Driving by Silver Lake this week and seeing open water, my heart sank. Silver Lake is our trophy lake trout water in the valley. It is the lake that Clay Groves, ice-fishing guide, took me out on my first winter back in the valley. It is the lake that ice anglers covet for the great ice fishing.
I can’t tell you how much anticipation builds for the opportunity to ice fish Silver Lake. I have been getting calls from anglers since early December asking if Silver Lake is safe to ice fish. Such is the popularity of the big lake.
While visions of lake trout measured in pounds, not inches, dance in your head, why not plan your excursions and develop some jigs to target these leviathans.
Lake trout are at the top of the food chain in their environment. They can grow to be over 25 pounds. The world record lake trout weighed in at 72 pounds. New Hampshire had a new state record lake trout of 37 pounds caught last ice fishing season. These fish are big. Lake trout will feed on any smaller fish. Smelt, yellow perch, and white suckers are a favorite food source, but lake trout will eat other trout as well as their own young.
Mostly, lake trout are opportunistic feeders. My personal best lake trout was caught on an orange MOP fly jigged just of the bottom of Silver Lake in 50 feet of water. That fish was 20 inches and a little over 3 pounds.
I have had customers show me pictures of lake trout from Silver Lake that are in double-digit weights. These fish take large baits. Live baits larger than 6 inches are necessary to connect with these larger fish.
The state record lake trout was caught on a white sucker over 14 inches. That bait is bigger than most trout we catch during the open water season.
Live bait is swallowed by the fish, and hooking mortality is almost certain, especially when ice fishing. For those of us who like to release what we catch the alternative is to ice fish with a barbless jig.
But to catch a big lake trout means a big jig — jigs 5 inches in length or longer. These jigs are not readily available in stores. Tying effective lake trout jigs means going to the tying bench and creating your own big jigs.
The base for your jig is a pre-painted non-lead jig head, preferably pre-painted with eyes. Eyes are vital on large jigs as big baitfish, which we are imitating, have prominent eyes. Baitfish shimmer and refract light. This is important when fishing in depths deeper than 40 feet.
Movement is the second component. Materials that you tie to the hook behind the jig head need to be highly flexible to imitate the baitfish movements. In the last few years, a new material called a dragon tail, was developed. Dragon tails come in a variety of colors and lengths. Perfect for a lake trout jig.
When attaching the dragon tail to the jig hook, there remains a gap between the head of the jig and the dragon tail. This is the ideal spot to add a collar and add more movement to your jig.
Another new material, EP fibers, make the perfect collar. EP fibers breathe as you work the jig. The fibers are ultraviolet treated so that they can pick up ambient light at the depths lake trout live.
Tie some of these jigs in different color combinations and try them all. I know I will once Silver Lake and her ice is safe.
Tip of the Week
When ice fishing with live bait, consider using circle hooks. Circle hooks lessen hooking mortality over 50 percent.
Steve Angers, a native to the Conway area, is the author of the book “Fly Fishing New Hampshire’s Secret Waters” and operates the North Country Angler.