If you are one of the brave and hardy fishermen who would like to fish for trout or salmon (or steelhead) as soon as the ice is out (I mean on the Great Lakes, since there is no closed season on Lake Superior in Michigan), how, or where do you find them? Where are the most likely places that trout and salmon will be hanging out? I write this on April fools day as the snow is falling, and accumulating, outside. (and that’s NOT an April fools joke. We are expecting 2 to 4 inches). My boats are still snowed in and I plan to launch by mid April.
The best places to look are the mouths of rivers and streams where the water is warmer. At this time of year, the minnows, including smelt, are near-shore and staging to go up-stream to spawn. The bigger fish are also there feeding on them and also staging there to spawn. These shallower, warmer waters will hold steelhead, browns, and salmon and to a lesser degree, lake trout. Using planer boards with fairly long leads behind them and trolling in waters from 4 feet to 18 feet will be productive when you find the warmer waters. Don’t troll too fast, as the fish are more sluggish in early season colder waters. 2 to 2.5 mph is recommended.
When specifically targeting lake trout, deep waters are still (usually) the most productive. (they will chase the spawning smelt as well so don’t be surprised to catch them shallow). After the October spawn, during the winter months, lakers migrate to deep waters and most will stay there at least until late spring. For best results, troll at the bottom in deep water with downriggers or jig for them this time of year.
Later, into the spring and summer, lakers will be found in the 45 to 52 degree waters closer to the surface. “Closer to the surface” is a loose term, since they could still be 80 to 100 feet or so down. Download the lake trout study from my website for more insight on this.