End of summer lake trout

Wobble, wobble went the big dodger on the end of my line. Suddenly a massive tug nearly ripped the heavy action rod and reel from my hands. My level wind reel started to give up line, no mean feat considering that it was so tight I could barely pull it out by hand. Something quite large was on the other end, down in about 20 metres of cold crystal clear water. My flame green Fireline continued to go out as friend Jim Price started reeling in his line to prevent any possibility of tangling. Our guide for the trip, Mark Mayert swung the boat to the inside, putting the motor in neutral at the same time. Given the fact that I had six ounces of weight on a three-way swivel, as well as a huge dodger it was no mean feat to bring the lure in at the best of times. This fish, however, was a totally different story, surging, head shaking and rolling only like a big lake trout can.

In August lake trout like to hang around just below the thermocline and the electronics that our guide was using clearly marked that thermocline at the depth this lake trout had struck.
What is a thermocline you ask? It’s simply a stratification of warm and cold water, a separation. Trout like to stay below this separation where the water is cooler and there is still enough dissolved oxygen. That means lake trout have to survive mostly on forage that also is close to this depth. That could include lake whitefish, longnose and white suckers, and lake chubs. Burbot and young lake trout can also be included in the mix. Earlier in the year ribbon leeches can make up a substantial part of the diet as well whatever other shallow forage is available.
When lake trout become larger, over the Master Angler length of 89 centimetres or 35 inches, they start to switch over to bigger meals. These size fish start to become scavengers, making the smaller lake trout chase the ciscoes above the thermocline, taking the wounded fish that flutter to the bottom.

Jim Price and guide Mark Mayert

A beautiful day and and a pretty fish!
Don’t get me wrong, if pickings are slim the big boys will get up and start making things happen. This must have been the case with the fish that I had hooked, though I was still within three metres of bottom when this fish hit. We were on Nueltin Lake, a body water that currently holds the Manitoba Master Angler record length lake trout. It was caught by a guest of lodge in 2001 and measured 137.16 centimetres or 54 inches. Thousands of anglers are lured to northern Manitoba every year in hopes of catching a fish this size. 

That is exactly why Jim Price and I had come at the very end of the season at Nueltin for guests. In fact the caribou had already started to migrate south towards their winter homes. We were fortunate though that the weather was still decent while there with little wind to prevent us from travelling a large part of the southern half of the lake in search of deep holes that were holding the majority of the larger lake trout. It was in just such a deep hole that this fish had committed. After about a ten-minute tug of war with my forearms and right elbow feeling the strain we got a glimpse of the fish some four metres down. Slowly, I eased it up the last short distance to the waiting net. After a quick measure this impressive fish was released back down to the depths.
Measuring 39 inches it was to be the largest of the seven Master Angler lake trout we were to land this trip.