Great Lakes Trout Fishing is one of the most overlooked ice fishing opportunities in the Midwest! The primary reason so few anglers chase Trout during the winter months is lack of knowledge. Trout can be extremely difficult to catch in the winter, but once you understand the fish, you will soon be consistently putting them on the ice.
Trout are very sensitive to minor details,therefore line diameter, hook size, and bait selection become keys to success. I prefer to use the smallest hook possible when fishing spawn or skein, which is easier to hide in the eggs. A Gamakatsu size 6 or 8 Red Octopus hook is ideal for fishing spawn. When it comes to line, I like to spool my poles with 8 Pound Berkley Trilene XL, which has a thin diameter and will stretch when the Trout freak out beneath the hole.
Bait selection is the most important factor that will increase your success. Trout spawn is the most consistent fish producing bait for winter Trout. There are many different ways to present the spawn to the fish, and having several different options available on every trip will help you catch more Trout. The one thing you will learn pretty quickly while Trout fishing is that every day is different. You can go out today and light them up using Brown Spawn tied in a pink sac, then tomorrow your same spawn sacs won't get touched!
When you are lucky enough to land a female Trout with eggs or skein in her, it is important to either remove the eggs right away or bleed the fish out by cutting their gill plates to prevent the eggs from spoiling. Whenever I get fresh eggs I will tie as many spawn sacs as possible, using several different colors of netting. Once tied, I then individually wrap each sac in a small piece of aluminum foil. Next, I will put them in a zip-lock bag that is labeled with the date, the color netting, and the type of fish egg used. This way when I pull them out of the freezer months from now I know exactly what I am dealing with. I also like to put just enough spawn sacs in each bag for one day worth of fishing.
The creator of this unique tip up actually lives in the Green Bay area and developed it specifically for catching more of our finicky Great Lakes Trout! At first I couldn't understand how this contraption could outproduce my Beaver Dams, which had caught hundreds of fish for me in the past. I soon learned that Trout can sense the slightest tug on the line from the tip up spool, which in many cases causes them to drop the bait before you can get to your tip up. I proved this several times in a row one day last winter.
Another thing that will help you catch more Trout through the ice is knowing why the Trout are where they are. These fish come into the rivers and harbors for a brief period each year with a mission to spawn. Because these fish are primarily stocked and are not natural to Lake Michigan, they tend to spawn at abnormal times. Some of the fish may show up in mid November, while others could come in to spawn in the middle of January. Knowing what draws them into the rivers can help you decide when fresh fish should be present. Any warm spells during the winter that produce a melt will trigger fish to move into the rivers, rain events, and even the lengthening days in the spring will bring some fish in.
There are many other tips and techniques that will help you put more Trout on the ice that I will cover in the near future, but for now, I hope some of these tips will help you out!