Fly Fishing for Lake Trout
Lake trout are not only famous for being Alaska’s largest fresh water fish, but they also belong to the largest family of fish, known as char. Two close relatives of lake trout, which can also inhabit the same waters, are Dolly Varden and Arctic char. They typically can be found in the Brooks Range and Alaska Range, and naturally along the central Arctic coastal plane, in lowland lakes and drainages. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, they do not live in the Yukon-Kuskokwim lowlands or the coastal drainages of Southeast Alaska, but can also be found in the clear mountain lakes of Northern Alaska, and the glacial lakes of the Chugach Range and Kenai Peninsula.
Alaska Lake Trout
Lake trout have elongated bodies similar in shape to trout or salmon, although their tails are deeply forked, which is a trait other char do not share. Males and females have similar appearances, though the males have a longer, more pointed snout. Their coloring is silvery-to-dark, with cream or yellow spots across their bodies, unlike other char, which have pink spots. When breeding, male lake trout have dark stripes on their sides.
Alaska lake trout can live up to 62 years, though their average age is around 20 years. The maximum weight of these fish is believed to be 50 pounds, but in most populations, the average weight is between 8 and 12 pounds. The current record is a 47-pounder caught in Clarence Lake in July 1970, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
Typically, lake trout spend their lives in large, deep, cold lakes. Their ideal habitat is water at 40 to 52 degrees Fahrenheit. Spawning occurs for the first time after five to eight years, in September or October. They spawn over clean, rocky lake bottoms, and lake trout in the north only spawn every other year, whereas those in the south spawn annually. Eggs hatch the following spring, and from here, the fish grow at different rates depending on their diet, water temperature, altitude, and genetics.
Fly Fishing for Lake Trout
As a fresh water fish, lake trout occupy the lakes and inlets that are often frozen over during the winter months. The best fly fishing occurs just after the ice thaws, when the water is still cold enough for their liking, but no longer frozen. They are not the most targeted or sought after sports fish, unlike King salmon or rainbow trout, but their sheer size holds a lot of appeal for anglers. Fly fishing season for Alaska lake trout goes from April to October.
Lake Trout Fishing Flies
Being large fish, lake trout have a large diet, ranging from zooplankton and insect larvae to larger fare, such as crustaceans, snails, leeches, fish, mice and even small birds. They have also been known to eat whitefish, grayling, sticklebacks and sculpins. According to Alaska Fly Fishing Goods, this makes them “piscivorous”, meaning that their main diet consists of fish. They recommend flies in multiple sized and colored minnow and leech patterns.
Lake Trout Fishing Tips
Lake trout are often overlooked by anglers, so if you’re looking for a fishing experience where your only competition is the fish—not fellow anglers—looking for lake trout may be the way to go. Don’t misunderstand: these aren’t boring fish. They are deep divers, who will drag your line down immediately after biting. Even though they can theoretically grow to be enormous, the largest ever on record was 47 pounds, and the average weight is between 8 and 12 pounds. A 6 or 7 wt rod with a large-arbor real will be fine for most lake trout you’d encounter.
Lake trout like the cold, so they aren’t quick to swim near the surface. They’re often found in deep water, so you will need full sinking lines and sinking tips. In the early spring, right after the thaw, they can be found near the surface along shorelines, but as the season progresses, they move into deeper waters. Lake trout return to shallower waters in the fall when it is time to spawn.
Give us a call at No See Um Lodge if these large, deep rolling fighters sound like great fishing to you!