Lake Superior fishing is based upon a lake trout fishery. The Lake Superior lake trout is comprised of 4 subspecies, with the native redfin and a “cross breeds” of these making up the majority of our catch during the year. Lake trout begin the season in May near shore feeding on smelt which have came to the shallow waters to spawn, then as the water warms they move to temperature breaks that concentrate insect hatches and smaller baitfish. As the summer progresses the lake trout move deeper in the water column acclimating to their preferred water temperatures on the thermoclines and concentration of baitfish, during the heat of the summer they will orientate near the bottom and then as water cools in the fall they will move back shoreward to their fall spawning areas.
Lake trout fishing tactics on Lake Superior are surface trolling (top 20’) in May and June using stickbaits such as Phantoms, Rapalas, Bombers usually trolled on planer boards. Shallow downrigger with spoons and dipsy divers make up the usual fishing patterns this time of year. As summer progresses trolling spoons dominate the methods deployed of Canon Downriggers or with copper trolling line to get the spoons to the desired depth. When the fish consistently move deeper flashers and fly and flashers teamed with frozen smelt will be trolled in addition to the spoons to attract the deep water summer dwellers. When fall arrives the pre spawn lake trout will be on the bite in the deeper water but moving shallower as the spawn approaches.
The question of best fishing time for lake trout usually is based on season, early season there is usually slightly more numbers of fish, as the summer progresses and the thermoclines form the number of trout per trip may slightly decrease but size usually increases with the bigger fish being concentrated on the thermoclines. When fishing every day is different, lake trout are the predominant species but salmon and walleyes are taken during the same trip because all are preying on the same baitfish.
Unlike the other Great Lakes which have non native lake trout that are very oily in consistency our lake trout are lean, they are excellent table fair. Lake trout can be fried, broiled, baked, smoked or grilled. A favorite recipe of ours is marinating the lake trout fillets for a few hours or more in Italian salad dressing and grilling for 10 to 12 minutes skin down on the hot grill, easy and VERY GOOD! One other option is taking them directly form our dock to the nearby Barkers Island Inn restaurant and have catch cooked moments after leaving the water, the “Cook Your Catch” option!
Other trout species present in the lake are rainbow/steelhead, brown trout, and splake. The rainbow trout/steelhead fishery is very regulated, in Minnesota we are only allowed to keep fish that are planted, meaning the adipose fin is missing. These fish put up a great fight and usually an aerial artist (i.e. jumper), they make a great picture before release. In Wisconsin water we are allowed to keep fish in excess of 26” for rainbows/steelhead. Brown trout are present usually early in the spring then again later in the fall, these fish are more present in Wisconsin waters we fish since there is more planting and natural reproduction in the rivers on the south shore of the lake in Wisconsin. Splake too have been planted by Wisconsin and do appear at times early in the season when the water is cold, they are a beautiful bonus fish.