Trout that should be on your Christ­mas list

The Sudbury Star - - SPORTS - FRANK CLARK Frank Clark is a lo­cal guide and pro tour­na­ment an­gler. Frank’s Tackle Box col­umn ap­pears ev­ery other week in The Sud­bury Star. Clark can be reached at profish­[email protected] or on Face­book at Pro Fish­ing Frank Clark.

Win­ters can be long, es­pe­cially given our short­ened fall sea­son and ex­tremely cold tem­per­a­tures we were faced with in the last month. For­tu­nately, for the hard-wa­ter an­gler will­ing to do a lit­tle re­search, there are count­less pris­tine back­coun­try lakes that are boun­ti­ful with rain­bow trout, splake and brook trout that re­main open to angling year round.

In say­ing that, ex­treme cau­tion is re­quired here as there is no fish worth gam­bling your life for. The lakes that I am re­fer­ring to that would be la­belled as very small lakes, could even be com­pared to a large pond.

Once on the ice for the first time, a quick check of the ice thick­ness is a must. You need at least four inches of hard ice to walk out on. The lakes we were fish­ing over the last cou­ple weeks had a min­i­mum of six inches of good ice, which is plenty for walk­ing. Still though, use ex­treme cau­tion and be mind­ful of any sketchy-look­ing ice or around small creeks.

Get­ting into them typ­i­cally en­tails a lit­tle bit of hard work, but what bet­ter time to hit them than early in the sea­son be­fore you’re up to your hips in snow. My pref­er­ence is to walk in, or bet­ter yet snow­shoe, es­pe­cially af­ter last week’s dump­ing of snow. It’s a great way to stay in shape dur­ing the win­ter and en­joy the out­doors. For a true wilder­ness ex­pe­ri­ence, I’ll search for back lakes that don’t have easy ac­cess.

A lit­tle re­search on the home com­puter will help you de­cide on what lake you will be hit­ting. Google search Fish ON-Line and be pre­pared to spend hours ex­plor­ing all the lake in­for­ma­tion the site has to of­fer. This is our hard-earned tax dol­lars at work, so be sure to take full ad­van­tage of it. Pay at­ten­tion to the stock­ing in­for­ma­tion as far as num­bers and year stocked. If you want to go for brook trout, you will need to en­sure that it is listed in the 2018-19 Fish­ing Reg­u­la­tions in the zone un­der Ad­di­tional Fish­ing Op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Let’s talk a lit­tle about the species, specif­i­cally splake and brook trout.

Splake are a hatch­ery hy­brid re­sult­ing from cross­breed­ing a male brook trout and a fe­male lake trout. They don’t nat­u­rally re­pro­duce, so they are es­sen­tially re­ferred to as a put, grow and take fish. The hatch­eries grow them to a fin­ger­ling or year­ling class, the MNR puts them in the lake, they grow fast and an­glers get to take them out. Which is likely why they are open year-round in most zones they are present in. Of course, we still need to fol­low fish­eries reg­u­la­tions.

An ad­van­tage to lakes stocked with splake is they take on the growth char­ac­ter­is­tics of a brook trout, gain­ing up to two pounds in just two years of be­ing stocked as a fin­ger­ling and have more than dou­ble the life­span of a brook trout, liv­ing up to 20 years. The On­tario record sits at 20.1 pounds.

In some lakes, dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween a splake, lake trout or a brook trout can be a lit­tle tricky, es­pe­cially if the fish takes on the char­ac­ter­is­tics more of a lake trout or the op­po­site, that of a brookie.

Splake have a slightly deep body with white spots on a darker back­ground. There may be red dots but with­out the brook trout’s blue halo around the red dots. The fins are tri­coloured and the tail is slightly forked.

This may all seem some­what con­fus­ing and tricky for dis­tin­guish­ing be­tween the two fish. Lakes that a stocked with splake are gen­er­ally pop­u­lated with only splake in them. I would sug­gest again us­ing tech­nol­ogy to your ad­van­tage and Google im­age the species to help you iden­tify them in the field.

Now, if you want to re­ally im­press your friends you sim­ply tell them that you should count the py­loric caeca, which is the fin­ger­like pro­jec­tions of the in­tes­tine and is the only pos­i­tive way to iden­tify be­tween the trio. A splake will have a count be­tween 65-85, brook trout will have 23-55 and a lake trout will have a count of over 93. Of course, this means the fish is dead, but it’s a good con­ver­sa­tion at the camp when you get off the lake to do a quick check.

Let’s briefly talk about brook trout, also known as speck­led trout. True gi­ants and by that, I mean over six pounds, are a pos­si­bil­ity. Brook trout have a very short life rang­ing from six to seven years and spent up to one year in the hatch­ery. When do­ing your home­work, pay close at­ten­tion to the amount and the year it was stocked. For a chance at a tro­phy, look at lakes stocked more than three years ago.

So, what’s it go­ing to be, rain­bow, splake or brook trout? With so many lakes to choose from and so lit­tle time to fish, de­cid­ing where to go could be the hardest part of get­ting out there and en­joy­ing a day on the hard wa­ter.

Good luck, tight lines and be safe!

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