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Lake Trout drawing

Other Common Names: laker, grey trout, Mackinaw, Great Lakes trout

How to Identify

Lake trout coloration varies from light green, grey, dark green, or almost black with light spots and worm-like markings on their back and sides. Their tail is deeply forked with 10-11 rays in their anal fin. The inside of their mouth is white.

Life History

Lake trout are native to the Great Lakes area, New England, and Canada. In the Lake Michigan waters of Wisconsin, they live in the outer half of Green Bay and along the entire Lake Michigan shoreline. They especially like waters from 48-52 degrees Fahrenheit or 9-11 degrees Celsius.

Lake trout were abundant in the Great Lakes until the 1800s. During the 1800s, fish numbers dropped from people fishing without limits and when spawning areas became polluted. Then in the 1930s, the alien sea lamprey invaded the upper Great Lakes from the Atlantic Ocean and ate the remaining lake trout. In 1956, lake trout were probably extinct which was very difficult for anglers and commercial fishing companies. This tragedy helped start a successful four-year Great Lakes program to control the lamprey by using chemicals that were safe for other aquatic life. Lake trout were then restocked (released) in Lake Michigan waters in 1965 and they are still stocked today because they don't reproduce naturally.

Lake trout eggs are collected from mature fish (6-7 years old) by fish biologists in October and November. The eggs incubate about 90 days before hatching. After being raised in the hatchery for a year, they are released the next April through June. Young fish have their fins clipped to identify them as stocked fish and are then released from harbor shores or on offshore reefs. Lake trout eat alewife, smelt, and sculpin.

Fishing for Lake Trout

The best way to catch these prize fish is by trolling from May to October - starting closer to shore and moving offshore as water temperatures rise. Fishing is good along the Lake Michigan shoreline and especially from Sturgeon Bay to Kenosha. Lures like dodger and fly combinations, plugs, and spoons are used and trolled at 80 or more feet.

Fishing from shore or piers is best during a west/northwest wind in the early and late summer. Use a spinner or spoon here.

Record Fish:

Near Shore: 35 pounds, 4 ounces, June 01, 1957 at Big Green Lake in Green Lake County.

In Deeper Water: 47 pounds, September 9, 1946 in Lake Superior at Bayfield.