For Love Of Hardwater TroutBy Jason Halfen - January 11, 2021
Trout represent one of the most unique ice fishing opportunities throughout the ice belt. Unlike most of the typical hardwater targets - especially walleye, pike, and panfish - trout sustain very high activity levels beneath the ice. Indeed, as a group of coldwater species, trout thrive in chilly water temperatures and feed reliably through the winter months. Anglers can take advantage of this simple fact of biology to add some spice to their ice season.
Ice fishing opportunities for trout in the Midwest come in two flavors: Great Lakes and inland. On big water - home of BIG trout - sustained cold weather is required to provide safe enough ice in the harbors and near-shore areas where winter trout can be found. In recent years, ice fishing for big browns and steelhead has become all the rage in many of Wisconsin's harbors that dot the Lake Michigan shoreline. Here, anglers frequently present spawn or minnows under tip-ups, or with rod-and-reel devices like Jaw-Jackers or i-Fish Pro's, to target these fish. In Lake Superior, when conditions permit, anglers will venture into deep water to chase giant lake trout with heavy tackle, aggressively jigging big white tubes on 2 oz jigs or heavy Bondy baits. Always work through an outfitter when heading offshore on the Great Lakes to help ensure your safe return.
Fishing for inland, stocked trout is not necessarily the high-precision, "spot-on-the-spot" angling game that we often play for walleyes or panfish. Trout are roamers, frequently covering large stretches of shoreline or even making laps around smaller lakes as they hunt for prey. Small bays, shoreline bends, or near-shore obstructions like fallen trees can help to concentrate trout - or at least make them linger for longer periods of time - as they meander. Water depth doesn't seem to be as important as proximity to shore and shoreline cover.
Ice fishing for trout has been one of the highlights of my hardwater season. Give it a try this year - you'll appreciate the aggressive fish, beautiful colors, and above all, the change of pace as we fish our way through the winter months.