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In Search of Grays

The author’s wife Mari caught this very nice Lake
 Trout “aka Gray” while jig fishing
 on Grand Traverse Bay.
By

Mark Romanack

            I marvel at all the different names popular fish species get saddled with. The lake trout is no exception and this unique species goes by some pretty colorful names including denizen of the deep, mackinaw, siscowet, lake char, touladi and my favorite the gray trout.
            The gray trout or just gray for short inhabits clear, cold and deep water lakes all across the Northern United States and Canada. Grays can be found in all the Great Lakes and a surprisingly large number of inland lakes that feature deep, cold and clear waters.
            Compared to other trout and char species the lake trout grows much larger. Fish in the 20 pound class are fairly common and every year anglers boat fish in the 30, 40 and sometimes even 50 pound class!
TROLLING BOTTOM
            Well known as a structure or bottom loving species, one of the most effective ways to target grays is to troll near bottom with the help of a downrigger. Spoons, plugs and spinners will all catch grays, but hands down the most deadly bottom rig for trolling up these fish is a rig known as the dodger and Spin-n-Glo. The dodger is an attractor that is rigged about 18-24 inches in front of a Yakima Bait (www.yakimabait.com) No. 2 or 0 size Spin-n-Glo body. The Spin-n-Glo is threaded onto a 20 to 40 pound test leader, a bead or two is added to make it easier for the Spin-n-Glo to rotate and the rig is completed with either a No. 2/0 single hook or a No. 2 treble hook.
            This rig is set behind the boat about 10 to 15 feet and the line is connected to the downrigger line release. The whole set up is lowered to bottom and set so the downrigger ball just skips along churning up a clouds of sediment on the bottom.
            The cloud of sediment simulates lake trout naturally feeding on the bottom. The trailing dodger and Spin-n-Glo rig closes the deal. This simple set up has literally produced countless lake trout anywhere they are found feeding on or near the bottom.
            The top trout colors on the Spin-n-Glo are the Clown, Pearl Clown, Lime Chartreuse Tiger, Lime Chartreuse and Double Trouble UV Green. On the dodger most anglers favor a silver, brushed stainless steel, chartreuse or green/chartreuse colors.
            The Spin-n-Glo can be purchased pre-rigged and ready to fish, but most anglers prefer to buy the bodies in packages of 12 and rig their own using fluorocarbon leader material. The Spin-n-Glo comes with white, black, glow, chartreuse, silver and pink wings creating literally hundreds of color combinations to experiment with.
JIGGING UP TROUT
The gray trout isn’t a trout at all, but rather a
 member of the char family. These impressive fish
 grow to exceptional size and may live for decades.
 This 30+ pounder was caught by the author’s
 nephew Jason Romanck while trolling a
 Yakima Spin n Glo behind a dodger. The Spin n Glo
 is considered trout candy by everyone who has fished them.

            For those who don’t own the gear it takes to troll for trout in deep water, jig fishing is another option. To jig up grays in deep water an angler will need a medium to medium heavy action spinning rod and reel combo set up with 10 to 15 pound test super braid terminated to a fluorocarbon leader in the 12 to 15 pound test range.
            An eight strand braid is recommended because this line spools onto a fishing reel much like monofilament. Other braids and fused lines are so soft and without body, the line tends to bunch up on the spool preventing the reel drag from functioning smoothly.
            A functioning drag is essential when a lake trout is hooked up. These fish are stubborn fighters and typically about half way to the surface they make a power run and streak back to bottom!
            Depending on the water depth, jigs in the 1/2, 5/8, 3/4, 1, 1.5, 2 and even 3 ounce range may be required. White or white and red bucktails are popular with trout jig fishermen, but a five inch soft plastic paddle tail is another good option. Many anglers tip their jigs with a small live sucker minnow to further entice trout into biting.
The gray trout or lake trout is abundant throughout
 it’s range and a strong fighting fish. The biggest
 disadvantage to targeting these fish is they
 are often found in very deep water.

ANCHOR ON THOSE FISH
            Most anglers who fish for lake trout simply drift and keep their jigs near bottom. If your boat is equipped with an electric motor it’s often better to drift until a fish is hooked, then use the electric motor to hover over top of the school.
            The MotorGuide Xi5 (www.MotorGuide.com) mounted to the bow of my boat has a “Anchor” feature that when engaged literally hovers the boat in one spot leaving my hands free to fish. Much better than trying to hover with a traditional electric motor or worse yet anchoring in deep water, this piece of equipment is invaluable for jig fishing applications.
            With the help of quality sonar, I can literally spot the fish near bottom, put the boat in “Anchor” mode and drop my jig right down to specific fish. I call this “see fish...catch fish” because it’s amazing how often I can spot an individual fish and then catch that fish with the help of sonar and an auto-pilot style electric motor!!
SUMMING IT UP
            Grays are one of those fish you can only catch in the north. These fish require cold, pristine waters and Ontario’s Algoma Country is at the top of the list when it comes to destinations teaming with hungry trout.