Late summer lake trout

This column has had a pretty heavy bass focus over the past couple of months so we’re going to go a different direction this week for all of you anglers out there that enjoy fishing for other species. While I was out last week on Lake of the Woods, I got into a few lake trout and it has inspired me to share what works for me out there as we enter the final month of the season to catch this unique species.

My trip last week was for smallmouth bass and walleye. We had a beautiful day with light winds and I was bouncing around different humps and points, finding both species in 12 – 20 feet of water. As I was pulling off of a spot, I continued idling while I was sipping some water and drove over a hump that topped off at around 50 feet. As I watched the sonar screen on my Humminbird, I noticed several good fish below my boat on top of this particular piece of structure.

I stopped the boat, dropped the trolling motor and got on top of the fish that I was seeing. This was a spot that I had caught lake trout on in the past, but later in September when they start to move shallower. My friend and I dropped our baits down, the same four inch Z-Man Jerk ShadZ that we had been catching bass and walleye on. Within a minute I was hooked up with a nice lake trout. We caught four of them in about 15 minutes of fishing and continued on with our day.

Jeff Gustafson with a nice lake trout he caught and released last week on Lake of the Woods.

Throughout the summer, lake trout spend most of their time in cool, deep water, usually 70 feet and deeper. As the water starts to cool in September, trout will start to move shallower as they feed in preparation of spawning in October. It’s a great time to fish for lake trout. We have a variety of waters across the region that offer excellent fishing for both numbers of lake trout as well as some big fish. The general rule is the bigger the lake, the better your chance at a big lake trout.

I was somewhat surprised to find these lake trout in around 50 feet of water last week because we were still experiencing summer water temperatures but I guess they know that the days are getting shorter and it’s time to start moving. As we move later in the month, these types of spots will continue to get better.

There are several methods that anglers can use to catch lake trout, but I’m a big believer in marking fish on my electronics and then dropping jigs down to them, watching my lure the entire time. Similar to ice fishing. Being able to stop the boat on top of the fish is key, whether you run a trolling motor on the bow of your boat or a tiller drive boat. Lake trout will typically be off the bottom and they are often a good size so they are easy to spot.

As I mentioned earlier, my top bait to drop down is a four or five in jerkshad style minnow imitator. These are a great imitator of the smelt or cisco that lake trout are focused on eating on most waters. The traditional white tube jig, a jigging spoon or a swimming style jig like a Puppet Minnow, will all catch lake trout as well. If you’re looking for something different to try on the water this month, go catch a lake trout!  

The bass tournament season runs for another month or so with several events taking place across the region. This weekend, the annual Bassin’ For Bucks tournament is happening Friday through Sunday in Sioux Narrows. A full field of 120 teams have signed up, it should be a fun tournament, as it always is. Weigh-ins start at 3:30 and will be held each day under the Big Top tent, up the hill from the Government Dock.