areas in harbors and rivers that can now be accessed that have had very little pressure during the late fall open water period, making for some hot fishing for the first people to venture onto the ice here.
When it comes to harbor fishing, early ice allows an angler to get away from the docks and shorelines, which eliminates the risk of fish tangling around dock pilings and also spooking away from the docks as you walk down them. When the ice forms, the fish seem to be much less spooky.
The final factor that makes early ice the best time of the winter, is fishing pressure. Early ice provides an opportunity to target “fresh” fish that have not been pressured, and at this time of the year there are typically good numbers of fish still coming in from the lake. As winter wears on, less fish come in from the lake and fishing pressure increases. With less fish and more fisherman, mid-winter becomes a tough time of year to consistently catch the elusive Trout. A warm snap that increases current flow in the rivers can bring fresh fish in from the lake, so keep this in mind when planning your midwinter Trout fishing trips.
When venturing out on early ice, make sure you are aware of the ice conditions and bring another angler along just in case you find yourself in over your head! Ice picks are also a good idea during this time of the year, as thin spots cannot be detected once there is some snow on the ice. Whether you choose to fish in the harbors or rivers at this time of the year, be safe and enjoy this prime time of the year!