Cold Lake Ice Fishing Tactics for Lake Trout

This fishing adventure started quite a few years ago back on the frozen ice of December 2012.  The location was none other than Cold Lake, Alberta.  Maybe more familiar with people in regards to the location of Canada's Air Base and weapons range, but we were more interested in the life below the ice.  This is a large open body of water at approximately 16 miles across and over 300 feet deep. For this reason it is one of the last lakes to freeze in northern Alberta and much caution should be taken when venturing out on the ice at any time of the season.  Many years it is safe to wait until mid January to get out on the main lake, while some of the smaller bays will freeze earlier in the winter.

We were in luck though since this year was a quick freeze and trucks were already out on the ice at Christmas time.  We already knew the lake after fishing it many times during the open water season. The only thing that separated us now from the fish was a few inches of ice that our auger would help us get through in no time.

So what is the big draw to Cold Lake and why is everyone still talking about it 5 years after out first adventure out there.  Well lets just say it's something in the water!  A healthy population of obese, hard fighting and willing Lake Trout have created a stir all around the ice fishing sphere!  I had been watching the popularity of this fishery grow the years prior and I wasn't about to let another ice season slip by without getting out there to try it out.  This was also the first year I had a Marcum flasher sonar on the ice to use to my advantage.

I discussed my dreams of icing fat lake trout with my uncle Johnny and he thought it sounded like an adventure worth pursuing.  We packed up and left the house early in the morning with the plan of hitting the ice as the sun came over the hill.  As with most fish these lake trout will feed most heavily during the morning and evening hours.  You might still pick up a few fish during the day, but it is often a slow wait till things get going again when the sun falls back towards the horizon.  We hit the ice and as beginners often do followed the trail out to an area where it looked like other people had been fishing.  Once we drilled some holes we realized we were on a drop off from about 80 to 120 feet of water.  We later found out that this is typically the type of water people target and usually is what you want to look for on the charts.

With great anticipation I dropped down a big 2 ounce white and chartreuse buck tail jig tipped with a smelt.  I watched as it fell towards the bottom on the flasher.  In a matter of minutes the first mark came storming in and slammed my jig.  After a great battle I landed my first Lake Trout through the ice and I was stoked!  I just love it when a plan comes together like that and in a matter of minutes you're on the fish.  Trust me it's not always that easy and we've struggled some days out there.

We kept on fishing and the fish kept on coming through slow and steady.  The Marcum was a big help as I could see when the fish were coming through and at what depth so I could crank my jig up to their location and often trigger a bite.  My uncle didn't have a flasher yet and after one day of me out fishing him in a ratio of 3:1 he was sold!  Within a few weeks he had purchased his first Marcum and has never regretted it for one moment either.

If you want to watch our adventure to see how it actually went and watch one of the first videos I ever published as The Fishing Doctors Adventures, then you have to check this out!

Getting Down to Business:
So what does it really take to catch these fish.  Well here are some of the things that I have learned fishing it over the past few years.  

#1 Get out to Cold Lake and give it a try next year and I'm sure you'll have a great time out on that big lake.  If you don't know where to fish and it is your first time to the lake take a look at the underwater maps available on Agler's Atlas.  You're looking for areas where it drops off from about 60 feet down to 120 feet.  Underwater points and humps are great places to start.  When all else fails look for the groups of fishermen and join the heard.  Probably some fish hanging around under their feet, but give them some space and try to fish the same structure line instead of on top of them.

#2 Drill your holes from shallower to deep off the drop and fish them in that order too if you get out there early in the morning.

#3 Choosing a rod and reel for lake trout through the ice.  Longer ice rods will work better for lake trout.  Chose one over 28 inches long in the medium/heavy to heavy weight.  Some people even come out with their full length summer rods too which also work well.  Any reel will do but bait casters seem to work the best and hold more line for these deep water, long running fish. 

#4 Having a flasher sonar like a Marcum, Vexilar or other brand is a game changer.  If you are serious and want to catch more fish you need to have one of these on the ice with you.

#5 Choosing a line depends on what you expect to catch and these fish can grow in excess of 20 pounds.  So I would recommend having 12 to 20 pound test.  A braided line with a fluorocarbon leader would probably be your best bet for these deep water fish, but as you see in the videos we were using mono filament which also works. 

#6 Lure choice goes along with the depth.  You will need a heavy lure to get down fast.  Usually jigs 2-3 ounces heavy will work best at getting you down to the right location quickly.  I have caught fish on buck tail jigs, tube jigs and airplane jigs.  My favorite though is a Big Hammer swim bait.  The Cold Lake Special is probably something you'll want to pick up before you head out as well.  When choosing a color remember these fish love to eat ciscoe and white fish.  So white is generally a good color, but chartreuse, silver and blue seem to be good choices as well.

#7 Bait choice is probably the most simple as most people use pieces of smelt to tip their jigs.

#8 A key ingredient is a stinger hook... don't go fishing without one as you are likely to lose a lot of short hits.  Put on a treble stinger that sits near the tail end of your jig.

#9 I find if you have a Marcum you can Yo-Yo the jigs up and down the water column and see what depth the fish are at.  You can do the same this without a marcum but you won't know where to stop or drop if there is a fish.  If fishing blind the best seems to be fishing near bottom.

#10 Don't forget to have fun and read the regulations before heading out.  You can currently keep one Lake Trout over 75 cm long.  This is a big trout so make sure you measure correctly before you take one home!  

Good Luck out there and if you want to watch some more lake trout being pulled through the ice check out these videos from other trips we took out there.

#ColdLake #Alberta #IceFishing #LakeTrout


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