Meet the Fish: Lake Trout
The largest of Alaska's freshwater fishes, the lake trout is actually a char, and thus closely related to the Dolly Varden. Occurring in all regions of the state except Southeast, the lake trout is available from April to October, with the peak fishing times being May and June. As the name implies, lake trout are most often found in lakes, but small populations do occur in lake inlets and outlets. Averaging 5 to 12 lbs, lake trout weighing up to 50 lbs have been caught in Alaska.
Gear and Flies
Lake trout are dogged fighters, often sounding (diving for the bottom) immediately after hook-up. Gearing up with a 6 or 7 weight rod matched with a large-arbor reel will be sufficient for all but the largest lake trout. Lake trout are often found in deep water meaning full sinking lines and sinking tip lines are necessary. Lake trout are piscivorous (they feed primarily on other fish), so the tuned-in fly angler's selection should include minnow patterns in several sizes and colors as well as leeches in assorted sizes and colors.
Ideal rods for lake trout range from 6-9 wts. in 9-10' lengths. These rods need to be able to throw heavy sink tips and big streamers. For smaller lakers (2-7 lbs.), a fast action 6 wt matched with a 24' 200 grain sink tip is great for dredging streamers in sizes #4 - #8. If chasing the deep dwellers, an 8-9 wt. rod with a 24' 300 grain or faster sinking line is a good idea, espcially if fishing depths over 20'.
Lake Trout are always found in freshwater, so both machined and cast aluminum reels are good choices. More important is the drag system. Lake Trout aren't reel screamers like rainbows or silvers. Instead they are more like sled dogs, meaning that they never stop pulling. A good drag can help stop them from slowly taking all of your backing out into the dark depths.
The time of year will determine the best line choice. In late fall lake trout come into the shallows to spawn. In the spring, they come back to the shallows to forage for food being washed into the lake with spring run off. Here short fast sink tips and even floating lines can be great choices. As the days lengthen, the trout head into deeper water, feeding along deep drop offs and shoals. 24' density compensated fast sink tips and full sinking lines are the go to. Lakers can be found in depth of over 100', so being able to get down is a must.
Streamers are the name of the game for lake trout. Everything from black/white Dolly LLamas, black string leeches, and all white flesh flies can do the trick. When fishing the shallows, try small to medium sized streamers like Sculpzillas and size 6 Dolly Llamas. When the fish are cruising in the deep, big saltwater bait fish patterns and Mega Dolly Llamas with a slow retrieve with the occasional fast twitch can lure in the big boy.