The 15 Minute Back Lake Blueprint: Catching Fish


For Orillia Fishing, by Wil Wegman

February 22, 2022

Note from Orillia Fishing: Before we get started, I wanted to send a HUGE thank you to Wil for providing such an in-depth set of articles to help us get out and setup on some back lakes. I've been to a few and I have to say the back lakes experience is like living in the city, then coming to live in the country. It's more peaceful, the fish are less spooky and seeing that blanket of snow that no one has walked on yet - beautiful. 


In our first two articles for Orillia Fishing we covered much of the prep work and background info needed to make your excursion into a secluded northern lake or two, a success. You can find those pieces here and here .Today let’s get right into our adventure … the lake(s) you’re gonna try applying all this information on.

In this final installment let’s focus on five popular species you may encounter. 

Gerry Heels hooked up with another
Gerry Heels hooked up with another!

Walleye: Unless the water is tannic stained or a heavily overcast day is upon you, consider maximizing your efforts to just the morning sunrise hours or dusk period at supper. Keep your tackle simple; jig heads, spoons and of course the iconic Rapala Jigging Rap. Of all the species we include below, perhaps consider live minnows for walleye more than any of the others. Even the head of a minnow on your favorite spoon can make a huge difference. As for location … you’ll want to rely heavily on the highest quality portable ice sonar you can afford. For me- that’s the Lowrance Elite system which has provided years of dependable fish finding service. Use your unit and an electric auger like any of the StrikeMaster Lithium Series to drill a bunch of holes in a likely area. Deep 10’ weedlines that still have green plants may be few and far between but if you find em, fish em hard. Far extended points- sometimes in water as deep as 30+ feet can provide good walleye action especially the absence of plants. If there are smelt in the lake they may actually suspend. If there is a creek or river mouth in the lake- practice extreme caution but don’t pass this area up especially later in the winter.

Pike: Any back bay, weed line or creek/river mouth is where you want to set up your Tip-Ups … both the HT Windless model to keep your bait moving and the standard in water spool version. Purchase some dead frozen baitfish (carry grocery store receipt) to add to your quick strike rig presented right near bottom. I like to have one hole with a tip up /dead bait combo and a few others I walk around to and jig tubes, spoons and the jigging Rap.

Wil’s PB backcountry lake trout- caught thanks to a shoal only showing up in Google Earth
Wil’s PB backcountry lake trout- caught thanks to a shoal only showing up in Google Earth

Lake Trout: Unlike lakers from big waters like Simcoe or Georgian Bay, northern back country lakes, either stocked or natural, typically don’t grow trout as large. Their taste however puts their big brethren to shame and they can be a riot to fish for. I typically begin at an island or main lake point and drill a series of holes from as shallow as ten feet (if there’s standing timber) out to about 30- sometimes 40’.Your sonar may go a little wonky trying to read depths at certain areas but that often indicates you’re fishing a ledge- not a bad thing at all. Secondary point’s or shoals are other prime areas. The white Berkley tubes on the Orillia Fishing store are hard to beat for consistent back country laker action. I love having a triple hole set-up though so that I can have a Vibrato jigging in one hole, my sonar cable down a separate hole a couple feet away and then another hole where I can dead stick that tube off bottom. Now I can watch both lures perfectly. The flashy vibrato attracts the laker below the hole and if it’s active will even chase that horizontal spoon up as you real in. If not- it may pay more attention to your tube. Regardless, you can sit there on your snowmobile and fish this very effective method all day at several spots around the lake.

Average size brook trout vary from lake to backcountry lake but these are about the average where we go south of Gogama
Average size brook trout vary from lake to backcountry lake but these are about the average where we go south of Gogama

Brook Trout: Back country ice fishing for trophy PB brookies – measured in pounds instead of inches is a definite attainable goal at many of these lakes … forget about these trout being stocked, they are still every bit as gorgeous and hard fighting. I use the same three-hole laker set up described above for lakers in water 8-14’. I know several super shallow brookies can be way shallower but watching them on sonar there is just not practical. For spoons I love the Blue Fox More Silda in one hole … and although I’ve caught more than my share on tubes, a drifter minnow soft plastic by Set-The Hook can be quite irresistible. Remember- look for active beaver houses, major and secondary points.

Wil’s PB brook trout - 7.3 lbs!
Wil’s PB brook trout - 7.3lbs!

Splake: Maybe my favorite – this cross between a laker and brook trout can act like a laker one day and a brookie the next. Set up the same way as above … and often in the same type of areas and depths you would fish brook trout. We’ve learned though that moving out into somewhat deeper water (15-20’) can pay big dividends. (If there are smelt that could be even deeper.) The one very endearing quality splake have is that they can be incredibly competitive and sometimes that pod below near bottom can be worked up halfway through the water column almost to your hole.  If you play your cards right and re drop quickly after your first fish with your More Silda or, Vibrato or favorite spoon you could catch several more suspended fish before they head down. I guarantee the excitement of that fairly rare but uber cool experience will have you coming back for more!

Splake were the dominant species caught during Wil’s last back country trip early in the New Year
Splake were the dominant species caught during Wil’s last back country trip early in the New Year

We hope you enjoyed this series and are able to enjoy some safe and very rewarding wilderness lakes ice fishing action soon.



Wil Wegman is an award winning outdoor writer whose articles have appeared in most Canadian and several US Outdoor publications. He is an avid ice angler and educator and his ice fishing seminars across Ontario and into the US have helped thousands get bit through the ice. Wil was inducted into the Canadian Angler Hall of Fame in 2017 and continues to be a strong advocate for conservation and the fishing community.

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