“Around and around and around it goes and when it stops, you’re going to know!”
Okay, so I was using a little fisherman’s poetic plagiarism as I held the rod tip a foot or two below the surface so that my fishing companion Johnny Campbell could witness the action of the Spin Doctor flasher and especially the trailing WhirlyGig in the clear water below.
It was mid-May and the 7000 Garmin was sketching out plenty of big trout hanging out on bottom 30 feet below, on the edge of the Niagara Bar. I had stretched out approximately 20 feet of lead in front of the Spin Doctor and spinner, snugged the mono into the release clip and sent the Shark weight and the set-up down to cruise just a few feet above bottom and the trout.
Before getting rigger number two and a similar presentation down and in front of the fish, I heard the yell from Campbell.
“Well, that spinner has stopped and get out of my way!”
Now Campbell is nudging 72 years of age, but he was over and around me fast.
The old boy struggled to get the pounding rod out of the Cannon holder, leaned back and set the hook like a pro. With flat water a blessing, the youngster, braced his feet firmly and began working the Islander 3.8 fly reel. I have a pair of these little babies on board the Mako for fighting Great Lakes steelhead. They are a min-version of bigger knuckle busters and just perfect for really putting the sport back in sport fishing.
Five minutes of a little struggling and numerous rapping of the knuckles, Johnny had the grey trout up off bottom and within view, which got him to whooping and hollering. The laker was bigger than average and could be classed as a Lake Ontario trophy. Out of the water and carefully put to the scales, the brute weighed in at just over 25 pounds. It was a trophy in anyone’s book.
After of a few minutes of a little tender care and resuscitation, the big boy kicked free of Campbell’s grasp and headed back down towards its dining room. It would be the first of nine lake trout to be released that morning. All took a hankering to the newly introduced WhirlyGig.
Not bad for a first time introduction to Lake Ontario.
Now let’s be honest.
The Great Lakes are changing and changing in a big way. Salmon, especially chinook, are still king, but other species such as coho, steelhead, brown trout and lake trout are adapting to a forced forage change-over to other prey as alewife and smelt are slowly reducing in numbers.
Recent invaders such as gobies are increasing in numbers. Lake trout populations in Huron, Lake Huron and Lake Ontario are booming and it’s time we take a serious interest in this fishery. Lake trout gobbling up gobies are now reaching true record sizes. While other species have switched diets to gobies, Chinook salmon seldom make the switch.
There is no reason whatsoever to fly into the Northwest Territories for record-breaking size grey trout. We have them in our own backyards and plenty of them. Big lakers are everywhere from Manistee to Oswego and they are only getting bigger.
For decades, lake trout purists have known the effectiveness of Worden’s Spin-N- Glo winged wonder when it came to catching grey trout and plenty of them. Let’s also not forget the same company’s Wobble Glo or “peanut.” Lake trout everywhere just can’t refrain from putting their lips around them.
Slowly trailing behind a dodger or following a gang troll, you have the best bait available for tricking lake trout. No, they definitely do not imitate a smelt, alewife or goby, but there is just something magic about these baits that can’t stop a big lake trout from committing suicide.
Spin-N-Glo’s have always had a reputation as “big fish” lures. I got my introduction to them 40 years ago fishing with a couple of West Coast legends, Herb Good and Buzz Ramsey. Fishing rivers like the Hood, Wilson and Kilchis, we just couldn’t keep the steelhead off them.
A few years later on the Kenai River I tangled with and beat a 67-pound king and the next year boxed a big boy of 82 pounds. No one ever has to try and convince me of the power of Worden’s Spin-N-Glo or the Wobble Glo.
A lot of anglers soon found the effectiveness of these two baits when they offered them behind flashers and especially gang trolls. I have a pretty good hunch that gang trolls were originally designed for attracting big Canadian lake trout. The Luhr Jensen and Sons Company in the 1950’s manufactured various designs of gang trolls with names like Les Davis, the Beer Can and Ford Fender were synonymous with catching big lakers.
