Lake Trout

Lake Trout - lake trout fish

Salvelinus Namaycush

ALSO CALLED: Namaycush, lake char, Mackinaw, touladi, grey trout, and togue. They are known as siscowet, lean, and paperbelly in Lake Superior

Lake Trout Salvelinus Namaycush

Lake Trout is a Canadian freshwater fish and the largest member of the char family. This trout species is most prevalent in northern North America lakes and is recognizable by its long, rounded shape and a deeply forked tail. The lake trout species (Salvelinus namaycush) has several other names, including namaycush, lake char, Mackinaw, touladi, grey trout, and togue. They are known as siscowet, lean, and paperbelly in Lake Superior.

Lake trout family are considered char within the family Salmonidae. They are not true trout, and their closest relative is the Arctic char. The lake trout is one of the largest freshwater fish species that prefer living in large, deep lakes abundant in aquatic insects and good water quality. 

Lake trout are native to Alaska, Canada, the Great Lakes, New England, and Montana. They are native to North American waters but were artificially stocked in Sweden, New Zealand, South America, and Asia.

The lake trout species is known to hybridize with Brook trout, which creates a species called “Splake,” which is usually sterile. Fisheries around the United States raise and stock splake in water bodies to provide more sport fishing opportunities for anglers.

Fishing for lake trout can be an unforgettable and exciting experience for any angler.


The lake trout species has a deeply forked tail fin and a slate grey to greenish body with lighter undersides. The cream to yellow spots on their head, body, dorsal fins, and caudal tail fins distinguishes them from other char. Lake trout have a similar body shape to salmon, brown trout, and brook trout.

The body color of lake trout varies from light green, silver, brown, dark green, grey, and more. Their color mainly depends on the water body it inhabits. Its flanks are lighter and fade to milky or white on the belly. The pelvic, anal, and pectoral fins have an orange-red to orange color with a narrow white leading edge commonly found in the char family. 

Lake trout average 19.7 inches in length and weigh anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds generally. However, Lake Trout are the largest of the char species and will reach sizes of 15-40 pounds and lengths of 24-36 inches.


The cold water Lake trout species rely on high levels of oxygenation to survive. The trout species are popular game fish and are the only significant native game fish to inhabit deep and cold water fisheries. Lake trout inhabit oligotrophic lakes such as those in northern Canada and the Great Lakes region. Most of the time, the Lake trout can be suspended deep in the middle of the basin in these cold-water lakes.

Lake trout have a relatively narrow range compared to other species. Lake trout naturally live in the northern parts of North America, including the Great Lakes and throughout Canada. They also live in parts of Alaska and extend slightly into the Northeastern United States.

Lake Trout Spawning

Lake trout spawn during the fall season and at night. However, this might change with the lake’s location and the weather pattern. Lake trout are slow-growing and mature late in their lives. 

Lake trouts are broadcast spawners, meaning it broadcasts its eggs over several spawning shoals. Fertilized trout eggs then sink to the lake bottom, where they become lodged between gravels and boulders.

Lake trout start reproducing when they are 6-7 years old and live more than 25 years. According to records, the oldest lake trout was 70 years old.


Lake trout feed on various organisms, including freshwater sponges, insects, crustaceans, and other small fish. Adult lake trout are a top predator in the Great Lakes, feeding primarily on the smaller fish. Young lake trout feed on insects, small invertebrates, and plankton. Some lake trout populations feed on plankton throughout their entire lives.

Lake Trout Fishing

Lake trout prefer cold deep water lakes, and it’s crucial to get your bait or lure to the depth the trout is feeding. During mid-spring, fish at a depth of 20-30 inches. In late spring, fish at a depth of 30-45 inches deep.

Fishing is generally best in June through August when fish are concentrated in the deepwater basins and can be targeted easily. Look for the best habitat in the basin, which will often hold the bigger fish. Larger lake trout tend to hide near small humps, sunken islands, or gravel bars in the lake. Fisheries with flowing water are also ideal for lake trout.

Lake trout tend to avoid bright light, making overcast conditions the best fishing days.

Best Time

Anglers can catch lake trout throughout the day, but early morning or later evening will usually be better for fishing lake trout. They are usually most actively feeding during the times of day the bugs are active.

During summer, trout feed at dawn until noon mostly. In spring or fall, when the water temperatures are cooler, you can fish throughout the day. The fish move throughout the lake during this season instead of hunting for the lake’s cooler parts. 

Lake trout will congregate along rocky shorelines and shoals during the fall spawn as the water temperatures drop, making it easier to target them in shallow water. 

Lake trout will continue to be feeding in the shallows in the early spring months while the water remains cool. Later in spring, lake trout will start to move into the deeper, colder basins and stay there until fall.


Live bait is generally the most consistently effective way to fish for lake trout. Minnows are usually the best option. Other good live bait options are nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, or anything similar to their native prey.

One of the best artificial options for deepwater trout is a big bucktail jig. However, you have to ensure it has a large head and hook. A jig weighing 3-4 ounces will be sufficient for hooking a lake trout. 

Anglers targeting lake trout will often use crankbaits that resemble baitfish such as tullibee, cisco, and whitefish. Spoons are another popular option for lake trout fishing since they have the vibration and flash to trigger a reaction strike. Some spoons meant for salmon work well as lake trout lures.

Match the chosen lure to the size and color of the natural bait in the fishery.


Any rod will usually work for lake trout; a lightweight spin rod with a 6-pound monofilament line will often do well. A Medium weight rod may be better for larger lake trout.

For a trophy-size lake trout, you need a larger rod. Bigger rods will have a stiffer effect, which helps in jigging and also setting the hook. 

You at least need a 4-6 pound test line for a trophy-sized trout.

Shore Fishing

Lake trouts live in the darkest and deepest parts of large still water bodies. However, during spring, you have a brief window of opportunity to catch them from the shore. 

It helps to get a good lake contour map to identify the lake’s shallow flat parts against the slope, dropping quickly into deep water. Lake trout will hold in deep water but are going to slide into the shallows to feed. Look for a spot that will let you cast into deep water and lure them back into the shallows. 

You can find feeding lake trout at any time of day, but the low-light time of the day is the best.

Lake Trout World Record

The rod and reel world record for this fish is 72 pounds and 52 inches in length. Lloyd Bull caught the large fish in 1995 while fishing at Great Bear Lake of Canada’s Northwest Territories.

 Yellowstone Lake

Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) were stocked intentionally in Shoshone and Lewis lakes by the U.S Fish Commission in 1890 and found in Yellowstone Lake in 1994. There have been significant efforts to remove the Lake Trout population from Yellowstone lake by gill netting. Lake trout have significantly impacted the native Yellowstone lake cutthroat trout, which is essential for other native species. Lake trout also consume foods with historically fed cutthroat trout in Yellowstone Lake, thereby making cutthroat trout recovery impossible until removing the lake trout population.