Using Ice to Learn more about Trout

Russ Maddin showing me the way on the ice

So January and February are for the most part a michigan fishing guides off season.  Besides breaking down the rivers and learning new spots for the up coming spring run, or tying a couple hundred more flies.  I’ll try to venture out on the ice a few times a season on the vast amount of inland lakes.  Living in northern michigan, more lakes than I previously thought are stocked with trout.  I have to be honest, I am way more adept at reading a river than I am a lake.  But with the use of a couple maps and a Vexliar  getting my bearings on the breaks and drop-offs is not that hard.  Also with the added benefits of having a good friend and ice fishing master in Russ Maddin showing you a couple hot spots helps too.
The key reason for venturing out on the ice this time of year is to have those bearings for when the ice out occurs.  As you can argue my next point all you want, but it’s the honest truth.  If you are a big trout chaser, the biggest brown, rainbow, or laker trout are going to come from a lake.  This light-bulb was turned on after reading Bernie Taylor’s book 5 years ago.  Example is the world record brown trout caught a few years ago from the Manistee River.  This was not a river trout, it was a lake-run brown that ventured up the river.  Big trout meaning trout over 10 pounds, get big in a lake not a river.   Trout that live in a lake can eat and be lazy, while a river trout has to keep battling current.
With so many inland lakes being stocked with trout (browns, rainbows, and lake trout) the fly angler has a great opportunity to target these trout in the spring after ice out.  All three species are going to be looking for that warmer water in the spring, and most days this warmer water is shallow.  Perfect for the fly angler! Thermal warming from the sun brings the bait-fish shallow, and if you can find the bait-fish you will find the predator’s that hunt them.
Now how I use the ice, is when you can’t find these trout shallow, you have to know where to find them when they go deep.  Just like in a river their are certain hunting grounds that hold fish.  Being able to find these hunting grounds with a foot of ice underneath you will give you a head start for the upcoming spring melt.  Michigan anglers have so many opportunities, getting out and finding them is the fun part.

Inland lake brown caught on a smelt pattern
3 replies
  1. Mike Schmidt
    Mike Schmidt says:

    Good stuff Jon. I grew up hitting the ice with my dad; never targetted trout through the ice then though. Doesn't feel like it now, but ice out is coming…!

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