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Written by TV Ontario   
Thursday, 01 February 1996
Article Index
Fish-On! - 5 - Lake Trout
The Fish - Size, Shape and Color
The Fish - Requirements
Habitat - Distribution
Habitat - Distribution
Habitat - Water Types
Habitat - Management
Seasonal Changes - Spawning
Seasonal Changes - Movements
Equipment - Casting Rigs
Equipment - Trolling Rigs
Equipment - Planer Boards
Equipment - Planer Boards
Equipment - Planer Boards
Equipment - Jigging Rigs
Equipment - Ice Fishing Rigs
Technique - General
Technique - Trolling
Technique - Casting
Technique - Wire Line Fishing
Technique - Downrigging
Technique - Vertical Jigging
Technique - Ice Fishing

Wire Line Fishing 

It is hard to say just how and why long-line deep trolling came into existence, but it has evolved into one of the most popular methods for taking lake trout in deep water. The old-timers referred to this type of line as a hand line or sand line, appropriate terms since no rod or reel were used in earlier days and the line and lure wound up generally being dragged over a sandy bottom. Today anglers use rods and reels but most expert wire line anglers still prefer to catch the fish by hand and then wind it in with rod and reel.

For the beginner it's a frustrating method because of possible hang-ups at bottom. The object of the exercise, however, is to get a lure as close to bottom as possible. If hand-ups occur, correcting the problem can be very time consuming. You've got to rewind all of your line, unhook your lure, and then, once again, let out line just to get back to where you started. So if you're new to this technique, choose water with sandy or gravel bottom. A sonar, of the graph recorder type, can illustrate the bottom structure and what to expect. When you become more experienced in this technique, your sense of feel will do the job of warning about tricky areas. If there are several novice anglers in the same area, they can help each other out by taking turns using each other's line to get the feel of different bottoms and lure responses.

Steel line is stiff and tends to loosen into great coils when the tension is taken off the spool. You should always keep your thumb against the spool to prevent this. Getting your line into action takes only as long as the time required for your lure to sink to bottom. With your motor in gear and at trolling speed, start to let line out. At first you will have to strip line until there is enough water pressure against it to allow it to actually pull itself from the reel. When the pressure is sufficient to do this, speed up the boat and continue to release your line until you've reached the desired footage. When using monel line which is not color coded, only experience can teach you to know exactly how much line you have out. However, it is not the amount of line that is the critical factor here, but rather it is knowing at what depth your lure is traveling and that too can only be known through experience—that sense of feel mentioned earlier.

Satisfied that you have sufficient line out, you may now slow the speed of the boat to trolling speed and begin to work the lure in a jigging fashion to attract lake trout. Jigging of the lure can be accomplished by grasping the wire line in your hand (wear a glove or wrap tape around your fingers) or by actually holding rod and reel, whichever feels more comfortable and whichever will produce the most natural rhythm for you. As the lure is jigged, pull it forward as much as three to four feet and then allow it to flutter until the slack is gone, at which time pull it forward again. Repeat these motions continuously until a fish strikes.

A lure which can produce a snap caused by the backward and forward movement of your craft is probably the best indicator of problems. If, for instance, the bottom should take a very slight rise in the area you're approaching and your lure has been running close to bottom until now, you will very shortly experience an upset in the rhythmical snapping of the lure. The fluttering action will be eliminated and you reduce your chances of catching fish. Of course, when this happens, you should take up sufficient line to re-establish the rhythm. Similarly, you should from time to time let out more line to feel out deepening bottoms.

The most successful wire line angler is the one who can keep the lure active in a natural manner and in the proper location. Lake trout are contained between the thermocline and bottom in summer but as the season progresses this layer of water will become thinner, forcing the fish to virtually crawl along the bottom. It is, therefore, very important to keep your lure working as close as possible to bottom.

When jigging with rod and reel, don't fatigue the line at the rod tip as continued back and forth movements will cause the line to break there. You can eliminate line fatigue by winding in a little line every now and then to ensure that the bending does not always occur in the same place. Lake trout generally hit the lure on the drop-back, and the forward motion of the jigging is powerful enough to firmly set the hooks. It probably won't be necessary to use a powerful secondary set. Keep the boat moving slowly with constant pressure on the rod to eliminate the problem of a heavy steel line settling on bottom if the boat is stopped too quickly. Pressure should be sufficient to maintain a good flex on the rod, allowing no slack line to slip a loosened hook.

Retrieving the line should be continuous, except for those times when the fish is running from side to side or away from you. Always be prepared for very fast retrieval in the event the fish runs straight toward you. You'll avoid dangerous amounts of slack line.

Playing a lake trout in deep waters on steel line is thought by some anglers to be less exciting in terms of action than playing other fish with monofilament lines of much shorter length. This misconception comes from the fact that a fish appears more energetic when attempting to escape the angler using a shorter line. The spunk of a lake trout is not so visible when it's fighting 90 feet below and 500 feet behind you.

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