Fall is a great time to catch small lake trout

Fall fishing for small lake trout on Flaming Gorge Reservoir can be lonely, but the bite can be amazing.

9/18/2019 7:31:53 PM

Cheyenne - Fall fishing for small lake trout on Flaming Gorge Reservoir can be lonely, but the bite can be amazing. Fall and even early winter is a great time for boat anglers to target small lake trout with the added bonus of fewer anglers and boaters on the water. When surface water temperatures dip below 55 F in mid to late October shore anglers can get in on the action as well.   

As of January 1, 2019, fisheries biologists with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources liberalized the limit on Lake Trout to encourage anglers to harvest fish less than 28 inches because they are simply too abundant. For detailed information on Flaming Gorge Lake Trout Management, check out the following two articles in past Green River Angler Newsletter: Volume 12, page 3 and Volume 13, page 3. Here are some tips that may help if you are interested in taking advantage of the new liberal limits this fall and upcoming winter.   

No matter how you decide to pursue small lake trout you will have the greatest success by fishing the right spot.  A good bathymetric map with depth contours is invaluable (for example, Fish-n-Map Company available from local stores or online at or a phone app like Navionics). Using your map and sonar, look for lake trout on flats, humps, ridges and in draws between 40-80 feet of water adjacent to deep water. Early and late in the day, lake trout can typically be found on top of flats, humps and ridges, sometimes a good distance from deep water drop offs. As the sun gets higher they will move closer to deep-water drop offs and by mid-day, you will likely find them within those areas. Any time of the day, you may find them in the draws that cut down from shallow to deep water off the flats and ridges. Lake trout use these features not only as cover but also as travel paths. If fishing from a boat, use your sonar to locate fish and keep moving if you are not finding them or if they are not biting. 

Medium action rods are good all-around rods for jigging, trolling and casting from shore. A medium-heavy action rod may help with set-ting the hook when jigging for fish in deep water as will low stretch lines like braid and fluorocarbon (8- 10 lb). Eight to 10lb monofilament works well for trolling.   

White and luminescent lures always seem to be productive, but earth tones that mimic crayfish will also work. Don’t shy away from brightly colored glow lures – sometimes pink, yellow, orange, purple, etc. may work. When fishing for small lake trout, tipping your lure with a small piece of sucker, chub or sculpin meat adds enticement – but do not overdo it. Typically, a piece the size of your thumbnail, or smaller, will do the trick.  Fish attractants can help mask your scent as well. 

Lures ranging 2-4 inches in length and weighing 1/4-1/2-ounce work well depending on the depth and presentation- heavier lures work well in deeper water. Whether you are vertical jigging, casting or trolling, vary your presentation until you find what is working. 

After the long hot summer lake trout will start cruise near shore when water tem-peratures are 55F or colder.  This puts them within easy reach of shore anglers. Try fishing shorelines where the features described above are within casting distance and adjacent to deep water.  

Throw spoons and soft-bodied jigs as far out as you can and vary the retrieve until you figure out what works. Lures that glow help attract fish early and late in the day and if you are casting to depths over 30 feet. Try counting down your lure until you find the bottom and on your next cast start retrieving just before you hit the bottom. Similar to fishing from shore, boat anglers can cast white or luminescent tubes and curly tail grubs along the shoreline.  

If you own a boat your options increase substantially. No need to wait for surface temperatures to drop below 55F.  Lake trout are active below the thermocline all summer and fall. Trolling and vertical jigging are productive year round using a variety of lures. For trolling many people have luck with spoons like Needlefish, Crocodiles, Rocky Mountain Tackle Vipers, Rapalas and Flatfish. Kokanee lures, such as dodgers and squids, may also work well. When fish are shallow or close to shore, planer boards and long lining can be a productive way to present lures. If fish are deep, down riggers give you precise control over the depth you place the lure. Vary the depth of your lure depending on where you see fish on the graph. Fishing your lure behind the down-rigger ball within a few feet of the bottom is a productive strategy. Anglers typically troll between 1.6 and 2.0 mph, but speed changes can also provoke a strike. 

Whether you are fishing from a boat or through the ice, vertical jigging lake trout is productive and a lot of fun – try active jigging, subtle jigging and dead sticking.  Anglers have success with a variety of tube jigs, swimbaits and curly tail grubs and jigging spoons (Northland Buckshots, Buzzbombs, and Thomas Cyclones), Rapala Jigging Raps and blade baits (Sebile Vibrato) work for less active fish. Fish your lure of choice just off the bottom, and watch your sonar for suspended fish. Strikes often come when you lift your lure after sitting it on the bottom for a short while. Once again, move if you are not seeing fish on your sonar or getting bites. 

To find more information about Lake Trout in the Flaming Gorge read Questions and Answers Regarding Lake Trout in Flaming Gorge Reservoir.  You will also find tasty recipes for cooking your catch. 

For more information, contact the Wyoming Game and Fish Depart-ment in Green River, Wyoming at 307-875-3223 or the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources in Dutch John, Utah at 435-885-3164. 

-By Robert Keith, Green River Fisheries Supervisor. Read more about fishing in the Green River Region in the Angler Newsletter. 


(Green River Regional Office - (307) 875-3223)

- WGFD -

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