Friday, May 9, 2008

Ice-out Northern Pike, Lake Trout and Walleye on Red Lake, Ontario

One thing is for sure with the late ice-out on many Northwestern Ontario lakes this year, including Red Lake, there is going to be prolonged ice-out fishing for all anglers.

This is usually a bonanza for northern pike and lake trout fishermen at Bow Narrows Camp at the far western end of Red Lake, Ontario.

Our anglers the first couple weeks of the season should catch a ton of monster northern pike by using the dead bait system of fishing (See Deadly Bait System for Pike).

The best places to find these magnificent trophy-size fish will be in little creeks and marshes where they will still be spawning.

The theory behind dead bait fishing is that the pike which are exhausted from the spawning process and lethargic from the cold water temperature at ice out just cruise around looking for fish that died over the winter and were frozen in the ice. The dead fish (frozen ciscoes in the case of the bait fishermen) make a good meal without needing a large energy expenditure to chase it.

A lot of times the dead bait system works the best in the early morning when the water is at its coolest. In the afternoon when the sun is heating the water, artificials work better.

Other good places to look for the big pike are in travel corridors such as narrows and entrances to bays.

While northern pike are slower to react in cold water at spring breakup, lake trout are in their prime. Surface water temperatures, even around the edges of the ice pack, will be in the low 40s F -- exactly what lake trout prefer.

They will be feeding aggressively and when hooked will set your reel's drag screaming as they strip off line in their many powerful runs.

The mouths of narrows such as right where Bow Narrows Camp is located are excellent fishing locations.

When targetting lake trout on Red Lake, regulations state you must use lures with single, barbless hooks and you cannot use bait. All lake trout must be live-released immediately on Red Lake.

In the summer when the trout have gone to deep water -- just 60 feet here-- large bucktail jigs work well. But in the spring the best lures to intentionally go after lake trout with are large unpainted spoons and large spinners. You can take off the treble hooks that normally come with lures and replace them with a much larger, single Siwash hooks in which you can pinch down the barb.

Most of these lake trout, which average about 12 pounds in size but which get up to 30 pounds, are best taken in the spring by trolling.

Many anglers also catch them accidentally as they troll shorelines with 5-7-inch stick baits like Rapalas in search for northern pike and walleye. The trout can be anywhere at this time of the year -- even in front of the marshes where anglers are looking for northern pike.

Ice-out poses challenges for walleye fishermen. It can delay or prolong their usual spawning time when they are more interested in reproducing then in feeding.

However once they have done their thing they will be hungrily looking for food in the first places in the lake that warm up. These will be very shallow bays, bays with stained or dark-colored water, sandbars and just areas of shoreline that get little wind and good exposure to the southern sun. They will almost certainly want live bait.

Once you have located the fish they will be in the same spot for a long time.

Good luck and good fishing!

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