Fall offers one of the best opportunities of the year for lake trout fishing and those who take advantage of this open window can enjoy some exceptional angling.
Lake trout spend the majority of the summer in very deep water to avoid warm temperatures and find higher oxygen levels. This makes for some tough angling. But fall offers better access to lake trout, as they move toward shallower water in preparation for the spawn.
Unfortunately, this window for fall lake trout is typically rather small, because many regions close lake trout fishing at the end of September to let the fish spawn.
The key to success this time of year is knowing what tactics and strategies to use to find and catch fall lake trout. Here are four important aspects to keep in mind.
As the water temperature begins to drop in September, lake trout move from their summer deep-water holding areas to shallow water. This pre-spawn movement often results in congregating fish, which can number in the dozens or even hundreds.
The best areas to concentrate on are reefs, boulders along a shoreline, the mouth of a tributary, points and rock bars.
This shallow water activity can change from day to day, depending on the weather. During cloudy windy days, lake trout will be found mainly in the shallows. During sunny calm days, they may hold in adjacent deeper water, moving into shallow water periodically throughout the day.
During the pre-spawn, the lake trout are focused heavily on feeding in preparation for the spawn. They will cruise the shallows searching mainly for schools of bait fish to feed on.
The peak of their feeding activity usually occurs during the morning and then again in the late afternoon and evening.
Among the best baits for fall lake trout are spoons, especially those in bright colors, such as chartreuse and orange. Both silver and gold spoons can be effective.
Other baits to consider include jigs, crankbaits and live or cut bait. Minnow imitation crankbaits are especially effective. When fishing with jigs, start with a pink or white jig head weighing 1/8-ounce or larger. Whites and natural color bodies tend to work best.
Fall lake trout fishing offers the unique opportunity to fish for lake trout from shore. A long shore casting rod is the best choice for covering large areas and reaching fish that may be hanging in deeper water, just off the shallows.
For anglers fishing from a boat, the best techniques is to set up outside of a rocky point, reef or rock bar and cast toward the shallow water. Use a medium to heavy spinning or bait casting setup with 8 to 10-pound line. If you catch one fish, it is likely others are nearby.
Another approach, especially on sunny, calm days, is to troll or jig in 20-30 feet of water to find fish hanging off the shallows.
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