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The Summer Lake Trout Trolling Game

Gord Ellis with big summer lake trout
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The Summer Lake Trout Trolling Game

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Ontario is sprinkled with more cold, clear, deep lakes than just about anywhere else in the world. Perhaps that's why we are blessed with so much great lake trout fishing here. The lake trout requires a clean environment and does not do well with pollution or warm water. They also are a fish that can grow to impressive size of 30 pounds and more. Amazingly, the lake trout continues to provide good angling opportunities in all the Great Lakes, including Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. However, much of the most accessible lake trout fishing is done inland, in one of the hundreds of waterbodies that that hold the lake trout.

Summer lake trout are nearly always deep, as this is where they can find the preferred water temperature of about 50 -54 F. Some people don't like fishing the deeper trout, but I'm not one of those people. I like to spot fish on my electronics and this is quite easy to do when trout are 30 feet down or more. This fishing is very much like hunting, as you drive around with your boat until you mark some fish and either drop a white tube jig on them or troll.  My go to choice is trolling, as you cover the water more efficiently.

Many lake trout anglers prefer to use a downrigger when they fish for lake trout, as this tool takes your line down to a certain depth and keeps it there via a large weight. When a fish hits, the line pops free of a clip and the fight is on. Downrigging is very effective when trout are holding tight to a certain depth and are unwilling to move much for a lure. The only problem with downrigging is you don't feel the strike. 

Giant Lake Nipigon lake trout

My preference for trolling is decidedly old-school, but still rather effective. I like to use either a large, in-line banana weight or what is called a three-way rig. The three-way rig uses a large weight (4 to 6 ounces) on a 3-foot dropper  line (20 pound test) with the lure on a 3-foot leader of 15 pound test.  A three-way swivel keeps it all together. The weight is drug on the bottom and the lure runs above the bottom. You need heavier gear to fish this way, but the strikes are arm jarring. My favourite spoon for lake trout trolling is the classic Willams Wabler in silver and brass. If there is a better lake trout spoon made, I've yet to see it. The Silver Doctor spoon, Len Thompson in blue/silver, and Eppinger Daredevle in yellow five of diamonds also account for many fish.  

During summer, the majority of the lake trout seem to hold in 40 to 60 feet of water.  This varies lake to lake of course, and in places like Lake Superior, trout can be found deeper than 100 feet. Any reef or rise on the bottom will often have a lake trout or two hanging around it. The trout mark as hooks very clearly on my Humminbird Helix unit. All good fish marks, rock piles, or reefs are marked with a GPS way point . 

Lake trout, by nature, are an aggressive fish. That's why you can often catch the fish you mark on your fish finder. If a trout is holding 10-15 feet off bottom, it is in hunting mode and will likely strike. But even bottom-hugging trout are generally going to take a swipe at your lure. A trolling speed of less than 2 mph is preferable when you are targeting lake trout. However, speeding up or slowing down your troll can trigger fish that are following your lure. And they do like to follow. Also, when you are using a three way rig, I generally try to keep it just a bit off bottom. Yet dropping or dragging the weight in the mud does trigger lakers to strike as well. Only the lake trout know why. 

Lake trout are a slow growing, long lived fish and killing a big one takes a lot of spawning  potential away. Smaller trout taste better and there are way more of them. If you want a trophy mount, it's hard to beat a graphite replica. Enjoy those giant lake trout, but return them to the lake for future anglers to enjoy and admire.

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