Light Line’n Trophy Trout through the Ice!

K&E Stopper Lures Pro Staff member Ray Tiffany of the HARD WATER MANIACS with a giant light line buck rainbow trout

K&E Stopper Lures Pro Staff member Ray Tiffany of the HARD WATER MANIACS with a giant light line buck rainbow trout

The ice is in and safe. The weather is perfect – overcast and comfortably cool, and you just received word that the trout are hitting in the local Lake Michigan tributary or marina. The only problem is, after years of trying and going home empty handed, you are conflicted about whether or not you should go chase ‘em down. Well here are the secrets to success that will help you put some metal to the meat.

We fish trout regularly through the ice every chance that we get, and in the beginning, spent many a day watching huge fish on camera and on flasher approach our baits or lures only to swim off. Frustrating? You bet! But you can’t let it bring you down. Every failed attempt should be a learning experience on what to change in technique and approach. After years of study, we figured it out!

Trout in the tributary waters of Lake Michigan are some of the most timid creatures you will find in fresh water. Easy to spook, with the nose of a bloodhound, and eyesight of an eagle adding up to one huge pain in the butt! What’s the key? Go small, go light, and go early.

Try to get on the ice early, well before light, and begin cutting holes. You want to give the fish a chance to calm after the noise. Getting there before light is especially important if the snow cover is low. You can move across the ice without your shadow spooking fish.

When daylight comes in, plant your butt and fish. I recommend using some type of shelter or shanty to reduce casting a moving shadow on the ice. Most tributaries and marinas are the same depth throughout and offer very little structure other than the docks. There are no real “hot spots” in most of these waters as the trout move in and out continuously chasing baitfish.

We use small baits, light line, and light or ultra light rods rigged usually with no more than 2lb test line. A smooth drag is a must so you have to have a quality reel. Runnin’ light line for giants, you don’t want a jerky drag. You will have to play these fish well in order to get them acquainted with the ice. We recommend the Whip’r Rod by K&E Stopper Lures in the 24” or 28” models. These rods offer a super sensitive, fast action blank with a super smooth reel that is perfectly balanced and can handle these giants with ease.

A #14 Skandia tungsten jig in glow red is my bait of choice. Tip with a wiggler, single waxie, or a couple of maggies and jig near or within a couple of feet of the bottom. Although larger lures such as spoons, running spawn sacs, and using large minnows does work, we have caught the majority of our fish, and larger fish, running small baits. Baits you would usually use for finicky bluegill.

Treat every bite with respect. You usually will not know what size fish you are dealing with until you set the hook and the drag starts screaming. Usually your bite will consist of a couple of light taps and then just a little weight on the line.

Next time you want to chase down big trout in the tributaries, try these tactics out and you will increase your odds to land big fish. Like anything else, it will take some practice to run light gear for big fish. Once you try it, not only the fish, but you too, will be hooked!!

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