Our editors at Finn’s Fishing Tips independently research, test, and recommend the best products to help you make purchase decisions. You can learn more about our review process here. We sometimes get a commission through purchases made via our links.
One of the first big fish I ever caught was a lake trout. We were trolling in Wickiup Reservoir early in the morning after camping at a nearby trailhead. I still remember the excitement of watching the rod bend down furiously and my dad scrambling to pull it out of the rod holder. After reeling for what seemed like an eternity (I was ten so it probably only fought for 5 minutes), we landed a 15 lb lake trout. I was exuberant.
Lake trout are often a fish that’s forgotten by freshwater sports fishermen. Everyone’s too busy going after other species of trout, or don’t have access to the deeper water they like to live in.
For the fishermen in the know, lake trout can be a rewarding fish to go after. Especially if you know what types of lures they like most, and how to fish them. In case you didn’t realize – that’s exactly what we’ll be covering in this article!
We’ll first cover the basics: what are lake trout, what they like to eat, etc. Then we’ll focus on the best lake trout lure options for different conditions. After this article, you’ll be more than ready to bring home some lake trout.
In A Hurry? Here’s Our Top Picks…
Best Lake Trout Lures for Trolling
Best Lake Trout Lures for Jigging
Best Lake Trout Lures for Casting
What are Lake Trout?
Lake Trout actually aren’t actually trout at all – they’re a type of freshwater char that are native to the northern reaches of the United States and Canada.
Lake trout grow much larger than their other char relatives, with the largest recorded lake trout recorded weighing over 102 lbs. They’re also a long-living fish with some Canadian lake trout living over 40 years old.
Authors Note: Within North America, lake trout tend to live in the northern parts of the continent. They are most common in Canada and Alaska but have spread to lakes in the northwest as well as the great lakes.
Lake trout meat has a medium firmness and a slightly oily texture – which makes it great for eating. Just make sure you don’t eat it raw! Raw trout can have dangerous parasites in it.
Where to Catch Lake Trout
Before we dive into the best lures for lake trout, we thought it makes sense to give a quick overview of where to find lake trout. We have a much more detailed article on how to fish for all types of trout, but here’s a quick summary.
- Lake trout can be found in (you guessed it) lakes.
- They often live in deeper water than other types of lake fish.
- Their preferred water temperature is 53 degrees, and live between 20 feet and 80 feet depending on the season.
What do Lake Trout Like to Eat?
Lake trout enjoy a varied diet of baitfish, crustaceans, insects, and other small animals. Some lake trout even eat plankton for most of their lives. These plankton-eating lake trout grow much slower than their more aggressive relatives and don’t grow as large as their other cousins.
The diet of the lake trout largely depends on the most common source of food in a body of water, and baitfish will almost always make up the largest part of their diets.
What are the Best Lake Trout Lures?
Alright, so what’s the best type of lures to use for lake trout? As with many things, the answer is that it depends. The time of year you’re fishing can make a big difference. We’ll cover the best types of lures for all situations.
Best Lake Trout Lures for Spring
In the spring, lake trout are coming out of a sedentary period and are feeding actively.
They can be found in more shallow areas of the lake as the water temperature is favorable during most hours of the day. Look for san bars and gravel beds that are close to deeper parts of the lake.
Later in the season, shallow water will be too warm for lake trout, but in the spring they enjoy feeding on the baitfish that are commonly schooling in shallower areas.
The best lures for fishing for lake trout in the spring are lures with more action. The lake trout are feeling aggressive after coming out of winter and will strike lures that have a lot of action. Rapalas, jerk bait, and spinners all work well for lake trout in the spring. We recommend using Blue Fox spinners and brightly colored Rapalas.
Authors Note: There are several different types of presentations that work well for lake trout in the spring. Traditional trolling at shallower depths (20 ft) can work well. If the lake trout are actively feeding, casting spinners and Rapala into the shallower waters from a boat and retrieving quickly can be very effective as well.
Best Lake Trout Lures for Summer
In the summer, lake water temperatures rise above the lake trout’s preferred temperature of 53 degrees. This means that lake trout will migrate towards deeper water where it’s more comfortable for them to spend long periods of time.
Lake trout in the summer months will also sit in the thermocline area of the water column, the thermocline is the layer of water where warmer water and deeper cold water meet and is a place where fish prefer cool to cold water will transition between the who temperature layers and feed, and the layer can vary in depth depending on temperature flucuations.
The best lures for fishing for lake trout in the summer are large spinners and spoons. You should use lures in colors that aren’t as bright as the lures you used in spring. Blue Fox spinners and green/silver Coyote spoons work well in deeper water. Don’t forget to cover your lures in anise oil!
The best presentation of these lures for lake trout is trolling and jigging at the depths they like to hang out. This is often between 40 and 60 feet. Because the fish are in deeper water, you’ll most likely need to use a downrigger to reach them.
You can also add a medium-sized flasher 4 to 6 feet behind your lure to attract lake trout from other parts of the lake. As with most freshwater fish, be sure to troll slowly (1.5 to 3 mph)!
Best Lake Trout Lures for Fall
Fall brings the spawning season for lake trout. They tend to feed heavily right before spawning, so the month of August and September can be very fruitful for lake trout.
During this feeding season, lake trout come up from the depths of summer and feed in shallower water (20 to 30 feet). Look for areas where fish flies or mayflies are near the surface.
Since lake trout often feed on smaller baitfish, smaller lures that imitate them are your best bet. You’ll also need to use lighter lines and tackle as the water visibility is better and the trout are easily spooked. Spoons and Rapalas are the most effective this time of year.
Authors Note: Fish these smaller lures by casting from your boat (or shore) and retrieving slower than usual. You can also troll at shallower depths close to underwater structures, just be careful not to snag your lure or get too close to shore.
Best Lake Trout Lures for Winter
Fishing for lake trout in the winter can be difficult, but rewarding.
You’ll want to employ traditional ice fishing techniques and most likely skip lures in favor of bait. PowerBait, worms, and small fish sunk to the bottom can work well when ice fishing for lake trout.
Fishing spinners from the bank can also work well. In need of an ice fishing reel? Check out our buying guide!
Lures like tubes typically used for bass fishing can also be very effective in the winter months, so don’t be afraid to experiment.
Lake Trout Opportunities
Lake trout have been artificially planted in many bodies of water outside their natural range and can be found in abundance in the Great Lakes along with many deep and clear inland lakes, in particular throughout the Upper Midwest.
Lake trout can also now be found throughout the western states like Montana, Idaho, Colorado, and even in New Mexico and California in a few lakes.
Canada is full of lakes that have lake trout present due to having thousands of deep “Canadian Shield” type lakes, and the southern half of Alaska features large populations of the species as well.
Fishing for lake trout can be a test of your patience. They often hang out in parts of lakes that are difficult to get to and can be very particular about which lures they’ll strike. But once you figure out what they like, you’ll catch some of the largest fish you can find in the lake. They also make for great eating!
If you’re still figuring out your trout fishing setup, be sure to check out our guide on the best trout fishing rods and fishing reels. And as always, if you catch a lake trout using our advice hit us up in the comments below!