Lake Trout

Deep, cold, northern lakes are the haunts of these large, silvery-gray game fish, which are great fun to catch and provide delicious table fare.
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Where and When?

If you’re looking for lake trout, look north. These fish inhabit the Great Lakes as well as other lakes in Canada and Alaska, and many smaller lakes in the Northeast U.S. They have been transplanted to similar habitat in other parts of the world, such as Sweden and New Zealand, but northern North America is their native range and where they are most plentiful. Lake trout tend to spend the summer months down deep, where the water is very cold—as deep as 60 meters. This can be a good time to target them in smaller lakes where the deep water is accessible, but it can be challenging in larger lakes, so spring and fall, when these fish are actively cruising shallower water, are better bets. Ice fishing in the winter is also a great way to catch a big lake trout.

About Lake Trout

Lake trout are actually members of the char family—the biggest of all the char. They’re also called lakers, mackinaw, lake char, gray trout, togue, and mud hens. Lake trout have a distinctive forked tail, silvery-gray body, and cream or yellow spots over most of their body. These are large fish; it’s common to catch lake trout in the 20- to 30-inch range, but the world record was 59 inches long and weighed 72 pounds. A hybrid of lake trout and brook trout, known as splake, is commonly produced in hatcheries and is often stocked in smaller lakes.

How to Catch?

Baitcasting or spinning rods work well for lake trout, and because these fish love deep water, you’ll have the most success fishing from a boat. Because lake trout will be in different habitats depending on the time of year, it’s important to seek out an outfitter who is familiar with the patterns of these fish in a particular lake. When fishing for lake trout, look for cold water, in the 55-degree F range, especially near drop-offs. Lake trout are often caught on live bait, especially minnows. Spinners, jerkbaits, spoons, spinnerbaits, and jigs with large tails also work well. These fish can be caught on a 7- to 10-weight fly rod when they are in shallower water during the spring and fall; fly fishermen often use sink-tip lines and cast big streamers for lake trout.