My favorites though were pure silver-plated gang trolls designed by a late, great Great Lakes’ fisherman and friend of mine name Bernie Klimczak. His Miller trolls were the best bar none. That belief was backed up, when another good friend, Ed Retherferd of Alpena, Michigan, made a midnight call to me one evening almost begging to purchase some of my last Miller trolls after finding store shelves empty and the company now defunct. Twenty trolls were still hanging on my tackle wall, but the answer was still no when I replied. If you can find them, I can only say buy them. For some mysterious reason, lake trout just can’t resist the lure of a slow moving Spin-n-Glo or Wobble Glo behind the flashing blades of a gang troll.
For the past two decades I’ve spent a couple of thousand hours filming the underwater habits and behavior our Great Lakes and west coast’s salmonids and trout. Some of the findings are interesting. Chinook seem to be the most wary of the group. I’ve had single kings follow a wobbling bait for almost an hour. They never leave the picture frame, just continually moving up and then dropping back on the lures. I’ve also had kings many times actually pick up a trolled fresh cutbait, mouth the bait and then spit it out without wiggling the taut rod in the rod holder.
Coho in the meantime, hesitate and just slam, bam, thank you ma’am. When these fish are on the feed, you definitely know why and how they can pack on more than a pound a week. They never seem to hesitate. When they see anything that moves, they attack.
Surprisingly, open water steelhead are much like their cousin the coho. Out in the deep they may be feeding mostly on aquatic insect life, but put a well placed, selection of proven colors of spoons in front of them and they throw caution to the wind. They attack with a vengeance.
Then comes the lake trout, which I often refer to the “clown prince” of the underwater world. The behavior of the lake trout when following an offering is almost comical. My filming, time after time, almost always shows the trout “pulling” in behind a flasher and fly or Spin-N-Glo and following directly in the “flight” path of the circling or weaving pattern of the offering. If the dodger dips and dives with the bait, the lake trout dips and dives. If the flasher and bait dips and dives, so also does the lake trout.
Almost in every instance this is the case. That is except when a small piece of belly flesh or meat is attached to trialing lure. When a very small piece of “meat,” the size of your small fingernail is attached to one of the trebles hooks or a single hook, the bite is almost instantaneous.
Now, that final deduction is what brings me to the Dreamweaver WhirlyGig. Somewhat like the design of the Spin-N-Glo, this latest creation contains a bait chamber in its main body cavity. It is designed to be loaded with a little scent.
What’s that old saying… “A little dab will do yah!”
If you don’t believe smell and taste are important and beneficial on lake trout, I can only say test it out with a WhirlyGig and a little dab will do you! Dreamweaver has just come out with the product and it’s available in ten colors. For lake trout I automatically picked the yellow/orange (clown) and white/pink dot (wonder bread) as my first choices. What I filled them with will be my secret for now.
Once again, I’ve been around the Great Lakes fishery for more years than most. I’ve also been hands-on when it comes to working with and studying the fishery. Times are changing and changing fast. Personally, I see in the not too distant future, the original “grey trout” regaining its place as one of the kings of the fishery, if not the king. It’s always been that way in Lake Superior.
In Lake Huron and Georgian Bay the lake trout is the main game. We are seeing that already on Lake Michigan. Some say lake trout could be the main target and harvest fish on Lake Ontario in the next decade. I agree.
The lake trout may not fight like a Chinook or dance on the water like a steelhead. But, give this fish it's due. It can bulldog and fight with the best of them, especially on lite line gear.
As for taste, I personally hate the word “greaseball.”
The word is preparation.
When you catch one, properly bleed and put the trout on ice. Those are the two main steps towards a great meal.
Step number three should be the purchase of a Wisconsin Fish Boil pot. Nothing, but nothing is better than a boiled plate of lake trout fillet, potatoes and onions.
Oh, and don’t forget to add a big, big pouring of melted butter over your main meal!
No calories or cholesterol. I promise!
- written by Darryl Choronzey