Lake Trout

General Informatiom:

These swift, torpedo-shaped fish inhabit the cold waters of an area extending from Wisconsin and Upper Michigan to the northernmost reaches of the North American continent. For more than half a century, lake trout were the most valuable commercial fish in the Upper Great Lakes. Then overfishing and the onslaught of the sea lamprey from the late 1930s and into the 1950s effectively eliminated this fish from Lake Michigan.

Thanks to sea lamprey control and continuous stocking, lake trout now live seven or more years in the lake, thriving on a diet of chubs and sculpins (their traditional prey), smelt and alewives. As a result, the return of this preeminent native, along with the introduction of Pacific salmon, has created a thriving world-class sport fishery in Lake Michigan. Biologists hope that ongoing research and plantings of these fish on historic spawning reefs will yet restore reproducing stocks of lake trout in Lake Michigan and enhance the few surviving stocks in Lake Superior.

Lake trout are long-lived and do not reach sexual maturity until 6-8 years of age. While the average lake trout in Lake Michigan today weighs around seven pounds, some of the larger trophy fish are three feet long and weigh as much as 25 pounds.

Identifying the Lake Trout

The lake trout is distinguishable from many of the other trouts by its forked tail and drab coloring. However, it may be confused with brook trout from the Great Lakes, which tend to be less colorful than those of inland lakes. (Keep in mind that the brook trout doesn't have the forked tail.)

Lake trout from inland lakes have light-colored spots on darker backgrounds that vary from light to dark green, brown, or gray. In the Great Lakes, the lake trout may be so silver that spots are difficult to see.

Look for:

Copyright, 1998, by the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute
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