March leads to spring time specs
For those who know me, know I am a bow hunter long before I am an angler, however in the last handful of years, I have taken my time on the water a lot more seriously and have landed some decent fish. Like trying to harvest a trophy whitetail buck, there are means and methods to angling, to put a decent trophy on the wall. Whether it swims or walks, I think the strategies are similar and it all boils down to passion, mindset, a little bit of luck, and willingness to learn.
Walleye of course are the most sought after game fish in this part of the woods during open water angling. End of April and half of May, sees the banks of a lot of the local creeks and rivers lined with chest wader clad, steelhead fisherman. The species I like to chase the most, is the elusive speckled trout, or commonly known as the brook trout. These fish are by far at the top of my priority list when it comes to early season angling and I look forward to trying my luck again this year.
There are some hotspots in the northwest that get most of the attention when it comes to this species of trout. The Nipigon River is at the top of many angler’s lists, however there are a lot of inland lakes and rivers nearby that hold trophy speckled trout if one knows where to look. I truly believe that a lot of locals want to get out and catch some brookies, but just don’t know where to start or where to go.
Speckled trout can be difficult to hook at times and are not as easy to catch as a walleye, but if you study the fish and the water it resides in, you can somewhat strategize enough to increase your chances at boating one of these babies.
First off, the body of water is critical to understand, meaning clarity, temperature, and current. Equally important is the type of feed available and conditions, such as cover and structure. Specs are high maintenance and can sometimes become difficult to make them strike at what you’re offering. Time of the year is crucial and once it warms up, insects will play a huge role as well. This is why I like to get out on the water as soon as the ice is out simply because these fish will be fairly predictable in location and therefore my odds go way up.
Now it’s time to entice them, and that can become tricky. Yes, we have the standard usual, like Mepp’s spinners, Blue Fox, small spoons and small crank baits, but which do you pull from your box and try first? This is where knowing the lake can be helpful, and that’s not always possible if you only visit a lake only once or twice a year.
In one of the lakes I frequent every spring, the waters are full of minnows, which the specs feed on heavily. I know this from having experimented by tossing out a couple of minnow traps into these waters and returned a few days later to find the traps were full. This obviously tells me these minnows will be a major food source for the trout. I have also taken the time to open up the stomachs of some fish I have taken home and investigated through my limited forensic skills and that also will tell me what these fish might be eating. Of course this is a time consuming slow process, but is well worth it in the long run.
Food sources can change during the year, as insects will come into the game once the weather and timing allows it. All trout are eating machines by nature and never hesitate to eat a realistic looking floating or suspending insect. Specs will think nothing of feasting on a buffet of crawling and flying insects that hit the water’s surface, hence the Fenwick fly rod and old faithful Martin reel that I still use to this day. This piece of equipment has been part of my angling artillery for several years and the quality and sentimental value is unmatched. Specs by far are the most finicky fish there is and most serious anglers will attest to this. Trout are just notoriously selective when it comes to everything.
Personally I enjoy getting out in my canoe on a few of my favourite lakes that I know from experience hold good sized specs. I will at least have a chance at landing a decent sized fish and take in the beautiful scenery as well. I will use my light spinning rod and reel with 6lb test line, my small spinners, jigs and Rapala’s. Once the insects come into play I will change over to my fly rod and give that a whirl.
If you want to investigate where you can possibly catch a brook trout with easy access, try picking up a book called “An Anglers Guide to Stocked Lakes” that was launched by the Ministry of Natural Resources back in 2002. The guide provides information sheets on each lake including a map and Global Positioning Coordinates, access and road information, lake characteristics, contours, species stocked and when the most recent stocking took place. More than 200,000 lake trout and brook trout were stocked in the year 2000. Seventy-four lakes were stocked in total and some of these lakes have very little fishing pressure. Also a lot of these lakes have been re-stocked since. In some cases no boat is needed and fish can be caught right from shore. Good luck, enjoy and be safe.