Ice fishing continues to be the topic of conversation here in the Mount Washington Valley.
With our cold temperatures, there is plenty of ice to chase the one trophy salmonid we have here in the valley — togue.
Togue is the French Canadian name for the lake trout. It evolved from the Mi’kmaq word atoghwaasu. The togue is also known as the mackinaw in Maine and the Maritimes, and the gray trout in the Midwest and Prairie Provinces.
It is North America’s largest and longest-lived char.
Togue have been caught in excess of 100 pounds, but here in New Hampshire any togue in excess of 10 pounds is considered a trophy.
Togue live in the deepest and coldest waters of lakes that they inhabit.
Togue are piscivorous and depend on large populations of forage fish. Togue eat smelt, emerald shiners, golden shiners, yellow perch and white suckers. No smaller fish are safe when togue go on the feed.
Being temperature-sensitive, togue are easiest to catch during the winter and through the ice. Water has its highest density at 39 degrees and so the water at the bottom of lakes is actually the warmest water. This warmer water draws forage fish and that draws the togue.
Silver Lake is the valley’s largest and deepest lake.
Silver Lake is a togue factory, its waters reaching 164 feet deep. It is rumored that there is on spot that is “bottomless.” Whether there is or is not a bottom to Silver Lake, there is plenty of cold deep water for the togue to survive and thrive in.
Silver Lake holds some specimens of togue that are measured in pounds, not inches.
Fish respond well to jigging techniques.
We like to use very large jigs to draw only the larger togue. While the smaller togue can give fast action, catching one after another of under-the-limit togue (togue under 18 inches must be released immediately) soon gets repetitive.
Jigs in hot colors like pink, orange, yellow and chartreuse will draw strikes. We use hooks in size 4 and size 2. These jig sizes are too large for the multitude of 12-inch and smaller togue that inhabit the lake.
Silver Lake is a designated “lake trout lake,” so there is a limit of two lines per angler. We jig with one line and choose to put a large sucker on a tip up and lower the bait to the bottom of the lake. The sucker will swim along the bottom until it is found by a hungry togue. The bigger the sucker you put on your line, the bigger the fish that will take the bait.
Silver Lake is home to landlocked salmon, rainbow trout, small mouth bass, pickerel, yellow perch and cusk. All these fish put tremendous pressure on the forage fish of Silver Lake.
Smelt, the prime forage fish, suffer wild swings in population based on their spring spawning success. If there is a poor spawn of smelt, there is a corresponding slump in the number and the size of Silver Lake’s togue.
This season, a good number of togue have been caught in Silver Lake, but the sizes of the fish have been on the smaller side.
However, each year, a togue in excess of 15 pounds is landed. Will you be the one who catches that trophy?
(Wikipedia was used as a reference for this article.)
Tip Of The Week
Use the largest augur available to you when drilling holes in the ice to fish for togue. Losing a fish because the ice hole is too small is a regrettable error when you hook the togue of a lifetime.
Steve Angers, a native of the Conway area, has been consumed by fishing since catching his first wild brook trout at the base of Champney Falls.