*Sharper Hooks*
*Tighter Lines*
Lake Trout




Information & facts

Lake Trout

lake trout

Latin Name
Salvelinus namaycush

Group Name


Lake trout are a species of char with a wide distribution in the cooler northern regions of North America. They are found throughout Canada, from the Atlantic provinces to the Great Lakes and all the way to the West Coast, including in the Rocky Mountains. Lake trout are also found quite far north, even occurring on arctic islands. They tend to prefer cold water (about 10 degrees Celsius), and live mostly in large, deep lakes, though occasionally they are found in shallower bodies of water and large rivers.

Species Description

laketroutLake trout resemble other char or trout in shape, with a fairly elongated body, a large mouth and an indented tail. Their coloration varies from olive to grey or brown, dappled with white or yellowish spots. Normally they are darker on their dorsal side and lighter on their flanks, becoming white on their underside. Lake trout can grow to nearly a metre in length and weigh more than 20 kilograms, but they average 38 to 51 centimetres and 4.5 kilograms. Lake trout often live to more than 20 years of age.Their diet varies based on the length, weight and age of the fish, but includes small crustaceans, snails, leeches, insect larvae and other small fish. Due to popularity among anglers lake trout populations can be decimated and they need to be supported by stocking programs.

lake troutLake trout prefer to live in large lakes that are deep with cold water. Generally they spawn during the fall season, but this can be affected by the location of the lake and weather patterns. Juvenile trout are reclusive and will seek out deep water where they feed on plankton and other small aquatic prey. Lake trout are easy to distinguish from other trout by their color variation, which is usually yellowish to white spots on their dark green to greyish body. They have an elongated, stout heads like all other trout. Their belly is white and at times can have an orange-reddish color paired fins.

How to fish for Lake Trout

The 3-way swivel technique below is ten times better then using steel line or bait-walkers and it's a lot more fun then using down-riggers.

You need a light action rod with 4 or 6-pound test line. You also need three-way swivels and a 1 or 2-oz weight depending how deep you want to fish, which depends on what time of year it is.

Diagram showing the setup:

By using light line, the line has less friction with the water and slices through so that your line goes down to the bottom without having lots of line out. Tie two 3-foot pieces of line to your three-way swivel. Use a 1 or 2-oz. weight on one line and a light lure on the other. Lake Trout like small lures more than big lures.

The very best lure is a small South Bend Kastway Trophy Spoon. You can also use #1 or #0 Mepps, Panther Martins or Blue Foxes. Small Cleos or a small Mepps Cyclopes are also good.

A 1-oz weight with 6-pound test dark green line is good for fishing down to 40 feet. A 2-oz weight is good for fishing down to 65 feet.

how to fish for lake trout

Trolling Slow:

You only want to move just fast enough for your lure to work and no faster. If your boat is moving too fast, it will be very hard to find the bottom of the lake. If you are using a boat with a bigger motor and it's hard to keep slow, try back trolling or maybe install a trolling brake.

Finding the bottom:

The most important aspect of deep water trout fishing is letting out line to get to the bottom. DO NOT JUST LET YOUR LINE OUT UNTIL IT HITS BOTTOM. Hold the rod in one hand with the bail open. Let the line run through the palm of your other hand and grip the line. Once the boat starts moving and you have a good straight troll going, open your hand with the line then close it again. This way you can let out a foot or two of line at a time. Get a rhythm going. Open, close, open, close. Your rod tip will bounce up and down as you release little bits of line. The rhythm of your rod tip bouncing will be disrupted when your weight hits the bottom of the lake. When this happens, reel up a foot or two. The purpose of this procedure is to keep your 3-way swivel setup from getting tangled.

Trout are funny when it comes to hitting your lure. Small ones will hit and then take off so you know you have a fish on. The really big trout will hit the lure and slowly swim away. Some are so big they don't know they're hooked. So if you get a snag, make sure it's not a fish before you start toughing on your line. If it's a big trout, loosen the drag on your reel because they will go nuts and strip a 100 feet of line off your reel before you can turn them. Keep your drag set for 6-pound test line and do not horse the fish in.


In the summer time, Lake Trout hit best in the morning between first light and 10:30 AM. They will hit better if the surface of the water is dead calm and it's a clear sky with high pressure. Any other conditions will cause them to slow down. If it's early spring, the trout seem to feed in other parts of the day. In some lakes the trout feed aggressively before dark.

Structure and wind:

Take a close look at the structure of the shoreline and try to extend the elevation patterns into the lake. If you see a cliff, odds are the water is deep at its face. If you see a string of islands, odds are there is a shallow shoal that runs between them. Trout like drop-offs so you would want to troll parallel to the string of shoals and not over them.

When you drop your line to the bottom, count how many times you let out line. You can get a good estimate of the depth. For Lake Trout, try to stay in 30 to 60 feet and close to shore. If you come across a spot and catch a trout, odds are there are more of them there.

