Vertical Jigging for Lake Trout

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Video lake trout jigging lures

By: Tim Moore

I love vertical jig fishing. Of all the methods to catch fish, I will almost always choose to jig before anything else. I just can’t get over the feeling I get when I feel a bite and set the hook on a fish. So, when I discovered that there was not only a time and place to vertical jig for lake trout, but the numbers were high, I was immediately intrigued. Now many years later, I make a good part of my living in August and September guiding anglers for lake trout with vertical jigs.

WHEN AND WHERE TO TARGET LAKE TROUT

When lake water temperatures reach their highest in late-July or August, lake trout will head to deep cooler water. As the days grow shorter, the numbers of fish greatly increase, and they begin to feed aggressively. The shorter days tell the trout that it’s almost time to spawn. For that they will need fat reserves, so they sometimes feed all day.

Summer lake trout are typically found in some of the deepest areas of a lake. On Lake Winnipesaukee they often suspend 100’ down over 150’ of water. This makes them somewhat easier to locate, but not always easy to catch. They typically see a fair amount of fishing pressure. Using a lure that they haven’t seen before is sometimes the key to a more productive trip.

Kayak angler lifts a lake trout from an orange fishing kayak on a large lake.

LURES AND TOOLS FOR JIGGING LAKE TROUT

My favorite lure for vertical jigging is my signature series Nervous Minnow from Daddy Mac Lures. The Nervous Minnow in blue is a jointed blade-style spoon that closely resembles the size and profile of the rainbow smelt that lake trout are often feeding on. The Nervous minnow comes in two sizes: 1.4-ounce and 2.8-ounce. You’re probably thinking that a 2.8-ounce lure is way too big, but on the days when the fish won’t seem to hit the 1.4, I drop down a blue 2.8 and whamo! However, getting the jig down the 100’ to the fish is only half the battle. Keeping your jig vertical is important, and can be difficult on windy days. A trolling motor with a GPS anchor mode is an invaluable tool. The Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot is the best kayak on the market for this technique thanks to the Minn Kota Powerdrive motor console with Spot Lock. If you don’t have Spot Lock, a drift sock, or even dragging a 5-gallon bucket, will often slow your drift enough to prevent your jig from scoping too much. Too much scope means less sensitivity and poorer hook sets.

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As for a particular jigging cadence, the fish pick the winners. Vary your cadence until you figure out what best triggers bites and by all means, pay close attention to your line on the drop. With the Nervous Minnow, I tell my clients to jig up fast and lower it down slow, rather than letting it free-fall. This helps you detect bites on the drop and helps prevent the jig from foul hooking. Count down how long it takes to get to the bottom, and to the fish. Then, if your lure stops sinking early you know a fish has it in its mouth, and you can close your bail and set the hook.

LANDING LAKE TROUT ON A KAYAK

It is important to remember that you are bringing these fish up from deep water. They will need time to expel gasses from their swim bladder, so bring them up slow. Lake trout can expel gasses from their swim bladder by burping. You will notice that they will fight hard at first, then feel like dead weight, and then begin to fight again once they burp out some of the air in their swim bladder. When you feel dead weight, stop reeling and give the fish time to burp, but be ready when they do, because they will fight hard and this is when you risk losing the fish most. Moments later you may see air bubbles rise to the surface.

Vertical jigging lake trout in the summer is one of my favorite activities, both as an angler and as a guide. I can often be found over the deep waters of Lake Winnipesaukee, or somewhere on Lake Champlain. Having 50-fish days is not unheard of, and 100-fish days are possible. It’s often a numbers game, but don’t expect the fish to be that aggressive every day Once you hone your technique, you can expect a half dozen fish or more on any given day. If you have never experienced this vertical lake trout bite, and you can get it figured out, you may find that you have a new fall fishing activity. They hit hard, fight strong, and appear in numbers.

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Tim Moore is a full-time licensed New Hampshire fishing guide and owner of Tim Moore Outdoors, LLC. He offers guided fishing trips on Lake Winnipesaukee and kayak trips for striped bass. He is a member of the New England Outdoors Writers Association and the producer of Tim Moore Outdoors TV. For information on guided trips visit www.TimMooreOutdoors.com. You can also follow TMO on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/TimMooreOutdoors.

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>