||Dark grey or blackish green sides, white
or yellow spots
Orange sides and fins during spawning
Lake trout hold the title of not only being Alaska's largest freshwater
fish, but they also belong to the largest family of fish, known as char. Two
close relatives of lake trout, which can also inhabit the same waters, are
Dolly Varden and Arctic char.
Average 5 to 12 pounds or 12 to 18 inches
Up to 50 pounds
Cast and retrieve, bait fishing and ice fishing
Light to medium spinning and fly rods
Spoons, spinners, streamers, dry flies
Nearly all freshwater lakes
Except for Southeast and Yukon-Kuskokwim
Year-round, peak spring and fall
Delicious, pinkish to orange meat
47 lbs, Clarence Lake, 1970
The body of a lake trout is close to the shape of other trout and salmon.
Both sexes are similar except males have a longer, more pointed nose. Lake
trout are identifiable from others in their family due to their deeply
forked tail. Their side coloration is usually a dark grayish brown to
blackish green. Their sides and head are speckled with irregular white or
yellowish brown spots. The top of the fish is generally darker while the
belly is accented with lighter colors, usually white. Remarkably, different
populations can have vastly different coloration. Even the color of the
fish's meat can change from bright orange to pink or even white. Variables
include water temperature, diet and season. At the peak of the spawning
season, lake trout will have bright orange markings on their fins and sides;
making their spots much more pronounced. In northern lakes, orange paired
fins may be common year-round.
Lake trout are found in almost every freshwater lake except for the Yukon-Kuskokwim
lowlands and Southeast Alaska. They can be caught in abundance as far north
as the Brooks Range and as far south as the Kenai Peninsula. Mountainous
lakes with clear, cold water offer the most favorable habitat and rear the
largest fish. Trout can also be found in glacial many glacial lakes.
Adult lake trout primarily eat other fish, such as whitefish, grayling,
salmon chub, sticklebacks, sculpins and various minnows. However, they also
consume zooplankton, insect larvae, small crustaceans, clams, snails and
leeches. When possible, they will devour small vermin and birds, but such
occurrences are rare.
Cast and retrieve methods are the most popular. Most populations will
readily bite spoons or spinners without the need for added bait. Steel
leaders are not necessary but do guard against the troutís small teeth,
which are sharp enough to cut fishing line. Streamers usually work better
than dry flies, however, trout will sometimes hold a feeding frenzy at the
surface (especially in evening hours when the water is calm). Not all
populations are the same though and the feed available in each lake will
greatly determine the tackle and the technique to be used.
During spring and early summer months, most feeding lake trout will tend to
stay close to shore and along the drop-offs of lakes. However, unlike pike
or grayling, they are not common in extremely shallow water. As summer
progresses and the water warms, they tend to move into deeper water. Using
a boat to troll lures and spinners at a slow pace is an effective way to
work the most amount of water. Trout are most active during the autumn
spawning months. In winter, ice fishing can be very rewarding by jigging or
using bait such as herring or shrimp.
Although lake trout will uncommonly venture into rivers for migratory
purposes, most of their life is spent in lakes. The lakes with the largest
and healthiest populations of trout are big, deep and cold. Trout are most
active in the spring when the ice goes out and in the fall when they spawn.
Spawning seasons vary based on diet, water temperature, altitude and
genetics, but it usually happens between September and November. The eggs
are deposited and fertilized on clean, rock-lined lake bottoms at night.
Males actually choose the sites days beforehand and will clean the small
area with their nose and fins. Individual fish will not always spawn
annually; many will spawn every other year or even less frequently.
Trout eggs incubate for an entire winter before
hatching in the spring. The minnows eat plankton for the first few years
and gradually work their way up to eating other fish. Growth rate is slow,
especially in northern lakes. Both sexes may begin spawning after seven to
eight years. The average lifespan of a trout is roughly 20 years. Yet, some
do live beyond 40 years. Most populationsí average between 5 to 12 pounds,
however, a large lake with lots of feed can grow trophy trout of 20 to 50
Fish Alaska Magazine