Lake Superior Lake Trout August 22 – 24, 2014

Water Body
Will Roseberg with a 42" lake trout - not bad for his first time!

Will Roseberg with a 42″ lake trout – not bad for his first time!

This past weekend I had the chance to get out of the office and get out on the water with a couple good friends – Will Roseberg and Calvin Svihel. Our destination was Lake Superior and our plan was to spend the weekend chasing lake trout. Neither Cal or Will had fished lake trout on Superior on open water before so this trip would be doubly fun for me as it is always a blast to help get someone connected to a big laker and watch them fight a big one for 10 – 20 minutes or more!

Our plan was to head up the North Shore and launch out of Grand Portage. The forecast for the weekend looked fantastic for Saturday with light winds and cloudy conditions while Sunday looked a bit more challenging with a chance for more wind and, of course, bigger waves. We were committed to spending the weekend fishing hard with the goal of finding fishing on Saturday using more traditional trolling patterns so we could attempt to jig some of those fish up on Sunday using lighter spinning gear. More on that later…

We started trolling in 50 to 60 feet of water in an area that had produced some great fish for us in the past. We ran spoons on 4, 5 and 6 colors of Sufix 832 segmented leadcore behind boards to get our baits off to the side of the boat to avoid spooking. At the start of our trip we headed immediately to an area that had produced some big fish in the past but on this trip our confidence areas were devoid of adult-sized lakers and almost overrun with runts. Board after board went back only to produce yet another 2 – 4 lb laker… that’s just not what we were looking for! Water temps were what I would consider “prime-perfect” at 54 – 57 degrees. The fish should have been holding at these depths… but they weren’t.

This forced us to broaden the search area by quite a bit which sent us out into deeper water in the hopes of locating some bigger fish. Those 4 and 5 color rods were replaced with 6, 7 and 8 color rods and the boat was steered out to 70 – 90 feet of water off the shoreline break. It didn’t take long to find pods of bigger lake trout will to come up off the bottom 20 – 40 feet to smack our spoons dancing overhead.

This is what lake trout fishing is all about - thumb on the spool trying to keep the line from going out while you LIFT the fish!

This is what lake trout fishing is all about – thumb on the spool trying to keep the line from going out while you LIFT the fish!

Will put one of the first big trout in the boat when he tied into a giant 42″ laker that would be our biggest fish for the trip. One of the reasons I love fishing Lake Superior is the chance to tie into a true giant is always a possibility and on this day Will’s number got drawn! This particular fish took Will for the ride of his life giving Cal and I the time to clear all rods… and make a sandwhich, answer emails and pick up the boat! Both Cal and I were giving Will a hard time about taking so long but when it comes to fighting a big laker, there’s just no hurrying the process along. In my opinion a big laker is one of the best fighting fish in fresh water and this particular fish didn’t hit the bottom of the net for over 20 minutes after hooking up leaving Will’s arms worn out and burning after everything was all said and done. Will told me he had always wanted to get a big laker mounted at the start of the trip but when it came time to make the call with this fish Will released it without hesitation and plans to do a replica mount in the future.

Our trolling speeds were 2.2 – 2.5 MPH which is a bit faster than I normally run. Another thing we noticed was that the fish, regardless of size, wanted BIG spoons. We caught almost all our fish on 5″ 3/4″ spoons while smaller versions in the same color patterns were being ignored. The thing I find most interesting is that some of the fish caught were throwing up small 1.5 – 2 inch long herring in large numbers. While the fish were obviously gorging on small baitfish they wanted nothing to do with smaller spoons. Why? I have no idea. But I do know that if you weren’t running the bigger spoons you weren’t getting bit.

Color selection was very specific as well. When it was cloudy the fish keyed on spoons with a silver blank painted dark metallic blue with a hint of chartreuse on the nose. When the sun came out the fish wanted a silver blank with gold and fluorescent orange paint. As long as we had those colors in the mix we caught fish. All of our go-to patterns from trips past seemed to be ignored.

Cal is show here with his first fish of the trip once we got away from the runts!

Cal is show here with his first fish of the trip once we got away from the runts!

Our fishing on Saturday ended around 6 PM so we could get to shore in time to grill up some steaks and watch the sun set. Our plan for Sunday AM was to return to the spots we found the day prior and see if we couldn’t get some fish to go on spinning gear.

The winds picked up and would blow out of the north – north east all day on Sunday kicking up 2′ – 4′ waves from start to finish. Thankfully I had remembered to pack a giant drift sock as this simple device would prove to be invaluable to our jigging fishing efforts. Once deployed the drift socks slowed down our drift speed to 0.4 MPH which was perfect for presenting the 1.5 oz. jigs and spoons we were fishing.

Will has one in the boat while Cal is figthing a double. Doubles and even triples are common once you get things dialed in.

Will has one in the boat while Cal is figthing a double. Doubles and even triples are common once you get things dialed in.

