A lot of times when ice fishing, locating the trout can be half the challenge. It is important to always remember that fish seek two primary things; shelter and food! One of the most common forms of shelter for Rainbow Trout are weed lines. Not only do the fish feel safe along this underwater structure but it also holds a lot of small the aquatic life that the they feed on during ice over.
Weed lines offer best of both worlds, food and shelter! The prime weed line areas to target are ones that are near drop-off ledges to deepwater. Deepwater is also another form of shelter for trout. If the fish feel threaten while along the weed lines they can easily drop down into the deeper water to avoid predators.
When the trout are actively feeding, which is mainly at first and last light, you will have good odds in locating them in the shallower water along the weeds. Think of weed lines like buffet for the fish. Weeded areas will hold dragon fly nymphs, caddis fly nymphs, leeches, snails, smaller forage fish and many other aquatic invertebrates.
When you first get to the lake locate the weed beds. This can be done numerous ways from looking for weeds sticking up through the ice and along the shoreline, using lake maps, or even utilizing Google Earth to find the weeded shoals of the lake prior to hitting the lake. Drill your holes close to shore in about 3 feet of water. If you drill into weeds, then move out 4 to 5 feet at a time until you locate the weed line. The best is if you can look down your ice hole and see half the hole is weeds and half is not; then you know you are in a prime area!
While fishing these areas don’t shy away from using fly fishing flies such as woolly buggers, balanced leeches, or even a bead headed nymph as they imitate what the trout are feeding on very well. Typical ice fishing baits such as maggots, meal worms, dew worms, and power bait all can be effective. The key is to keep your bait close to the bottom. Trout are very in tune with what’s going on in their environment. Many small insects emerge from the lake’s bottom so this is why the trout tend to keep a close to the lake floor. Slowly smacking your bait on the bottom next to the weed line can imitate an emerging food source for the fish. “Dead Sticking” or slowly jigging your presentation just off bottom can help entice the bite on the slower days. Let the fish tell you what they want! Try rotating your methods until you find the pattern and repeat.
One good tip is that if you notice greener vegetation in one area of the lake than another, be sure to target this area! Green vegetation means a higher level of dissolved oxygen which the trout seek. Areas where the sun can easily penetrate through the ice and reach the vegetation activates photosynthesis, again creating higher levels of oxygen in the water. The trout will be actively feeding in this vicinity.
Ice fishing for Rainbow Trout using weed lines, can be very effective and it should be one of the first places you start during the hard water season.
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Tight lines & please take a youth fishing!