Post date: Monday, March 5, 2012 - 15:09
Updated date: 9/18/18
Lake Trout Salvelinus namaycush

The lake trout is the largest member of the char family, reaching astronomical weights.  It inhabits deep, cold, still waters and preys on most any living thing.


The Lake Trout inhabits deep, cold lakes of the Northland. It is found only on the far Northern fringes of the United States, and throughout Canada. Huge, cold freshwater lakes such as Superior, Great Bear and Great Slave are known as the best resources for these fish, and where the largest specimens are taken. Fish from 40 to 70 pounds are caught from these waters each year. Numerous deep, rocky lakes in Minnesota and in the BWCAW also harbor Lake Trout. Good lakes usually fall to depths of two hundred feet and more, and contain certain favorable forage species such as Ciscoes and Rainbow Smelt. In these Southern waters, a Lake Trout of twenty pounds would be considered a trophy while 4 to 10 pounds is aveage.


Tactics for encountering Lake Trout vary depending on the body of water you are fishing and the time of year. In Lake Superior, anglers consistently catch fish trolling the deep, open water with downriggers. Large, flashy spoons and plugs work well. This type of fishing requires large, seaworthy boats due to the merciless waters of Superior, and many folks rely on one of the plentiful charter boats. These captains know their business, and catch fish throughout the season. Plenty of Lake Trout are also caught from shore on Superior, casting spoons or fishing with dead Ciscoes. Areas around river mouths sometimes attract fish in Spring and Fall, and throughout the summer steep-breaking shorelines produce. Breakwalls along the North Shore provide anglers with convenient access to deep water and good numbers of Lake Trout at times. Shore-casting Superior is not a high-percentage pursuit. Many hours of numbing cold may have to be endured before a big Laker decides to inhale your spoon. Some anglers bottom-fish with large dead ciscoes, and occasionally hook up with big fish. Lakes in Northern Minnesota and the BWCAW with populations of Lake Trout are a bit less intimidating. When the season opens in the Spring, these fish are found in the shallows and are on the feed. Bottom-fishing dead ciscoes is probably the best method, but spoons and plugs, as well as big streamers, may work as well. Trolling with spoons along shelves that drop into deep water will let you cover a lot of water and put some Lakers in the boat. Throughout the Summer months, Lake Trout retreat to the depths to get away from warmer waters. They are difficult to tempt at this time of year. Locating a school of ciscoes in open water would be a good start to finding Lakers in warmer temperatures. Vertically jigging spoons or large bucktail jigs may work.

Being a true fish of the North, the Lake Trout is targeted through the ice extensively. Ice-fishing allows the angler to walk or snowmobile out and easily find key fish-holding structures. Once a location has been pinpointed, it can be covered thoroughly with different presentations. This is not often possible during open-water season. Lake Trout are very active in the winter months, and this may be the best time of year to get out after them. Steep dropoffs, whether they be points, islands, cliffs or reefs, are very attractive to Lakers at this time of year. Some type of forage inhabiting the area will ensure that Lake Trout will be around. Many anglers target fish in very deep water, 100 feet or more, utilizing wire lines to attain better hooksets. This is especially true in areas of Superior which freeze, like the Apostle Islands area. Finding Lake Trout out here is a very daunting task, unless you really know the game. We have found that in most lakes fish can be found around steep dropoffs in 30 to 70 feet. In fact, I have caught them as shallow as 15 feet at the top of the break. Tip-ups baited with a dead cisco on a large circle hook fished on the bottom is a deadly tactic. Light leaders are not necessary, as these fish are not shy. Scatter your baits along the dropoff at different depths to determine where the best action is taking place. While waiting for a flag, hop around on the break and fish agressively with a jigging presentation. Large Swedish Pimples, Airplane jigs and flashy spoons can be effective. Many folks swear by a large white Power Tube. In lakes where Rainbow Smelt are abundant, we have found that a mid-sized Rainbow-pattern jigging Rapala works well. All of these lures should be tipped with a small slice of fish or a minnow head. Drop your jig down, and stop it 10 or 15 feet from the bottom. Give it a few aggressive lifts, pausing a few seconds between. Go down five feet, and repeat. Next, pound your offering right on the bottom a few times. Fish back up in ten foot incremants, then move on. Lakers will often follow a jig from bottom to 40 feet up, then slam it. If a fish shows on your electronics and will not take, reel up very fast and he will most likely chase. Ice-fishing for Lake Trout can be thrilling sport, and you owe it to yourself to get out there this winter and give it a try.

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