Lake Trout

Common Name: Lake Trout, a.k.a. Tongue, Mackinaw, Gray Trout

Scientific Name: Salveinus Namaycush

Appearance: The otherwise dark-green or -gray body of a lake trout is covered densely with light spots, and marked by wavy lines that run along the dorsal side towards its deeply forked tail.

Distribution:Thriving only in cold (42ºF to 55ºF), well-oxygenated water, lake trout may be found throughout Canada and the northern United States. Attempts to introduce them to other regions, particularly the southern US, have been slow-going, though biologists remain optimistic about the species’ potential to expand.

Spawning: In the Great Lakes, lake trout spawn in autumn at extreme depths (often more than 100′) – otherwise, they will spawn in the deepest, coldest part of a shallower inland lake. The female will clear out a patch of gravel with her tail, then scatter her eggs for a male to fertilize. Females will sweep a portion of the gravel bottom clear of debris, and disperse their eggs randomly over it. Incubation can take up to five months, during which time many of the undefended eggs are eaten. Once hatched, the highly photo-sensitive fry remain in deep,darkwaters until reaching mature size.

Lake trout are cannibalistic out of necessity, given how few other species swim as their preferred depths, and depend on their own fry as a major food source. Fishermen must be careful not to take too many adult lake trout pre-spawn, as it will not only reduce the number of young in the next generation, but also reduce the food supply for the adult population.

Angling: Lake trout are confined to cold, deep, oxygen-richwaters: temperatures above 67ºF will cause lake trout to die of suffocation in relatively short time. Only in the late fall and winter will lake trout venture into the shallows or near the surface, making them popular late-season and ice-fishing quarry.

To locate lake trout, fishermen should troll the coldest, deepest parts of a lake with large, deep-diving lures similar in appearance to the local baitfish. Generally, lake trout prefer open water clear of obstructions – the only structure worth checking out would be steep drop-offs where the temperature also drops rapidly. Once you’ve gotten some hits, you might find it more effective to switch to casting gear with mediumto large spoons, spinners, or crankbaits, or even a fly rod with a long,shiny lure. Jigging the bait vertically atshallow to mediumdepths will often draw the lake troutup towards the surface. Where legal, a bit of cut bait or attached to a weighted lure will certainly help get the lakers’ attention.

Whena laker comes up to strike a lure,it will bite hard, then quickly turn around and dive for colder water. Don’t allow yourself to be caught off guard by a lake trout’s hit-and-run, death-from-below attack:set your hook and get ready for a fight at the slightest change in tension or speed.

Fishing for lake trout is a challenging business. It requires a high degree of line control at deep depths, plus detailed knowledge of the waters being fished. A depth finder often proves indispensible when searching for lake trout, and it certainly helps to hire a local guide who can direct you to the local “cold spots”.