One February morning a few years ago, my buddy and I had settled in for what we hoped would be a solid morning of ice fishing for lake trout in Lake George.
After setting our tip-ups in deep water we decided to jig closer to shore, some 150 feet away from where a small brook trickles down off a mountain and enters the lake.
Sound travels a long way on a windless morning and while our fishing was quiet we suddenly heard a lot of commotion nearly more than half a mile away. A group of anglers were set up in a shallow bay that’s known as a perch fishing haunt. When we turned our attention to the racket going on down there, we knew it wasn’t about perch.
When I looked through my binoculars I could see a crowd gathering around one guy whose perch-jigging rod was bent right over. It was obvious he had hooked either a northern pike, a bass or a lake trout and it would be a challenge to bring in a lunker on a fishing outfit designed for little fish. But this guy knew what he was doing and he worked away at it, tiring the fish out. Nearly 30 minutes later he had a big laker on the ice.
Most serious lake trout anglers usually head for deep water in pursuit of their bottom-dwelling quarry. In many lakes this is where their forage fish like ciscos or smelt can be found and our baits, albeit on a tip-up or a jig rod, usually imitate the latter. While this pattern produces consistently, there is always the case where traditional logic can be tossed aside.
You often hear of someone pulling cruising lake trout from shallow waters where you wouldn’t expect them to be. Last year I got a report from an angler who iced a 22-pound lake trout that he caught on a tip-up rigged for salmon. He was fishing in 8 feet of water and the bait was just 3 feet under the ice. I’ve seen lakers hit shallow-set tip-ups rigged for salmon over deep water, but I don’t know too many anglers who target lakers in the shallows.