Nothing gets my fishing juices flowing more than the thought of ice-free lakes after a long cold winter. For many targeting lake trout is the last thing on the must fish for list following the long winter months. I am here to tell you that you are missing out.

These are not your Grandpa’s lake trout

These lake trout are not the summer 100 feet down, head shakes twice and fights like an old rubber boot lakers. These are spunky, hard pulling and pretty easy to catch trout. Spring lakers are less fatty and when you know how to clean them properly are very good on the plate.

As soon as the ice leaves the lake and it is safe to launch the boat it is all hands on deck for some hot lake trout action. Lakers like water to be about 50 degrees Fahrenheit, so you only have 2 to 3 weeks worth of action before the lake trout go too deep for your flatline.

Troll the shoal

Finding these fishing is straightforward. Troll the shoals that are bordered by deeper water. Do not be afraid to fish under 20 feet of water. The lake trout will be feeding on the baitfish that have returned to the shallows as it warms up a few degrees. Just off the mouths of a creek or river that have a smelt run is also a must fish. These trout are all about one thing in the spring, feeding.

Ice-out lake trout
Aussie, Rex Stevens, with a nice ice-out lake trout.

Nothing fancy about trolling for these ice-out beauties. I do like to keep the speed up a bit over what I would if I was downrigging for them. I find 2-2.2 mph to be the ideal speed. Just as you would flatlining for other fish, troll an ‘S’ pattern to give your lure the best chance at clean water. Lake trout are not as easily spooked as a rainbow but why not keep up the good habits.

Pull a plug

Rapala J9 Gold Fluorescent Red is always a top choice.

Most lures that resemble what the local lakers are feeding will work, but I have the most success by pulling a plug. The Rapala J9 is an old standby and can catch almost any fish. The J9 has become a favourite of mine for lake trout following a fishing trip with a friend, you know who you are, he introduced me to the wonders of its fluorescent goodness.

The once famous Lyman in tiger pattern green has also served me very well. On a sidebar, Lyman is back, albeit with a plastic version of the brilliant wooden plug. I am very excited to get my hands on some and test them out in comparison to the older model.

Like trolling for most fish, don’t fall into the cycle of using the same lure over and over. If you go 20 – 30 minutes without a strike switch things up, try different colours, sizes and lures.

Most importantly get outdoors and enjoy a beautiful spring day. Catching a few spunky lake trout along the way will make it that must sweeter.

Goodluck, keep your rod bent and save a few for someone else.


The coordinator of Manitoulin Expositor Salmon Classic. Avid four season angler with a passion for walleye, perch, speckled trout, rainbow trout, lake trout and salmon fishing. Live, learn & breathe fishing. Please follow me on Facebook and Instagram.

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