BWCA Lake Trout (with bonus burbot)

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Tyler W
BWCA Lake Trout (with bonus burbot)

Just after the Roundup me, my brother and father made our annual BWCA lake trout fishing trip. It was one for the record books! 

To make it more interesting we put some money on first, biggest and most.

We tried a new campsite this year. Expectations were raised when another party landed a lake trout right in front of our campsite. Shortly thereafter my bait rod started buzzing! 

First fish! And 26" too. 

But, 26" wouldn't be enough to win biggest trout. 

My dad answered back with a 28". That would be good enough for biggest. 


Over the last 10 trips I have been working on our cut bait lake trout technique. I recommend the longest rod you can carry and cast. We bring 3 8'6" rods. They should be equipped with bait feeder reels with full spools. This year water temps were right at 50F and the map said we had a nice drop off in front of camp. Still, we caught fish when we casted as far as we could into the deepest water available. 


Next, the terminal tackle. For medium suckers (cut in half) I use a 4/0 hook. A smaller hook could be used if the bait was bridled (as is common in saltwater). I experimented with bridled baits on this trip, but I don't have enough data points to make a specific recommendation. Next, comes the pike leader. I use 25lb saltwater flouro leader material. But knottable wire has worked in the past. Then, an anti-tangle sinker slide. I found several types of bent sinker slides on Amazon. They all work well enough at keeping the leader from wrapping up on the main line. Lake trout RUN when they hit a bait and if they hit your sinker they will drop the bait. Tangled sinkers were the #1 cause of dropped baits before I discovered bent sinker slides. You'll also want slinky sinkers because every decent lake trout fishing campsite is right over a pile of cobble. Lastly, rod bells. But don't just through the little bells on the rod, clamp them onto a little bulldog paper clip. They are much easier to get off a rod quickly and therefore much less annoying. 


And, if you leave your lake trout rig out late into the night you can catch an eelpout! 

My brother is not making a face at the pout, he just has black flies buzzing around his head. He cooked the pout up with a some butter and garlic and it was delicious. 


This year most of the trout were actually caught trolling in water 25'-45'. 

My brother tied on a #7 jointed shad rap in a flat gray color. He then proceeded to school us on how to troll for trout. 

The lakers were suspended over schools of ciscos and perch (based on stomach content analysis). The little #7 shad rap apparently "matched the hatch" perfectly as he put 7 nice lake trout in the boat in just a few hours. 

Sitting in the middle of the canoe I managed 3! 


The trout must have been eating the fist thing they saw. My dad switched to the same lure my brother was using but was skunked sitting in the back of the canoe. 

Obviously we ate well. This year we tried grilling trout over a bed of coals. It is my new favorite way to eat lake trout. 

The skin gets crispier and they take on a nice smoke flavor when compared to wrapping in foil. Just make sure you burn your BWCA pine fire wood down to a nice bed of coals before starting! 


Overall we finished with 18 trout, a burbot and a pike. 16 of the trout came trolling, but the biggest (and the burbot) came on cut suckers. I tried casting from shore, casting from the canoe and jigging. Most years the extra effort earns me a few extra trout. Not this year. My brother and I tied for most. 


I believe the classic rule of "lake trout are shallow in the spring" is not actually a rule. Yes, lake trout can be shallow in the spring. But, they follow their food more than the water temps. If you plan a spring lake trout trip, be flexible. They could be in 5' of water or 45'. No way to tell until you start catching them. 

Graceclaw's picture
Nice 'bot

That's a mean, dark looking one! Always cool to get those as bycatch. Sounds like your new location was a blast - thanks for sharing!

andy's picture
Great report

That sounds like a fantastic time!  The jointed rapala must not have been diving very deep, yet still catching lakers over pretty deep water.  Interesting.  Thanks for sharing!

Eric Kol
Eric Kol's picture
excellent info

tell me more about the sinker slide. what lengths of leader were you using. Great trouts

Carpy Diem!