To some fishermen lake trout are somewhat of a mystery. To others these monster trout from the deep are the ultimate prey.
Trophy lake trout measure 30 inches and above and weigh in at a whopping 30+ pounds. Some anglers have a life long obsession with landing one of these specimen lakers and will go to great lengths to catch one.
How to Catch Lake Trout
Lake trout fishing is very different from catching browns/rainbows in rivers and streams on light tackle. The majority of the time fishing for lake trout will be done from either a boat or during winter out on the ice.
Lake trout like deep waters and your only real choice is to follow them there. However depending on the time of the year you can find them in shallower waters.
They like the depths and they prefer cooler waters compared to a lot of other freshwater fish. Lakers will move about the water column following these temperatures with the exception of the fall spawning season when they move to the shallows.
Their preferred temperature is about 53 degrees. During the spring and winter they will stay in shallower areas in waters of around 20 to 50 feet.
The summer months is when they run deep, as much as 80 feet down during summer months to escape the warmer water.
Spring Lake Trout
Once the ice is finished and you can get out in a boat your best bet for catching spring lake trout is to stick to somewhat shallower waters particularly those areas that feature some form of drop off.
Try to concentrate on an area that gives the trout the option to run deep and move into shallower waters temporarily. Sand bars and gravel beds that are right on the edge of drop offs will present the best opportunities.
Lake trout normally don't like the warmer waters of the shallows but in the colder spring waters they will have no problems laying in ambush of smaller fish that prefer to shoal along sand and gravel bottoms.
Lakers will lurk in the deeper areas out of sight waiting for an opportunity to strike. These drop off zones are where you need to spend the most time covering as much water as you can.
Trolling in these areas can be done on lighter gear and using smaller lake trout lures. Small spoons, Rapala's and spinners can particularity effective. Another popular option is to bounce a flat fish lure off the bottom right on the shallow side of a drop off or if you can right where a warmer column of water meets a colder one.
Jigging if done right can be just as productive as on the troll. When using a jig you have an opportunity to imitate smaller insects and crustaceans that you normally don't with trolling.
Jigging spoons, soft plastics and marabou jigs will work great.
Summer Lake Trout
Summer is when lake trout like to head deep. They follow the colder water down deeper into the water column. Fishing from shore for lake trout is not really an option. It's all about getting out in the boat with a fish finder and finding just where exactly they are feeding.
Trolling in the summer months is all about depth. Getting your lure down deep to where the lake trout are hiding is crucial.
On smaller lakes they will be found in deep holes and pockets. Whereas in larger lakes they will be found in areas where the temperature suits them, not always around any kind of structure.
Lead core lines, bottom bouncing and downriggers are the go to tackle. Your rod and reel need to be able to match this heavier terminal tackle.
Larger spoons, deep divers, big crankbaits and larger Rapala's will all produce big fish if trolled at the right depth and speed.
During the summer months your trolling speed will need to be quite slow. As low as 2 mph or even slower. Large lake trout are a little bit lazier in the summer and will not be as aggressive towards a faster moving lure.
There is less oxygen in the water at the deeper depths and because of this they will tend to be a lot lazier.
Jigging is still a good option but at the greater depths you will have less sensitivity and will have to use a little more weight in your jigs. This can result in fewer hook sets.
Fall Lake Trout
Fall lake trout fishing will generally coincide with spawning season. Roughly around September is when you'll see lakers move from the deeper waters into the shallower rockier shores.
They tend to feed heavily right before spawning and love to congregate above and around rocky bottoms. Depending on the lake and the bottom contours this can be anywhere from 10 feet down to 30 feet.
Smaller lures are the name of the game here as they will be feeding on small minnows and other shallow water prey.
Lighter tackle is generally needed as the visibility in shallower areas is much better.
This is one time of the year when casting can become a great option either from the shore or from a boat.
You can cast as you troll at a very low speed. Casting out to the side of the boat and then a slow retrieve . Aim to always work along side a long feature like a gravel bank or rocky shoal.