By Tom Armstrong | 01/08/2014
I got out recently for an early ice fishing trip, chasing stocked brookies in a small Northwestern Ontario (Canada) lake. The season to catch native brook trout are closed for the winter, and safe from ice anglers, but the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources stocks several species for a “put and take” type fishery, offering great opportunities for anglers. The OMNR stocks numerous lakes with brook trout, rainbow trout and splake (a hybrid of lake trout and brook trout).
A friend and I decided to take his five-year-old daughter out for the day, and try and get into a fairly remote backcountry brookie lake. Long story short, things did not go according to plan; due to several mechanical issues, poor trails, fallen trees and open water, we ultimately didn’t reach our original destination, despite putting in some serious effort trying. We ended up pulling the pin on our original plan and headed to a brook trout lake with slightly easier access.
We didn’t get on the ice until early afternoon and found another group already setup on the ice. We picked out a spot, unloaded and began drilling holes. We quickly found that we were in a slush saturated corner of the lake and found ourselves wading near up to our knees in water and slush, making for cold wet feet early on! With the little one unloaded and warming up by the fire we were committed to fishing in the slush and got to it.
I decided to try something a little different, taking some notes from an episode of Pautzke TV I had watched online earlier this year, where the Pautzke crew was fishing rainbows on a California reservoir with Fire Bait. I figured if it worked for trout in sunny California, it should work in the deep freeze of NW Ontario. Fire Bait comes in a variety of different colours and colour combinations, but the first jar I dug out of my slushy bag with my frozen hands was the Peach Garlic.
I setup some set lines with a whole dew worm on a single pink Gamakatsu Octopus hook, with a couple of really light split shot just above. After hooking the dew worm on a couple times, I took a small finger full of Peach Garlic Fire Bait out of the jar, rolled it into a little ball, and stuck it on end of the hook. I then hung this rig about a foot off bottom, with the drag on the reel set as loose as it could go, allowing the fish to grab it and run.
It didn’t take long before I started getting hits, and after several mishaps, missing fish and falling up to my waist in slush, we managed to land a few beautiful stocked specs, using this worm/Fire Bait setup.
In a fairly short time (limited by wet frozen feet and a five year old) we did alright, especially compared to the group of seven next to us, that I didn’t see running to a line once!
This was a simple tactic, and was something to add a bit of an edge to my ice fishing bait. Although I didn’t try it without a worm this time round, I imagine it may be effective all on its own for these stocked fish, and I’m thinking it could also work on a set line for whitefish and herring on Superior. I’m anxious to give it a try again.
Editor’s Note: Pautzke pro Tom Armstrong fishes Ontario, Canada. To learn more about him please visit his website www.tomarmstrongoutdoors.com.