Lake Trout - Salvelinus namaycush
Also known as: Bank Trout, Fat, Gray Trout, Great Gray Trout, Great Lakes Trout, Humper, Laker, Landlocked Salmon, Mackinaw, Mountain Trout, Namaycush Or Masamacush, Paperbelly, Salmon Trout, Siscowet, Taque, Tongue
The lake trout is found throughout most of Canada and well into Alaska as well as the Great Lakes and in sections of the western U.S. where it has been introduced. In the southern portions of its range, or where introduced south of its native range, it seeks out the cooler waters of deep lakes. In northern lakes it may occur in either shallow or deep water. The siscowet (Salvelinus namaycush siscowet), one of three recognized subspecies, is found in Lake Superior at a depth of 300-600 ft. (91-183 m). It is called a fat by commercial fishermen because the flesh is exceedingly fat and oily compared to the other two subspecies. Of all the chars, it is the least tolerant of salt water and is the only freshwater fish ranging into the far north of Canada and Alaska that has apparently not crossed the Bering Strait.
It is classified taxonomically with the chars (genus Salvelinus), although some scientists prefer to place it in a genus of its own (Cristivomer). Like other chars it has white leading edges on all the lower fins and light colored spots on a dark background, instead of the dark spots on a light background which is characteristic of salmon and trout. The body is typically grayish to brownish with white or nearly white spots which extend onto the dorsal, adipose, and caudal fins. There are no red, black or haloed spots of any kind. It has a more deeply forked tail than other chars, and several rows of strong basibranchial teeth which are weak, less numerous, or absent in other chars. It is very large char known to grow over 100 lb. (45 kg).
It has been crossed with the brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) to produce a hybrid known as the “splake” or “wendigo trout.” The hybrid lacks the deep fork in the tail and more closely resembles the brook trout in most respects. There are 65-85 pyloric caeca in the hybrid versus 93-208 in the lake trout and 23-55 in the brook trout.
It has considerable value both as a sport fish and a food fish. The flesh may be white, pink, orange or nearly red, depending on the fish's diet, and is excellent regardless of color. The fatty siscowets are best smoked, but other lake trout are delicious prepared in any manner.
It is extremely vulnerable to pollution, particularly DDT, and this together with the introduction of the sea lamprey into the Great Lakes through the Welland Canal has had a devastating effect on populations. A campaign to control the sea lamprey and the level of pollution has helped restore the stocks in more recent years.
Overhanging Trees and Bushes
Usually close to shore, these spots offer protection from the sun and above-water predators. Bigger fish rest in these areas if the water isn’t too shallow, allowing quick access to deeper water for feeding and escape.
Outsides of Bends
When the river or stream curves, the faster water (which carries the food) moves to the outside of the bend, and fish look for food in these bends. If the outside of the bend also contains a rock or fallen tree (to slow down the food-carrying current), it’s an even better place to catch fish.
A current edge is a place where natural or man-made objects slow the current. When the current slows, the food that travels with it also slows. So fish rest at current edges and wait for a nice, slow meal to come by. Current edges can be created by natural or man-made structures like bends, merging currents, drop-offs, rocks and islands.
Merging Currents - Feeder Brooks, Stream or Creek Mouths
Flowing water carries food. So when two bodies of flowing water meet, fish will find twice as much food. Plus, when currents collide, there’s a small area in the intersection where the water and food actually slow down, making merging currents an excellent place to catch fish.
When water flows over a drop-off, it slows down and sinks, taking the food it carries with it. A drop-off is a great feeding place because it has food, deeper water and it’s away from the current, allowing for a more relaxing dining experience for the fish.
Rock and Boulder Pockets
When flowing water hits rocks and boulders, it splits and goes around the obstruction, creating an area of calm water on the downstream side of the obstruction. Fish will rest, facing upstream, on the downstream side of a rock. These pockets are small, but a handy cast could land you a fish.
Undercuts are considered the perfect hiding spot on the river. They occur where the current has cut out a cave-like hole in earth or rock along the shore. If there’s a tree above the undercut, all the better. Undercuts provide protection from above-water predators and the sun. And easy access to deeper water for feeding or escape. The biggest, baddest river fish live in undercuts.
Dams and Falls
When water continually drops off a dam or falls, it creates a big hole or drop-off. Fish will sit at the bottom of these holes to get away from the current and to eat sinking food. Fish can get trapped in these holes if they are going upstream to find cooler water or to spawn.
Small Pointed Waves
These triangle-shaped waves form where faster water meets slower water. Like the riverside edge of a bend, bay or eddy. Large fish gather under these waves because the water slows and food drops.
Rivers and Streams
In a lake or pond, fish have to move around to find food. In a river or a stream, the food comes to them. So moving-water fish find hiding places and travel anywhere from a few feet to up to several hundred feet, several times a day to eat.
You have to decide if you’re going to fish where the fish are hiding or where the fish are feeding. Either way, you’ll have to learn about river and stream feeding and hiding structure.
Hiding structure include undercuts in the banks, eddies, sunken trees and overhanging trees and bushes: places that provide protection from the current and above-water predators.
Feeding places include the outside of bends, merging currents, drop-offs, feeder brooks and springs: places where the current slows down and food collects or sinks.
In general, fish found in moving water tend to be a little smaller than lake fish. But they’re fighters, strong from battling the currents.
When fast moving water flows into a small inlet, or eddy, it slows down and creates a whirlpool. Fish will feed where the whirlpool is slowest or in the main body of the river where the whirlpool kicks out the food that has been carried in and out of the eddy.
If you see waves on the water that look like a rollercoaster, the water is probably going over underwater rocks. Fish like to sit in the shallow part of these waves.
