“When in doubt- Trout them out”, an old Lake Ontario Charter saying that has merit when the Salmon fishing bite isn’t the best. Salmon are a nomad fish species inhabiting all parts of the open waters of Lake Ontario. There are periods of time where salmon are slim pickings from reachable distances from your home port, and then there are times a short boat ride will get you in the vicinity of large numbers of black mouths (Chinook salmon have black mouths).
We target salmon as a priority, for a reason- they are hard fighting and make good table fair. Trout at times are our second option or often regarded as “Plan B”, They can be more predictable and more numerous at times. But the way we angle for trout species are not the same in all regards. Brown Trout are plentiful in the spring and we troll shallow water with body baits off planerboards, Rainbow Trout are our summer time MVP’s and we work the top portion of the water column and in some instances over the deepest parts of the lake, Then we have Lake Trout that are very prolific along the southshore, but requires tactics that run baits closer to bottom and usually presented at a slower trolling speed.
Of the three trout species, Lake Trout are the least desired amoungst avid Lake Ontario anglers. They are characterized by their lackluster fighting capability, poor taste, and slimy, stinky fish that makes a mess of the boat. Like Sheepshead are to the Lake Erie Walleye fisherman, or the Rock bass to the Muskoka Bass fisherman, Lake Trout are at times, in the way of catching our sought after fish species. When I return from a charter consisting of numerous successful catches of Lake Trout, my wife is quick to point out how stinky my boat is, when I back it into the drive way. Out comes the hose!
Greasers, boots and mud chickens are a few of the favourite nick-names given to our bottom dwelling grey trout. Is it really the Lake Trout that should be disrespected? Or should we- as my Mom would say, “consider the source”, meaning look at the name caller. Southshore Lake Ontario anglers are might I say, “blessed with the opportunity to catch Lake Trout”. We are spoiled, in fact, since any poor day of fishing for silver fish, can quickly turn a near skunked trip into a few grey coloured trout on the line before long. Our spoiled nature is revelled when we talk to very well respected salmon fisherman from with home ports along the North shore of Lake Ontario, discussing with enthusiasm of catching the odd Lake Trout (like one a year) from those ports.
Differences in Lake Trout outlook from Lake Ontario trollers is divided. Even more divided are the clients in which we host on charters out of our southshore ports. To most guests, a Lake Trout is that of only a few notches less than a big Salmon for requests to catch on our trips. Most don’t have a preference to a species of fish, at all.
Today’s trip was one of those days that would make Lake Trout the real saving grace! We pressed on with our Plan A running spoons and Flasher Fly presentations at typical salmon trolling speeds and suspended higher in the water column. We managed 2 rainbow Trout on short Leadcore high lines off the planerboards, a nice fighting coho salmon on a set to mid-depth downrigger, but the Lake Trout came on deeper set rigs targeting lazy and reluctant to bite, Chinook Salmon. A rod armed with 400 ft of Copper line was stellar, taking more time to reel in a fish and set it back out, then it did to hook another Lake Trout.
Our clients for the day were thrilled, cranking in Lake Trout after Lake Trout . They claimed that they normally fish for carp and believe it to be the best eating fish. They insisted we keep the Lake Trout for the fillet knife and we splashed them into the fish box. Much of the discussion was in another language throughout the trip, but it was easy to see that these Lakers were the big hit!
Near the end of the trip, we hook into a fish that pulled 150 feet of drag off the reel that submerged 400 ft of copper. I smiled this time and Mark also grinded and we said, almost in unison, “kinger!” It was a long heavy fight and when the fish came into view it wasn’t a King Salmon after all- It was a Lake Trout. Not just any Lake Trout, but one that had a head and body girth the dimensions of the body of a full sized dog. It was massive. We quickly netted the fish and the happy laughter echoed across the lake. We weighed the beast and it pulled the scale down to 24 ½ lbs, the largest Lake Trout we have ever taken on the boat.
As charter operators, Lake Trout are our “Plan B”, and after a tough bite for silver fish, the throttle goes down and the baits go down to the bottom where we bend a rod and hand it over to a smiling client. That’s what it’s all about. “Maker a Laker”