5 Things to Catch more Lake Trout

Lake trout are hard-fighting gamefish that taste great, but are often misunderstood. If you’d like to catch more lakers this summer, factor in these five tips from veteran trout guide Bernie Keefe into your strategies.

Frontal assaults
Cold fronts give walleyes and other species lockjaw, but not lake trout.

“Most people don’t realize lake trout don’t care about fronts and just keep on eating,” Keefe says. “I’ve had some of my best days in cold, bluebird conditions following a major front.”

Keefe notes that many flock to trout lakes when a front is coming.

“They hope the approach of a storm fires up the trout. But in many cases, the fishing is only average. The real action comes when the storm is hitting and after the front passes through.”

As a bonus to post-frontal fishing, Keefe says he often has the lake and the trout all to himself.

“People assume lakers will behave like walleyes and the fishing will be tough, so they stay home. This reduces boat traffic and pressure, which helps improve the fishing even more.”

Pressure points
On the flip side, an influx of anglers can wreak havoc on the action.

“Fishing pressure is the number one bite-killer for lake trout, bar none,” Keefe says. “If you see boats working a spot, don’t waste your time on it. Those fish have been educated. You might get a bite, but your odds of a banner day are more in your favor if you find a new spot with fresh fish.”

Manage success
In a similar vein, Keefe cautions against overfishing a hot spot.

“Particularly with trophy-sized lake trout, if you’ve got a good bite going in a certain area such as a point, limiting your catch to two or three trout per trip can extend the spot’s productivity.”

He added that if an angler catches more big fish in that one trip in that area there’s a good chance he will burn it for future trips.

“It’s almost like you need to leave a few fish for seed. If you leave fish there, other trout will move in. If you clear the area, other trout are less likely to settle there.”

Keefe says the concept holds true with catch-and-release fishing because released lakers often relocate after being pulled from a particular piece of structure.

Exit strategy
Since lake trout often school by size, he advises anglers seeking trophy trout not to tarry over pods of smaller fish.

“If you’re looking for lake trout 30 inches or longer you have to be willing to walk away from a hot bite for 15- to 20-inch fish because your chances of catching a large fish in the mix is pretty low. Big trout don’t hang around smaller trout for a couple of reasons. The big fish eat the small fish, which makes for an uncomfortable relationship. Second, mature lakers are grumpy old farts that don’t like all the commotion of the younger crowd.”

Ideally, Keefe looks for the rod-bending action afforded by a school of hungry, 25- to 27-inch trout.

“Trophy lakers will hang out with these fish,” he says, “so you get to enjoy the fun of steady action with a better-than-average shot at boating a big fish.”

Be prepared
“If you want to catch a large trout, gear up accordingly,” he says.

Keefe outfits clients with a medium-heavy, 6- to 7-foot Fenwick Aetos rod and a HMG. These are light enough to fish all day, yet are powerful enough to handle the trophy trout.

Keefe says he also spools with 14-pound-test Berkley FireLine for his main line and adds a 10-pound-test 100% Trilene Fluorocarbon leader for good measure.

“We also use TroKar 810 jig hooks, which are the strongest and sharpest hooks,” he adds. “And keep an assortment of proven trout baits on hand including Berkley Havoc, Gulp and PowerBait tubes and minnow-shaped soft baits.”

Finally, Keefe encourages trout seekers to master their on-board electronics.

“Learn to adjust your sonar and interpret everything it’s trying to tell you. My Lowrance sonar shows me fish other anglers miss. I can also read the trout’s moods, which makes it a lot easier to pull the plug on a ‘fried’ group of fish and go looking for the next hot bite.”