Alright, guys, let’s talk splake. I've used two articles for reference in this article. One was by Gord Pyzer (https://www.outdoorcanada.ca/gord-pyzers-total-guide-to-hardwater-splake/), which of course, everybody knows I find that man just a wealth of knowledge. One of the guys I would strive to fish like. And then the other one was actually a form (https://www.oodmag.com/community/showthread.php?65460-Splake-ice-fishing-techniques). And the reason why I put it in there, because the comment that the gentleman made in the form was just spot on with what Gord was saying in his article. So, I’m gonna share that.
If you’ve not fished for splake before… Now, I’ve only done it one time - Tom Carr from Fatal Force Outfitters took me out on a back lake last year. I told him I wanted to try and catch some splake, he had some spare time, so we took a snow machine out. It must have been like a 15-minute drive through the woods on a snow machine to get to this back lake, and then when we got there… Oh, God. If you’ve not fished a back lake, you gotta fish a back lake. There's something just amazing about pulling out into this lake. And it’s not like, you know, pulling out onto a lake around here where, you know, you’re walking in between two houses where there’s a boat ramp or something like that and then you’ve got cottages all around the lake. This is like, you go back there and it’s all pines, right? You know, it’s all pines, it’s all green, and it’s all rock and it’s just beautiful. Just beautiful.
So, even if you don’t catch anything all day, it is the most beautiful experience. So quiet. You know, there’s usually not other snow mobiles. There’s usually not other fishermen. It’s just pure quiet, all to yourself. You just relax. You just fish.
And so, if you’re going out to some of these back lakes, splake seems to be the big one. Last year, a lot of people were fishing for splake. But you can go out, you can fish splake, brook trout… There’s lake trout lakes back there too. Rainbow… There’s lots of back lakes fish out there.
So, what we’re looking for for splake in particular though, just real, real quick… Basically, you’re gonna look for shallow, weedy, woody areas that are prominent either in and around or on prominent underwater points.
Now, we have conflicting stories between the articles out there, but a lot of people say they like to eat bugs. Now, some people say, okay, yeah, the small ones like to eat bugs but the bigger ones like something a little bit more.
Now, there’s a few ways you can fish for these guys. And this is how I fished it with Tom last year, which is set lines. So, you can run set lines, you know, just like the Berkley Ice Tip Ups. So, the Berkley Ice Tip Ups that you’ve seen in the store, it just sits over top of the hole. It’s got a little flag – you can put a bell on top of the flag if you want. And then it just has a spool on it with some line that you can put on there. You throw that down on… you know, they’re talking like 6-8lb Fluorocarbon, if you wanted to. Split shot, hook, and minnow. Super simple.
So, you run a split shot six to eight inches up from your hook and then you just run a minnow. And what you’re gonna do is you’re gonna put that split shot on bottom. So, you the split shot goes on bottom. The minnow is alive, of course. It’s swimming up above that. If you’re using fake lures, so, Spoons was called out here. If you happen to have a half and half Williams, which us Gord Pyzer’s favorite one. That’s the Williams Wabler. Swedish Pimples, Buck-Shot, Rattle Spoons, Little Cleos, and of course, tubes, right?
So, when we talk about the bigger fish in deeper water: Tubes. You’re fishing them a lot like lake trout, which was interesting.
So, I just kinda want to read this comment that somebody made in Outdoor Mag’s form here, and I mixed it in with kind of what Gord was saying in his article.
Splake can have multiple personalities. So, you’ve got the smaller ones, he was talking about less than 16 inches. They tend to eat more like brook trout. So, they eat bugs, crustaceans… they eat some minnows. And they relate more to the shoreline structures. You know, small points, downed timber, flat bays. Usually in and around 10 to 20 feet of water, but they can go even shallower. You know, five feet, even more. And you know, that’s usually if you’ve got like a nice snow cover on the ice. That’s when they go super, super shallow. But they tend to hug bottom even under the ice. But of course, then there’s that whole opposite side where they can suspend like lakers sometimes do.
