PHOTO: Emilie T. from Vermont scored this laker, and several others on Winnipesaukee.
By Tim MooreContributing Writer
For many lake trout angler, trolling is synonymous with lake trout fishing. For me, when I think about lake trout fishing, vertical jigging in August or September is the first thing that comes to mind. In fact, as soon as the summer vertical jig bite ends, I begin thinking about next year. I like trolling for salmon, rainbows, and lake trout, but there is something about feeling a lake trout bite on a vertical presentation. The thump, the hook set, and the fight are a blast.When lake water temperatures reach their highest, usually in August, lake trout will head deep. As the days grow shorter, the lakers begin to school up in greater numbers and feed aggressively. The shorter days tell the trout that it’s almost time for them to spawn. For that they will need energy in the form of fat reserves, which they usually get from feeding on rainbow smelt, and sometimes they feed all day.
August and September 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 and there are usually so many smelt in the same area that dropping your jig into them is like throwing a needle into a haystack. Using a lure that they haven’t seen before is sometimes the key to a more productive trip.My favorite lures are metal jigs designed with sizes and profiles which closely resemble that of small baitfish and are designed specifically for vertical jigging. If you look inside my tackle box, there are two lures that will always be there. My ultimate favorite is the 1.4 ounce smelt-colored Nervous Minnow Jointed Jig from Daddy Mac Lures. It is my signature series lure, but I wouldn’t even mention it if it didn’t work. It works better than any other lure I have ever used for lake trout. The Daddy Mac 1/2-ounce Albie jig in blue is a blade-style spoon that also closely resembles the size and profile of the rainbow smelt that lake trout are often feeding on, and is one of my favorites, especially on Lake Winnipesaukee. These lures are compliant with the New Hampshire lead ban, as they are considered a spoon by definition.As for a particular jigging cadence, the fish pick the winners. Vary your cadence until you figure out what best triggers bites and, pay close attention to your line as your lure falls. Count down how long it takes to get to the bottom. If your lure stops sinking early, you know a fish has it in its mouth. Then close your bail and set the hook. The majority of bites will come on the drop when jigging or while dropping back down to the fish.
Vertical jigging lake trout in August and September is one of my favorite activities, both as an angler and as a guide. Having a 50-fish day is not uncommon. It’s a numbers game. Just 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. When you think you are bringing them up slow enough, slow down about even more. 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. Moments later you may see air bubbles rise to the surface.If you love vertical jigging any species of fish, and you enjoy catching them in large numbers, vertical jigging for lake trout might be for you. The fish are present in numbers, they are there to feed, and they fight hard. It’s hard to beat the big head shakes of a beefy togue. Taking care of the fish you catch by bringing them up slowly, getting them back in the water quickly, and releasing the bigger ones to be caught another day will ensure that there are plenty for your next outing, and the next, and the next.
fishing fishing guide lake trout