Here is an underrated species for you that also happens to be Alaska’s largest freshwater fish. The Lake Trout is a fish that loves cold and very deep water so they are not always easily accessible to anglers with a fly rod which leads to their lack of notoriety. In areas where Lake Trout have access to these conditions (just an fyi, Alaska is known to have a few deep lakes with cold, clean water) these fish can live to be over 50 years old and grow to truly enormous sizes.
Every year at ice off, there is a brief period where these fish will cruise the shorelines and shallow bays looking for a meal. They will prey on anything from crustaceans to mice and other fish like smaller trout or grayling. This is the time of year when anglers have the best chance at fooling a Lake Trout with a fly. We prefer a 7 or 8 wt rod to help throw larger baitfish type flies and an intermediate fly line. We have had success fishing bays near inlets or drop offs. On calm days, there is a chance you can even see some push water on the surface as the large fish form a subtle wake while they cruise looking for their next meal.
As the water temperatures warm, Lakers head deep. To target them here, you need a full sinking line or a heavy sink tip. When in our boats, we can see large schools of these fish on the screens of our fish finders, chasing bait at almost unreachable depths. They are fall spawners and as the seasons change, they head shallow again but this period seems much tougher to time than ice off.
The Lake Trout is technically a char and a close relative to the Dolly Varden. They are shaped similar to most trout but have a deeply forked tail. Lake Trout are native to areas in North America like Alaska and Canada but are considered invasive in places like Yellowstone Lake where they are out competing the native cutthroats.
In Alaska, the record Laker caught on a rod and reel is 47 pounds. There is still a lot we need to learn about targeting this underrated fish but we are all for putting the time in! Come up to Rapids Camp Lodge and do some R&D with us, the rewards can be huge!
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