Bait casting is a style of fishing that relies on the weight of the lure to extend the line into the target area. Bait casting involves a revolving-spool reel (or “free spool”) mounted on the topside of the rod. Bait casting is definitely an acquired skill. Once you get the hang of the technique (check out the casting animation), you will be casting your lures right on target into the structures where fish are feeding and hanging out.
With bait casting, you can use larger lures (1/2 to 3/4 ) and cast them for longer distances. To get started, you’ll need a rod with good spring action, a good quality anti-backlash reel, 10–15 pound test line and a variety of specific bait-casting lures.
With fly-fishing, various materials are used to design a very lightweight lure called a fly. A fly can serve as a ‘dry fly’ or ‘wet fly’. A dry fly will float on the water and mimic a floating insect and a wet fly will sink below the surface to mimic a swimming bait. It takes a little practice, but fly-fishing is a pure and exciting way to fish. Unlike other casting methods, fly-fishing can be thought of as a method of casting line rather than lure. Non-fly-fishing methods rely on a lure's weight to pull line from the reel during the forward motion of a cast. By design, a fly is too light to be cast on its own so it must follow the trajectory of the cast fly line, which is thicker and heavier so that it casts easier than lines used in other types of fishing (such as monofilament). The angler normally holds the fly rod in the dominant hand and manipulates the line with the other hand close to the reel, pulling line out in small increments as the energy in the line, generated from backward and forward motions, increases.
Fishing through a three-foot hole in the ice? Yup. It’s a unique way to catch multiple species of northern, fresh-water fish. And thanks to advancements in outdoor clothing design, portable fish houses and fish locating devices, it’s becoming more and more popular every day. You can also ice fish with tip-ups. When a fish hits your tip-up gear, it releases a lever that raises a flag or rings a bell. When you hear the tip-up alarm, you should immediately head for the rod to check for a hooked fish.
When fishing for the different species of fish found under ice, it is important to remember that most fish living in extremely cold weather will be moving and feeding in a much more lethargic manner. The slow moving fish will not cover as much area under ice as they would during the summer months so it is important to mark where you catch your fish. This can be done my marking the depths of your line so you know how deep your bait is when you get a bite. Portable fishing electronics, like fish finders or fish viewers, are also great tools when fishing under a thick layer of ice.
Many fisherman ice fish with no protective structure other than their winter clothes and are exposed to the elements for short periods of time. Longer fishing expeditions can be accomplished with the help from very simple and basic structures such as sheds and small shelters that can house a small group. Larger, heated structures can make multi-day fishing trips possible, but these are for the serious anglers who intend on camping for several days while fishing. These structures are dragged or trailered onto a lake using a vehicle such as a snowmobile, ATV or truck. The two most commonly used houses are portable and permanent shelters. The portable houses are usually made of a heavy, watertight material. The permanent shelters are made of wood or metal and usually have wheels for easy transportation. They can be as basic as a bunk, heater and holes or as elaborate as having satellite TV, bathrooms, stoves, and full-size beds, and may appear to be more like a mobile home than a fishing house.
We won’t say it’s foolproof, but spin casting is an ideal fishing method for beginning anglers. Spin-casting equipment is easier to use than bait casting. You can use it to cast both light and heavy lures without tangling or breaking your line. Basic equipment includes a 7-foot rod, a spinning reel and 6–10 pound test line for casting 1/16- to 3/4 ounce lures. You can use an open-face, closed-face or spin-cast reel for spin casting.
Still fishing is a versatile way to go. You can do it from a pier, a bridge, an anchored boat or from shore. And you can still fish during most seasons and during any part of the day. Your equipment and the size of the hooks and bait you use depend on what kind of fish you’re after. Your best equipment for still fishing is patience. You have to wait for the fish to bite. A great method for still fishing is to use one rod with natural bait that will soak or sit on the bottom as well as a casting rod with an artificial bait or lure. While you’re letting your natural bait soak, you can keep occupied and cover more ground while taking casts with a lure.
Bait & Lures
Cured Fish Roe
Salmon or trout eggs are one of the most effective baits when targeting fish like salmon, steelhead and trout. When spawning fish are active in the streams, rivers, shorelines or harbors they will often ignore any other baits and lures that you try to throw at them. An egg spawn sack (usually a small pouch of cheesecloth with clusters of eggs) or cured skein (cluster of cured eggs) can be attached to your hook and can either be left to float freely or weighted with a small sinker to get the bait deeper. Cured fish roe can be found at most bait and tackle shops or with a little bit more effort, you can make it yourself.
Poppers and flies are small lures used with spincast and fly-fishing tackle. These baits are very good for pan fish and other fish that feed on the surface such as trout and bass. Poppers get their action from a cupped face carved or molded into the front of the lure body. Fly action is totally controlled by the angler.
Ants, beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and caterpillars are ideal for catching pan fish, sunfish and trout. Brown trout are especially attracted to ants presented on a fly. Smallmouths and large trout prefer immature versions of mayflies, stoneflies, caddis, hellgrammites and dobsonfly larvae. You can buy insects or catch your own. Ants can be gathered from a nest and large insects can be captured with a net.
Jigs have weighted metal heads and a tail made of animal hair, soft plastic, feathers or rubber. Anglers sometimes add a minnow or piece of pork rind to the jig's hook. Jigs can be used to catch nearly every kind of freshwater fish
Spoons are metal lures designed to look like a swimming baitfish or minnow. Many spoons are made to be cast while others are meant to be trolled behind a moving boat. Depending on where and how you're fishing, you can buy weedless, structure or trolling spoons. Ask your tackle shop which types you need.