I love fishing for lake trout in Northern Ontario at any time of the year, but if the truth were told, fall is my all time favorite. In particular it is the last few weeks of the season which wraps up on September 30th. In my Northwestern Ontario Sunset Country neck of the woods, this time of the year is like the cherry and chopped nuts on top of the whip cream drenched sundae.
It just can't get any better...
Indeed, unlike most of the other fish we chase across the northern half of the province, lake trout spawn in the fall, not the spring. As a result, they're one of the few fish we can catch as they're preparing to lay their eggs, instead of recovering from the reproductive cycle.
This is a hugely important point, by the way, because it means the fish are at their physical peak in terms of conditioning. It also means that they're gorging greedily and acting belligerently as they chase down and eat anything that looks good enough to eat.
Knowing this was likely what I'd find, yesterday I trailored my 16-foot AlumaCraft jon-boat to a favorite secluded hot-spot northwest of Kenora. Here, I backed the boat over the granite shoreline and waylaid the first trout while I was still within sight of the truck.
I caught that trout trolling a freshly thawed anchovy, spinning behind a gold and silver William's Whitefish spoon from which I'd removed the treble hook and was using as an attractor. It is a deadly trout trick that has duped hundreds of fish for me over the years.
But, as important as the lure was the fact that I was marking dense schools of baitfish - shiners and ciscoes - on my Humminbird sonar unit. “Find the food, and you’ll find the fish,” is my motto anytime of the year, but it's especially the case in September with back-to-school lake trout.
"Lake trout are tribal critters," says buddy JP Bushy, who is one of the top trout sticks in Ontario. “Depending on the lake you are fishing, you can find as many as three sub-species. The first are the huge, silver bullets that feed all season long, down deep, on smelt and herring, in 70- to 90-feet of water.”
"Another group hangs out a little shallower, usually in the 40-to 65-foot depth range. They eat alewives, shiners, bugs and even smaller trout.”
"Finally, there is the third group that I like to call grubbers. These trout feed even shallower still and target crayfish, nymphs, gobies and especially perch. The tribes intersect at times, but largely seem to live separate lives. The deep water trout grow the biggest, while the grubbers are usually the most brilliantly colored. They resemble brook trout in many ways and have the distinctive salmon colored flesh."
While JP spends much of his trout time targeting the deep groups of big fish in large lakes like Lake Simcoe, Georgian Bay, Lake Temagami and Lake Huron, I spend most of my backwoods time focused on the more modest size waters and the shallower "grubbers".
Gotta' confess too, the reason I go gaga over them is because they're the easiest trout to target. Indeed, rather than trolling for miles searching for the deep water roamers that are marauding balls of bait like wolves harassing herds of caribou, the grubbers relate to obvious locations. Structures like rocky points, boulder strewn shoals and rock piles.
A check with the local Ministry of Natural Resources District Office will tell you if a lake map, complete with contours, is available to help you pinpoint potentially productive trout mines on your favorite lake. But even if it has never been charted, you can dissect it easily if you turn on your sonar unit and scoot around the shoreline, way-pointing all of the interesting looking underwater features. I especially like to turn on the side scanning feature on my Humminbird for this kind of fish-finding function, as it clearly displays the individual rocks and boulders.
"I agree," says JP, "the trout are glued to the shoals. They're always there and they're always eating. But they do rotate through the spots and the shallower and smaller they are, the quicker they'll move across them."
What Busheys referring to is the process, OMNR fisheries scientist Mark Ridgway calls "trap lining", where a school of fish will move up and onto a piece of structure, sweep across it, pick it clean and then move on to the next trout restaurant.
"I am always amazed at how carnivorous lake trout can be," chuckles Bushey. "They're the teenage sons of the lake - eating anything that's not nailed down."
Like I said, happiness is fishing in the fall for lake trout in Northern Ontario.
For more information on fishing in Ontario visit Canada’s Great Outdoors!
To begin planning your next Canadian excursion, visit our Adventure Match to find the perfect lodge to suit your personal fishing or hunting preferences.
Author bio: Gord Pyzer is well-known in Canadian fishing circles as Doctor Pyzer because of his work for Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources. He's now one of Canada's top fishing communicators and a member of the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame. Gord is a two time winner of Northern Ontario Tourist Outfitters Presidents Cup and is an internationally sought speaker, tournament angler and co-hosts the Real Fishing Radio Show with Bob Izumi.
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