Trophy Fishing For Lake Trout

Lake trout is the only char native to Saskatchewan.  Preferring a colder environment, this deep-water fish likes the bigger and cooler waters of the north’s Canadian Shield. It will come up closer to the surface, in particular, right after the ice is out in the spring and again in the cooling fall when lakers spawn along rocky, boulder-strewn shorelines and over-top shallow reefs. At such times they can be caught on a fly-rod and lighter spinning tackle. As waters warm, lake trout head down below the thermocline to water temperatures around 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit), which can take them to depths of up to 36 metres or more (120 ft.). Come mid-summer, deep-water fishing techniques are required.

Lakers can live for 10 to 20 years, with some more than tripling that age. As a result, reports of 13.5 to 18 kg (30 to 40-lb.) trophies are not all that uncommon, even though the average size is in the 2-3 kg range (4-6 lb.). Big trout have come out of Saskatchewan. The largest lake trout on record in the world was caught in a gill-net on Lake Athabasca in 1961. It reportedly weighed over 46 kg (102 lb.). Saskatchewan’s angling record was caught on Wollaston Lake in 1995. It weighed in at 24.6 kg (54 lb., 4 oz.). The official live release record trout, caught on Lake Athabasca in 2000, was 132 cm (52 in.) long.

In-Fisherman TV vs. Saskatchewan Lakers

This past summer, George Large, an associate publisher at In-Fisherman and co-host of In-Fisherman TV, got to experience lake trout fishing at its finest while filming at Cree Lake Lodge in the far north central region of Saskatchewan.

To catch trout, George trolled deep channels parallel to island and mainland shorelines, in waters about 15 to 18 metres deep (50 to 60 ft.), and jigged for them, when spotted in numbers on a fish finder. He also cast lighter spinners overtop of a high rock pile that came up from the depths to a couple of metres (about 8 ft.) below the surface.  The bigger fish were down deep.

In the time he spent lake trout fishing on Cree Lake, mostly during the middle of the day, George estimates he caught and released more than 30 lakers ranging from three-to-five pounders to several in the 20 and 30-lb. class and more. He lost a big one that, after a 15-minute fight, ripped the hook clip open and ran away with his lure. Fortunately, for George, another well-hooked monster didn’t escape his grasp and he had the incredible experience of catching a lake trout almost as old as he is.

Largest On-Camera Catch in 42 Years

It was George’s new record. Moreover, it was the largest laker caught on camera during In-Fisherman TV’s 42 years on air. The big female was over 114 cm (45 inches) long, had a 53 cm (21-in.) girth, and weighed an estimated 23.5 kg (52 lb.). George was fishing in mid-June. If the trophy fish was caught in the fall, after a summer of feeding, it may have approached 55 pounds.

The big trout was caught deep while trolling over a sandbar shelf using a Bagley Ukko 20 lure forced down by an 8-ounce Bead trolling sinker. George was well equipped with an 8-foot Abu Garcia rod and a Revo Toro Beast reel strung with 80-lb. Berkeley Braid Green line. Even so, there was no bringing this fish up until it was ready.

20-Minute Battle to the Surface

"When that fish wanted to pull drag, she pulled drag,” George said. “It stayed tight to the bottom shaking its head very violently and very aggressively and it took quite some time to get her up to the middle of the water column. When we got it up maybe 20 feet or so, we noticed very very large bubbles coming to the surface. So we knew we had a big fish.” (This release of air helps the fish adjust to the decreasing water pressure.)

The battle lasted for over 20 minutes. When they finally got the big trout close to the boat, they could see another that looked to be maybe 35 pounds following it. When that trout turned and headed back down, the bigger fish turned to try to follow it. Fortunately, before it could head back deep, they were able to cradle the fish. However, the battle was not over. The big trout flopped out the cradle twice before they successfully landed it.

"Absolute and Unequivocal Awe"

In this far north cold water environment a lake trout will gain on average about one pound a year, which puts this beauty at 50 years old or more. George wishes everyone could catch a fish like that. He described the experience of hooking a trout that has been living in a northern lake’s depths for 40 or 50 or 60 years as “absolute and unequivocal awe."

“I am honoured that I was able to hold that fish in my hands and then let it go and watch it swim back down.”

While at Cree Lake, George also fished for northern pike mostly in the mornings and in the evenings. He estimates he caught and released as many as 150 pike. About 40 of those were over 40 in. long. The longest, which was not the heaviest, was 48 inches. The heaviest might have weighed as much as 35 pounds. 

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