The wind is very important when trout fishing. Traditionally for warm water fish like Walleye or Pike, you would fish on the side of the lake were the wind is blowing. The logic being that the fish follow the surface food that is being blown in. With trout it's the exact opposite. The wind also blows the warm surface water, which does not hold enough oxygen for the trout. Thus fish the side of the lake where the wind is coming from.

There will be Lake Trout out in the middle of the lake suspended about 40 to 60-feet down. They are usually in close proximity to schools of bait-fish. If you are closer to shore in 40 to 60-feet of water and not catching anything, drop your line down to the bottom so you know how deep you are and then leave your rig at that depth and head out into the open water. In the open water, you will usually catch less trout but they will be bigger. This is not always true. There are occasions where all the trout are out in the open water, especially when the last few days have been hot with a strong wind that keeps changing direction.


In the Spring, the Lake Trout will be right up to the surface. As the water starts to warm up with the changing weather, the trout start to go deeper. Here is the approximate depth for different times of year. This is not true for all lakes. Some smaller spring fed lakes will have trout shallow all year.

Just after ice-out --> Between 10 feet and the surface
Mid Spring --> About 20 to 30 feet deep
Late Spring --> About 30 to 45 feet deep
Summer --> Summer is the tricky part. Many believe that the Lake Trout go to the deepest part of the lake and stay dormant. In actual fact, the Lake Trout stay suspended in 53° thermal layers or concentrate in shallower holes where a natural spring pumps cold water into the lake. Why are they there? That's where all the baitfish are. There will be trout deeper then 60 feet or on the bottom in the deepest part of the lake but they are not feeding. When they do feed, they come shallower.

Depth Finder:

It's good to have a depth finder so you can map the schools of bait-fish that are suspended. When you do come across a school, troll around the outside of the school. The Lake Trout sit right underneath the school waiting for weak or injured fish to venture outside the school. Out in the middle of the lake, you will find these schools of bait-fish in the 30 to 60-foot range. It's different on most lakes but this is a good place to start.

Middle of Summer Lake Trout:

The middle of summer is the time when people spend the least amount of time hunting down Lake Trout. With the 3-way swivel method, the middle of the summer can be the best time because the Lakers are concentrated in the deep holes and not spread out all over the lake like they are in the spring. Once you find a spot in the summer where you are catching Lake Trout, keep going back because they will stay in the same spot the whole summer.

A Lake Trout's feeding turns on and off like a light-switch. You can find a spot where you are mapping fish on your depth finder and fish that spot for days without catching anything. Then all of a sudden, they start feeding like crazy for an hour or two and then stop dead again. You have to keep trying. Perseverance is a major factor in successful Lake Trout fishing.

Lake Trout Fishing Tips, Tricks and Tactics

Ok, the real reason why you’re reading this section is to get tips on catching Lake Trout. Below you’ll find such fishing tips that I put together. I searched high and low on the internet to find the most successful lake trout fishing tips, that have been tested and have proved their merit.

  • Depth is Important – The depth at which you fish for lake trout is very important. They tend to like cold water, so you need to go deeper as you get into the warmer seasons. After the ice-out you want to be between the surface and 10′. In mid-spring you should be about 20′ to 30′ feet deep, while in late spring about 30′ to 45′ deep. The summer is difficult to determine because they like to stay in the thermal layers that are at around 53 degrees F or in shallow holes where cold water is pumped into the lake by a natural spring.
  • Lure Selection 101 – The type of lure that you want to use when fishing for lake trout will vary based on a number of factors. The average size of the lake trout population, depth, the season and available bait fish are very important. Always try to select lures that mimic native bait fish and talk with local tackle shop employees and fellow anglers to get an idea of what fishing gear works where you are fishing. We recommend using spoon lures, specifically the South Bend Kastway Trophy Spoons.
  • Odds Are in Your Favor – Generally lake trout tend to stay in the same area, even though they aren’t schooling fish. The odds are that if you catch a lake trout in a specific area then there are likely to be more nearby. Stay in the area where you’ve caught one and you’ll most likely catch another.
  • Best Live Bait Options – When it comes to using live bait for lake trout nothing beats a good old fashioned night crawler. Along with night crawlers, medium to large size minnows and salmon eggs can also be very effective.
  • Invest in a Fish Finder – While a fish finder is an expensive piece of equipment it can greatly increase your odds of finding monster lake trout. You’ll be able to find schools of bait fish and/or figure out what depth the trout are sitting at. This is only useful if you’re fishing from a boat.

Additional Resources for Lake Trout Fishing

Well, if you’ve read this entire web page I'm hoping you got some good lake trout tips and information to help you catch more trout. Perhaps you’d like to learn more about them and need additional resources, hence why I created this section. Below you’ll be able to find some external resources related to lake trout fishing.

  • The Orvis Guide to Prospecting for Trout – This is a comprehensive book that has a lot of useful diagrams and photos. It’s certainly helpful for beginners, but experienced anglers can gain value from it as well.
  • Trout Legend – Forum – An excellent community of anglers who love to fish for lake trout and all other types of trout. A great place to meet some friends and learn some new tips.