Vertical Jigging for Lake Trout/Togue
By Daddy Mac Lures Pro Staffer Tim Moore From Tim Moore Outdoors
When I mention lake trout fishing to most anglers I usually get one of two responses, “I love trolling” or, “I hate trolling.” For many lake trout angler, trolling is synonymous with lake trout fishing. I’m not the biggest fan of trolling. I don’t have anything against it, I just can’t get over the feeling I get when I set the hook on a fish. So, when I discovered that there was not only a time and place to vertical jig for lakers, but the numbers were high, I was immediately intrigued.
When lake water temperatures reach their highest, usually in August, lake trout will head deep. As the days grow shorter, the lakers begin to school up in greater numbers and feed aggressively. The shorter days tell the trout that it’s almost time for them to spawn. For that they will need energy in the form of fat reserves, which they usually get from feeding on rainbow smelt, and sometimes they feed all day.
August and September lake trout are typically found in some of the deepest areas of a lake. On Lake Winnipesaukee they often suspend 100’ down over 150’ of water. This makes them somewhat easier to locate, but not always easy to catch. They typically see a fair amount of fishing pressure and there are usually so many smelt in the same area that dropping your jig into them is like throwing a needle into a haystack. Using a lure that they haven’t seen before is sometimes the key to a more productive trip.
My favorite lures are metal jigs designed with sizes and profiles which closely resemble that of small baitfish and are designed specifically for vertical jigging. My ultimate favorite is the 1.4 ounce smelt-colored Nervous Minnow Jointed Jig from Daddy Mac Lures. It works better than any other lure I have ever used. The Daddy Mac 1.4-ounce Albie jig in blue or black is a blade-style spoon that also closely resembles the size and profile of the rainbow smelt that lake trout are often feeding on. These lures are compliant with the New Hampshire lead ban, as they are considered a spoon by definition.
As for a particular jigging cadence, the fish pick the winners. Vary your cadence until you figure out what best triggers bites and by all means, pay close attention to your line as your lure falls. Count down how long it takes to get to the bottom. If your lure stops sinking early you know a fish has it in its mouth. Then close your bail and set the hook. The majority of bites will come on the drop when jigging or while dropping back down to the fish.
Vertical jigging lake trout in August and September is one of my favorite activities, both as an angler and as a guide. Having a 50-fish day is not uncommon, and 100 fish days (per boat) are possible. It’s a numbers game. Just remember that you are bringing these fish up from deep water. They will need time to expel gasses from their swim bladder, so bring them up slow. When you think you are bringing them up slow enough, slow down about even more. You will notice that they will fight hard at first, then feel like dead weight, and then begin to fight again once they burp out some of the air in their swim bladder. Moments later you may see air bubbles rise to the surface.
If you love vertical jigging any species of fish, and you enjoy catching them in large numbers, vertical jigging for lake trout might be for you. The fish are present in numbers, they are there to feed, and they fight hard. It’s hard to beat the big head shakes of a beefy togue. Taking care of the fish you catch by bringing them up slowly, getting them back in the water quickly, and releasing the bigger ones to be caught another day will ensure that there are plenty for your next outing, and the next, and the next.
Tim Moore is a full-time licensed NH fishing guide and owner of Tim Moore Outdoors. LLC. He is a member of the New England Outdoor Writers Association and the producer of Tim Moore Outdoors TV. Visit www.TimMooreOutdoors.com for more information.