Spring has been slow. Waking up this morning it was ten degrees outside. I was going fishing. I grabbed a spinning rod, a fly rod, and my net. Coho salmon seem to be the only consistent species this year. I was able to pick up a couple early in the morning bobber fishing with the spinning rod.
The numbers of rainbow trout are dwindling along the North Shore of Lake Superior due to the stocking changes the Minnesota DNR has made in the past few years. This year has been the worst yet. As you may have noted, my posts have been lacking of rainbow trout action compared to the last couple of years. Just have a look at the archives from February-June of 2014 and 2013. And it’s not because I have not been going out. I have, and I get skunked. What fish are left have been pressured and are more difficult to catch. You may see them sulking around almost as if they are in a dormant state of mind, like in this video.
I broke out the fly rod and put on one of my favorite flies under an indicator, cast it out, and waited. Optimism was low which is weird, because usually to catch these fish you need to have confidence in what you are doing and what you are using. If I were to give anyone advice on fishing these rainbows, it would be to have confidence in your ability to catch these fish and anticipate your bobber going down.
And the indicator did go down, a slow sink as I whipped back in surprise attempting to set the hook. I felt something on the other end but only momentarily before the hook popped out. Whitefish is what I was thinking just because it did not feel very big, but it was only momentary so I really couldn’t say. Casting back out, the indicator sank almost right away again and this time I connected. There was a pretty good fight and it took a few attempts to get it in the net. There is always a lot of finesse and nerves involved fishing with 4lb test line.
Swinging my fly line back out there, it was only moments before my indicator sank again. Surprised, I set into another. It was shorter, but it was fatter.
The day turned out pretty good. I missed a few and caught a few. Hopefully more fish will show up yet and this season won’t be a total bust. It is only March after all, the best part has yet to come.
Forest demonstrates the proper way to catch and release a Lake Superior steelhead while ice fishing with no harm done to the fish.
With nicer temperatures in the forecast, we got up early and made our way out onto the ice of the big lake. It was still pretty frosty in the morning but it was suppose to be much warmer by afternoon.
As soon as we setup there were already large schools of fish moving through and the action was about to start. As schools of herring moved in, we were able to pick off multiple fish including coho salmon mixed in. The schools were large and stuck around for a long time providing us ample opportunity to hook up with fish.
Pretty soon we had a pile of fish on the ice.
In no time at all, that pile grew…
Some of the Coho Salmon we caught.
And here is a glimpse of the action:
Drew and I started out the day targeting big Lake Superior rainbow trout through the ice. Fishing near shore in ten feet of water or less, we only managed some small ones.
The big ones just didn’t seem to be around in their usual numbers so we decided to pack up and head out deep to try a little lake trout bobbing. I had my hoops and wire ready to go with some fresh cut-bait for our 2 oz jigs.
Jig! Jig! Jig! Jig! Jig!
It didn’t take long before I felt a thunk on the end of my line. It felt heavy. I worked it up to the top hand-over-hand and got it through the hole. First lake trout of the day, 32″ and almost 14lbs.
After dropping my jig back down, it didn’t take long before another heavy weight yanked on my line. Another fat lake trout.
It was another one of those days.
We continued to fish for the rest of the day and iced 10 lake trout, we lost probably just as many.
A few of the larger trout measured in at 28″ to 33″ and weighed in at 8lb 12oz, 10lb 12oz, 14lb 3oz, and 13lb 7oz. There were a couple of lake trout I had on the end of my line that shook off with some powerful head shakes. These fish I am sure would have topped 20lbs. They were significantly heavier than the 13-14 lbers. Jigging for big lake trout using a bobbing hoop and hand-lining stainless steel wire can be a challenge and takes some learning and developing some techniques. I am wondering if it would have made a difference using a stout rod and reel – would I have lost as many? But it’s just too much fun pulling these pigs up from deep water by hand!
Another interesting thing, one of the lake trout had a tag in it. It came all the way across the lake from Bayfield, Wisconsin! I thought that was pretty cool.