Okay, so, now they’re talking about splakes where you can get some large size. Now, when they say larger size, they’re talking 18 inches plus. Now, the say that’s when they start behaving a little bit more like lakers. So, it sounds to me, from what I’m reading in this article, if you’re looking for bigger splake, you’re more intended to find them in the laker territory than you would the smaller version of the species, which act more like brook trout and are shallower.
So, with these guys, they can perform like lakers. They like proximity to deeper water, so they’re gonna cover deeper, rocky points. Humps, reefs, saddles, steep drop-offs including shoreline ones, flats, and structure out to 60 feet deep are still fair game in theory, but the 1 to 2-foot range is definitely the best place to start. And that’s gold right there. That’s gold. So, if you’re looking for spots that you want to find these splake, hit all those areas.
I, personally, when I get out to a new lake, I almost always try and find… if I can, I always try and find a quick drop-off into deeper water. If I can find it on a point, I’m laughing, right? Because then you get that whole - dive into deep water. You get the quick drop-off, but then you also have the shallow flat. So, you can move around that point fishing. That whole entire point trying to figure out where these fish are.
So, even larger splake will visit typical brook trout locations to feed but without nearby deep water access, splake will tend to only forage in those areas, not reside. So, they’re not living in that area. They’re just coming up there maybe to eat a little bit if they’re having a hard time finding food in their area,
So, he’s talking kinda like what I was just talking about a little bit earlier. So, you know, the borders and edges between deep water and more productive shallow water, those are areas where kinda you want to start, right? You start on that edge and then you can move yourself into deeper water from that edge or you can move yourself into shallow water from that edge. And then at some point, I mean, you’re gonna run into fish, right? You just kinda gotta move around.
So, he had a good idea here in this little article here. So, you can check the map, of course, like we just talked about. But he’s asking-- or he’s suggesting also, ask locals. So, you know, local tackle shops are a good spot to go to. If you’re walking around local tackle shops, you can ask the customers in those areas. Facebook, of course, if you know people in that area or you find a group that people want to talk about. And then he mentions the MNR. So, you can actually call the MNR, ask about the fish stocking program for any particular lake that you find, and get a little bit of information about kinda like where those fish like to sit. Right? So, that’s pretty interesting. That was a really good tip.
Bait-wise, what he’s talking about is it’s still hard to beat - minnows. Live, dead, preserved, whole, or in part. Either dress them with flashy spoons -- this is where he was talking about the Swedish Pimples and Buck-Shot Rattle Spoons and stuff like that -- or you can put them on a jig head. If you go into deeper water, right, you want that heavier head to get them down.
So, if you’re not sure… you’ve got all this stuff and you’re not sure really what the presentation should look like, we have the one, right, where it’s a set line. Where you have the minnow hanging up off the bottom. He’s alive, he’s swimming around, but the split shot is keeping it down towards the bottom.
Or what he’s talking about is, lower it to the bottom, wait while you’re reeling in slack, then jig up six to 24 inches and let the lure free fall to just above bottom. So, now, he’s of course saying - gentle if you’ve got live minnows. And then he says, ‘wait for a few seconds, then repeat. Vary the size, speed of the lift, freed versus controlled slack drops.’ So, just play around with it, right? Does he want like a full slack line drop? Does he want it to nicely drop down? You know, fast rip? Slow rip? Play around with the retrieve. And then, of course, length of pause in between doing all that.
He says, ‘pay attention to whatever happens.’ You know, whether it gets their attention, they come to see it… You know, pay attention to what’s happening there and kind of change it however you feel that fish is gonna react. So, play around quite a bit, is what he’s saying. But that’s kinda the juice, I guess, right there, is kinda what’s happening.
So, this guy says, ‘gradually lift bit by bit to the surface as you jig.’ So, you know, kinda play around in that area, move it up, play around in that area, move it up, play around in that area, and try and figure out where in the fish column those fish are or where it’s getting their attention. And then, you know, concentrate on the deeper water at first, he’s saying, and then move yourself shallow.
