Before we start discussing different fishing techniques to catch Mackinaw we first must talk a bit about where Mackinaw like to live and hang out.
Mackinaw make their home in the deeper sections of the water they are in. With that said, lures designed for shallow water or top water should not be in your Lake Trout fishing tackle box. In most cases you will be fishing a minimum of 50’ and as much as 400’ to find the fish.
With Mack’s hanging near or on the bottom most of the time you need tackle and techniques that can get your rigging on the bottom and present your lure, bait or jig in such a way that the fish will be interested enough to bite it
Jigging for Mackinaw is one of the most popular ways of fishing for lake trout. It is a “hands on” type of fishing where the fisherman is actively involved through the entire process. From dropping the jig over the side of the boat, to providing the action (jigging the lure) to feeling the bite and setting the hook.
When jigging you want to drop the weight or jig head over the side and wait until you feel your jig hit the bottom. To check and see if the jig is really on the bottom, reel your line tight and then lift your rod tip about 6 inches and gradually drop it back down. If you feel a click or the line goes limp you have most likely found the bottom. You will want to regularly check to see if the jig is near the bottom by repeating this technique.
Once on the bottom raise the rod tip from 12-24 inches in sharp jigging motions and then let the lure settle back down to the bottom naturally. Lake Trout will tend to hit the lure while it is falling, this is why you want to repeat this action as much as possible. Mackinaw will rarely strike a stationary lure so the more you jig the more opportunities you will have catching a fish.
The bite on a jig is typically very subtle. You may or may not feel the traditional bite but more likely you will see your line go slack or feel a steady pressure on the line. Many times the hook can be set by just quickly reeling in and keeping steady pressure on your pole.
There are many different types of lures you can jig:
- A typical lead jig head with a plastic or feather skirt
- Metal blade or spoon
- Fly or Streamer
Trolling with a DownRigger
Trolling is a traditional type of fishing that is used worldwide to catch fish. Instead of waiting for the fish to come to you, you go to the fish by trolling. The difference between trolling for many species of fish compared to Lake Trout is that when trolling for Lake Trout you use DownRiggers.
The purpose of the DownRigger is to get your lure down to where the fish are, and in the case of Mackinaws that means the bottom of the lake. The boat then moves slowly through the water (trolls) at just a couple miles per hour
The fishermans line is attached by a clip to the DownRigger weight and the pole is then put in a pole holder next to the downrigger. When a fish strikes the lure the line is then automatically released from the clip and the tension in the rod sets the hook. By the time the fisherman grabs the pole the fish is already hooked and the battle begins.
Many different lures and attractants can be added to the fishermans line to entice a strike while fishing for Lake Trout. Blades, Spinners, hoochies, plastics, etc are all used at times when trolling.
Which is Better, Jigging or Trolling?
It depends, is the definitive answer to this question. Both Jigging and Trolling can be highly productive and produce large catches and Trophy Sized fish. Depending on the body of water you are fishing, how congregated the fish are, water temperature, etc will determine what technique you will use on a given day.
If you want to learn more about fishing for Lake Trout the best way is to hire a Charter Captain that specialties in fishing for Mackinaw. It will save you many fishless hours of frustration and trial and error.