Spring lake trout fishing tips

Between winter and summer is the perfect time for targeting large lake trout in the shallows. Learn more about lake trout, the specific conditions and areas you should be targeting to set your hook on an absolute monster this spring.

 Spring lake trout fishing tips

In the northern US and Canada, spring thaw is an unofficial signal for catching monster lake trout.

Ice anglers may have cornered the lake trout market all winter long, but spring is a unique time, when these monsters of the north come up from their normal deep water habitat. Catching a huge laker can be a thrill as they are some of the biggest freshwater fish in North America and can easily reach over 30 pounds. Catching a fish that large is the best way to shake off the spring rust and start your fishing season with a massive catch.

Below are some tips to get on the water and start targeting lake trout this spring.

Not 20,000 leagues under the sea

Winter generally finds the warmest water to be the deepest water. Most fish will stack up in deep pools all winter long and lake trout who prefer even colder water than most species, will dive even deeper. This is the case in the summer too, as water temperatures get too warm and the fish retreat back to the extreme depths to cool off. Spring, however, is a special time when the warming weather increases the water temperature higher in the water column, to a more preferable range for lake trout. Lakers will then come up into the 20-30 foot range and even into the shallows in early morning and late evening.

Follow the bait

Spring is a time for life and activity, especially in the water. The warm weather will inevitably hatch aquatic insects, which will then attract a frenzy of small baitfish. Lake trout, being apex predators in many waters, will use this opportunity to travel into shallow waters, ambushing the baitfish that are taking advantage of the ample food supply. Only in spring and fall will you ever find lakers in water this shallow, with fall being their spawning period. Where the water is clear enough, these early mornings make for an incredibly rare opportunity to sight fish for cruising lake trout.

Watch the water temp 

Fishing for lakers this time of year can be extremely finicky and you need to monitor temperatures. Lake trout are a cold water species and where they reside in the water column is heavily influenced on the water temperature. This can be said for many species, but with lake trout the difference in depth can be between five feet and over 100. If the weather warms too much, the water temp will rise, sending the fish back to the depths. Also if old man winter hangs on to spring, the water will never warm enough to bring them to the shallows. The key temperatures you’re looking for are the low 50s and high 40s.


Transitional areas should be your key focus this time of year. The edge of shallows and drop offs, or the heads of lakes, where creeks, or rivers are running are great areas to start. On the edge of shallows, lakers will have enough to find perfect water temperatures and also come up to ambush baitfish and perch in the shallows. Rivers flowing into lakes will produce an off color that signals sediment being moved by the running water. The sediment will carry nutrients and insects, which will attract prey species for lake trout. The off color water will also make a safe area for lakers to hunt in, without worrying as much about eagles and osprey. 

Try trolling spoons in these areas, again, in the early mornings, or late evenings. You can’t go wrong with gold and silver spoons, but rapalas and crankbaits are great options for mid day fishing when the temp is highest and the fish have traveled back into darker, deeper water. 

When trolling success is about constants. Try and keep your line at a constant 45 degrees angle from rod tip to the water. This angle will give your lure the best combination of movement and speed. An obtuse angle means you are not getting down to the proper depths, and/or are moving too fast. An acute angle signals too much weight, which will impede the action of whatever lure you are using.

If you’re not into trolling, you can try camping out over transitional terrain, or river and creek mouths jigging minnows, spoons, or other flashy baits.

Monitor the charts

Depth maps are your best friend when looking for giant spring lakers. Drop offs, deep potholes and rock structures are the hunting grounds you are in search of. Navionics Depth Charts on your Fishbrain App are your best friend when scouting a new lake, or if you don't have onboard bathymetric maps on your boat. Scan the lake beforehand to target specific areas to be on during first light. Look for deep continuous drop offs and trenches to troll later in the day when the fish go deep again.

Lake trout may be the perfect spring species to chase in northern states and Canada. This limited window offers some of your best chances at setting the hook on a personal record fish. They still can be a serious enigma to solve at times, however, because of their preference for cold water and the extreme depths they live in.

It's time to gather your patience and some warm clothes and hit the lake. You may not be fishing Lochness, but there are still monsters to be found in the deep dark depths of northern lakes. 

Now let’s go fishing. We’ll bring the big net. 

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