Trout Fishing photo

Photograph by David W. Skok

Fishing for lake trout usually goes hand in hand with big boats, downriggers, and cannonball-size trolling weights. Most of the year, motoring to the deep water these fish inhabit is the only way to get them on the line. But if you’re not armed for big-water battle, you’re in luck, because there’s no better time than now to hook lakers from shore. As water temps creep closer and closer to the freezing point, lake trout emerge from the depths to feed shallow—putting themselves in your casting range. All you need to connect is a far-casting rod, the right lure, and a little savvy.

1. Map Quest
A lake contour map is a must for success at catching lakers with your feet on land. Locate a stretch where deep water cuts in close to the shoreline. Although lake trout can be anywhere in the water column at this time of year, hitting a spot where the fish have fast access to deep water is a smart move. Focus on sandbars and rocky points along your target stretch, as these bottom structures hold more heat, thereby warming the water and attracting the baitfish the lakers are hunting.

2. Long Range
The farther you can cast the better, so opt for a medium- to heavy-action spinning rod that’s at least 8 feet long. The rod should be rated to bomb lures weighing as much as 1 ounce. I prefer to spool with 8- to 12-pound-test monofilament for its abrasion resistance in rocky areas; however, braid will earn you a little more casting distance. No matter which line you choose, lakers are wary, so adding a 2-foot fluorocarbon leader to lower visibility is never a bad idea.

3. Early To Rise
Lake trout feed closest to shore early in the morning, and then slide deeper as the sun gets higher. Start out casting smaller, lighter spoons or spinners such as a Blue Fox Vibrax, close to shore. These lures hit with minimal splash, so they’re less likely to spook trout in skinny water. As afternoon approaches, switch to a Little Cleo, which is heavier. The higher the sun, the farther you should cast. At sunset, scale back your lure weight and start fishing closer again.


The Little Cleo has enough weight to reach lake trout from the bank. Photograph by Cliff Gardiner & John Keller