Trolling for Early Winter Lakers

Trolling for Early Winter Lakers

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Brad with a December Great Lakes Lake Trout. Photo: Brad Thorn

• Story by Brad Thorn

Early December usually marks the end the fishing season for most anglers. For those willing to brave the cold, these times can actually produce some of the best Lake Trout fishing the season has to offer. This season, I decided to try out some new trolling tactics with an eye to hook into some beautiful Mackinaw.

The fist major change I made, and arguably the most important tweak to my setup was the spooling of Sufix 10 colour lead core line. Similar to what I use for Walleye trolling in the summer months, I spooled the 18lb test on my Daiwa line counter. 18lb test is thought to have the best weight to diameter ratio for getting your line deep and what is nice about the 10 colour, is that even if you don’t have a line counter reel, you can still very accurately know how much line you have out by watching the colours disappear as the line unspools. This also enables you to have good judgement on your trolling depth by matching the number of colours you have out in comparison to your trolling speed.

Sufix lead core

Attached to the end of the leadcore line, I have approximately 20ft of 30lb braided line before my leader. This allows the lure to move more freely which increases the presentation. On my leader was one of the many available and effective Williams spoons. My favourite during these trips would have to be a toss up between the Wabler and Whitefish. Most of the time I would just tie on the one that felt lucky for that particular day.

Williams Wabler
Williams Wabler

Once I had my rods rigged up and I was on the water, I’d turn on the electronics and find long stretches of water (1-3kms) that ranged anywhere from 80 to 150ft. The goal was not to get my lure down that deep, but rather find the thermocline where these fish feed. This is the most important factor in catching Lakers as it determines where the fish are bitting. As the water gets colder, the thermocline tends to get larger and the fish seem to move closer to the surface. One week in early December I could be letting out all 10 colours of my lead core line, while using a heavier spoon to get down deep. Two weeks later, after the water temperature dropped a few degrees, I may only need to let out 7 colours and a lighter spoon to hook up.   

While trolling, I make adjustments to the depth of my lure if nothing seemed to be bitting. This can be the main cause of frustration out on the water as it takes patience and persistence. Sometimes, I’d even find myself traveling over the same spot at a varied depths when marking fish in the area.  After a few adjustments and passes, I’d usually get at least one to hook up.

The Author with a late summer Lake Trout caught on lead core line.
The Author with a late summer Lake Trout caught on lead core line. Photo: Mary Pawelek

Overall, I was very pleased with the new set up and found it much easier to manage over a 3-way rig or having to buy an expensive downrigger. As long as you have the courage to get out in your boat until the lake freezes you in, I’m confident that this strategy will work for you too. Don’t believe me? Then lets see you out there trying it.

Brad with a 15.5 lb beaury. Photo: Brad Thorn
Brad with a 13 lb beauty. Photo: Brad Thorn

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