Early ice trout
Early season is a very exciting and rewarding time. For most people trout rule the ice out west. They are fairly easy to target, fight well and make good table fare. Early in the season the oxygen levels are high, food is very abundant and trout feel the urge to eat.
Trout are notorious cruisers. They will cruise the shorelines looking for food. The first steps I like to take is to look at a topo map and find a point that gradually gets deeper with a sharp dropping inside bend. This will cause cruising trout to hang out and mill around while they are deciding which way to go. Another good option is a small flat, especially after the early morning bite is over. Fish will cruise the flat all day, the bite might not be fast and furious but it could be consistent.
Their diet is bugs, minnows and crawfish, this gives us plenty of lures to be successful with. During this time, it’s not as important what use but how to use it. There is generally an abundance of young crawfish. A great lure to use in this situation is a Leech Flutter spoon. Drop it to the bottom and just wiggle it never losing contact with the bottom. If fishing over weeds put the spoon on the top layer (or just underneath if the weeds are sparse) and wiggle it. The flash and vibration will attract trout. The hits will be vicious, trout like to ambush crawdads so they can’t get in a defensive position. Chrome with a splash of natural colors will suffice.
Minnows are also a very easy bait to imitate. Tubes, spoons and jigging minnows all do a great job. I like to keep these baits moving slowly around the bottom or just over the weeds. These hits will be a little softer but don’t be surprised if they try and take the rod out of your hands.
Bugs are a mainstay in trout’s lives. Small hair jigs and tubes are a great option here. I will hang these down near the bottom and dead stick them with very little movement. I like to use a strike indicator if not in a stealth hut. The bites are very soft, if you’re not watching their tip or the jig you might not see it.
Early season colors are very simple. You just can’t beat white, chartreuse or black. Later in the season the brighter colors seem to work very well.
Travelling light is very important on early ice. Up until I find 6” of ice my spud bar will work great, this also helps me check the ice as I move around. A small one man shelter like the Clam Kenai, Mr. Heater portable buddy, 2 rods and a few jigs are all I need.
I like to get out very early and drill a few holes in various depths, this gives me the opportunity to move around without scaring the larger spookier trout.
If you haven’t tried trout at early ice, give them a try. They are willing biters and can put up a great fight.