So, Gord kind of took that and said basically the same thing. So, because we’re getting this from multiple sources now… So, he says he likes to divide the water column into 10-foot zones. If he’s jigging in 40-foot of water off the end of the point, ‘I like to drop a tube down to the bottom, reel it up a foot or two, then use my wrist and arm to briskly lift it up a couple of feet before pausing it. If I don’t feel a hit, I let the tube fall back down and pause and then repeat the procedure. If I don’t get a bite within a few minutes, I’ll reel up ten feet and duplicate the process. And it goes on and on in the jigging zone immediately under the ice. After that, I move onto the next hole.’
So, he actually physically moves. So, it sounds like he’s actually picking a spot… Let’s say deep water, right? Because that’s kind of where he was talking about. So, we can go edge or deep water. So, we pick that edge, we fish it, we fish the whole water column just like they’re talking about, and then we move spots. Move out into deeper. Do the exact same thing, right? Fish the same way. Maybe that’s not working – go to shallower water. And you’re gonna move around quite a bit.
So, he’s saying that he’s basically not staying in one spot for very long. He’s moving around quite a bit, which to me, sounds like these fish roam. A lot like smallmouth, right? They roam around a lot. They’re aggressive fish. So, you want to go try and find them, basically.
So, he’s saying, ‘tip ups work well for splake, especially fish nearby while you’re jigging.’ So, this is a great thing because where we live, most places you can fish two lines, right? So, you can have your… let’s just say, your fish on the edge, and go to deep water, you can go put your set line, right? You can put your set line there and then maybe swap them, right? You know, if you’re not getting anything, you’re deciding to move, you’re doing a more aggressive jig in the deep water – you can move your set line up onto the place you just were or into shallow water. You can move all kinds of places. So, having two lines is really gonna make it a lot quicker to try and catch and find these fish.
Sometimes set lines are the only things that work, right? Like, so when me and Tom were out, the only thing that caught fish was set lines. I don’t know why. They just-- they would only bite on set lines.
So, again, this is, again… I think this one’s from Gord. ‘Feed a minnow down towards bottom on a bait or an octopus hook.’ They’re recommending a #6 or #8. ‘Place two small BB split shot one foot above, six inches above the hook sometimes, or use a jig at the end instead of a terminal hook.’ So, that’s if you want to keep that minnow right on bottom, right? So, you’ve got the split shot with the minnow floating around, swimming around, doing its thing, or a jig head with it right on bottom.
There’s two options that you can do with your set lines. So, for gear, they’re generally talking 10 to 15 ice braid. Personally, I like eight-pound for everything. I mean, there’s… I don’t know, maybe you do need heavier braid, but, I mean, there's guys are out there fishing lakers on eight-pound braid. So, I don’t know that you necessarily need anything more than eight-pound. Double uni knot to whatever. Fluorocarbon, mono… I personally prefer fluorocarbon. You can use six-pound, eight-pound… You know.
If you’re using braid, here’s a tip. If you’re using braid, try not to go with too much of a difference in weight, right? Because what’ll happen is, sometimes you’ll cut through that fluorocarbon if your main line is thinner than your leader. Unfortunately. I found that out by accident.
So, anyway, they don’t like the tendency of a two-way swivel, so they use snap swivels down at the lure end. So, I don’t know why – that’s just something that they threw in there.
And that is it. That is all I can find. And I think that with those few little areas, I mean, that should set you up, right? So, if you go out looking for splake, try some of the lures that they’re talking about in this article. I don’t believe I carry any of those. But go check out some of those lures. Some of those are tried and trues. Swedish Pimple, I mean, everybody knows that one. Little Cleo, we watch those on Uncut Angling all the time.
So, they’re talking about the same thing. And then, of course, set lines. So, super simple. All you’ve got to do is find a back lake that’s stocking these splake, find a way to get to that back lake, and then you are golden. You’re catching splake all winter. I’m sure of it. I’m sure of it!