Jig fishing lakers on Superior is an amazing amount of fun when you’re on the fish and incredibly frustrating when you’re not. With all that water to hunt and peck through finding the fish is the main challenge. Thankfully once you find the fish lake trout are generally pretty aggressive and very willing to eat a jig danced in front of their face. I got on the board first with a nice 10# laker on a 1.5 oz. jig and white paddle tail. Cal followed my fish up with a 6# and 12# laker caught on a Williamson Gomuku Spoon in silver blue. For the next 45 minutes or so we had some fast action on fish up to 15 – 18 lbs… and then the fish moved and the bite died just as quickly as it started.

We did make attempts to relocate those fish but after an hour and a half of looking we threw in the towel and decided it was time to head for home. While catching a laker on a jig rod is one of the most fun things you can experience as an angler trying to put that pattern to work on Superior is full of highs and lows. When you’re on the fish, you’re on top of the world. When they move, you’ve got 20.3 million acres of water to deal with!

With a little luck I’ll be able to get back up on the big lake in 3 – 4 weeks for another go-round with the big trout. If you make it out yourself in the coming weeks I’d love to hear how you’re doing. Those fishing reports definitely help plan the next trip!

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James Holst

James began his fishing career as a fulltime fishing guide, spending more than 250 days a year on the water, coaching clients how to catch walleyes on the Upper Mississippi River and Minnesota‚Äôs Lake Mille Lacs. In 2000, he launched Full Bio ›


  1. Awesome report James! Looks like a great weekend up there. Hopefully I’m able to get out there sometime yet this fall!

  2. This was an amazing trip. The way the lakers hit a jigging spoon is flat out insane. They about rip the rod right out of your hand. Thanks for allowing me to ride along James.

  3. Hi Ralph

    We didn’t put her on a scale so I don’t have anything definitive to offer here but after punching some numbers into a length x girth calculator that fish looks to be in the 33# – 35# range. I’ll readily admit I haven’t tested any of the available lake trout length x girth formulas for accuracy but it is the best I have to offer without subjecting the fish to the scale. She put up one hell of a fight and swam away strong! I’ll be looking for that one again later this fall.

  4. Amazing trip is right!

    Not only do I owe James a HUGE thanks for inviting me along, but I also owe a huge thanks to Cal – A few minutes before that monster hit I had lost another big fish just a mere feet behind the boat and he had already boated a pig so even though he was closest to the rod when the board got absolutely hammered tipping us off that it was a good fish he goes “Why don’t you take this one” Seriously very few guys would do that, Thanks Cal!

  5. Awesome trip! Got my first taste of of Laker fishing this summer on lake Minnitaki and I am now hooked. Looking to try the north shore in a couple weeks. Does a guy need to go all the way up to Grand Portage? Was hoping to make a short one day trip on the lower end of the shore.

  6. Thanks James. Good report from yourself and M.Leslie. one other question. I came across a great deal on riggers and a center trolling mast with two catamaran’s. Any reason you choose planer boards over running a mast system with your lc rods? I now have both and wondered what you preferred

  7. M.Leslie is sharing some awesome info in the Lake Superior forum. I don’t know him but I know I’d like to fish with him.

  8. Wheels2 – I’ve actually never fished with a mast system but I’ve been told by a couple anglers that I trust that they experienced a lower hookup percentage using the masts versus planer boards. I was told this was due to the slack in the line immediately after the line released from the clip. Again, this is second hand info. My experience with planer boards is that they work so well that there’s little reason for me to consider switching.

  9. I used a mast system many years ago primarily in the spring for browns at Marinette and Coho off Racine. In those days we rarely ran a segment longer than 3 colors. Now that we run much longer lead core and copper setups in-line planers like Off Shore boards are preferred by most. That is in part because when running multiple segmented lead cores on each side of the boat you want your deepest setup closest to the boat. That’s because when an outside shallower rig fires almost all of the time it will clear the deeper lines as the fish centers as you fight it. If you have shallow lines on the inside close to the boat there is a much greater risk for tangles.

    With the mast system as lines fire and you want to run them back out you have two options: clear the other lines so they are set properly or take your chances. I have a friend who loves the mast system and he has a great hook up ratio. From time to time he also has some 1.5 hour tangles with lost line and lures.

    A 42″ Lake Trout is a real trophy. I have a 41″ from Lake MI on the wall and it weighed 37# 4oz. Lucky me won Salmon A Rama with it and 10K cash.

    Grey Beard


  10. Great report! Will, I would call that a SUPER TANKER. :-) I did get to fish with M Leslie. I did not know him before we went out but he worked hard to find this rookie a couple fish. I hope we can meet up again in the future. That is what makes this site great. A complete stranger is willing to take someone out and work hard to find the fish by constantly moving baits.

  11. Grey Beard – thanks for the info on the mast systems. Like I said, I’m operating off of second hand info as I’ve never had the chance to fish with with mast and boards. I’d actually like to try it if the opportunity ever presented itself.

    I tried to click on your link to your laker and got an error message that says you moved or deleted the image. Big bummer. A 37# trout is a magnum! It sounds like it made you a few bucks as well. Congrats on both accounts.

  12. Great report James!

    Hope to try Laker Fishing up there soon. Where did you guys stay? How far out from shore did you do most your fishing?
    I only have a 1825 not sure if that is big enough but should be on calm days.


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