Tag Archive: Lake Trout

I’ve previously written about Trout and True Trout. The last post of this “trilogy” is about Char. For clarity, it will help us to keep in mind that scientist categorize the living world first by family, then genus, by species, and so on.

Char or Charr (genus: Salvelinus), are made up of over 60 species. I could write for a year if we tried to discuss each one, but then again, there are very few differences that the average guy would really care about among many of these species. Since I’m not interested in preparing you or myself for a PhD, we’ll just take a look at the most common species that I (here I go again) assume you have heard of.

Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush) is a freshwater char—also called togues or mackinaw trout —are the largest of all trout. The normal maximum is about 60 pounds (27 kg), but some individuals weigh more than 100 pounds (45 kg). They are native only in the northern United States and Canada, but they have been introduced into cold lakes in Europe and South America (25% of all Lake trout are found in the province of Ontario, Canada). In the northern part of their range lake trout inhabit streams connected to lakes. Lake trout are gray, greenish-blue, or bronze, with pale spots on their bodies and fins. The female does not make a redd.

Trout Lake

In 2007, nearly 30 men and boys, all friends (same genus, most of them) and family (same species, although in some cases there may be reason to question if this is true) of mine, spent a week at Trout Lake in Canada. My godfather (yes, but he’s a good guy) was the master of catching Lake trout that week, but I must say I find Lake trout to be rather boring compared to other species of trout, let alone other fish. They’re generally down quite deep and you really just “still fish”, which isn’t the kind of “active” approach I like to take when fishing. My godfather was happy though, and as you probably know, if the Godfather isn’t happy, nobody is happy… 😉

By 1961, lake trout in the Great Lakes had been almost totally destroyed by the sea lamprey, which had entered the lakes after completion of the Welland Canal in 1829. Efforts to control the lamprey population met with some success, but trout are still killed in large numbers. Lake trout are regularly released from hatcheries into the lakes to replace those killed by lampreys.

Brook trout, native to the American coast from near the Arctic Circle to Georgia, have been introduced to suitable habitats in other parts of America and the Old World. These trout are olive-green or brown on the back, which is often marked with dark, wavy lines. The sides are mottled with pink or red spots surrounded by pale blue. At spawning time, the fins and bellies of males turn orange or red and the leading edge of each lower fin is white followed by black. Brook trout are also called speckled trout or squaretails. Sea-running varieties are often called salters. Brook trout weigh an average of 1 to 4 pounds (450 g to 1.8 kg), with record weights of about 14 pounds (6.4 kg).

Dolly Varden

Dolly Varden: note the small head and snake-like body.

Dolly Vardens, and Bull trout, used to be considered the same species, but in 1980 were separated. Bull trout are a threatened species in America. They range from Japan to Alaska and south to northern California, but are native to North America. Sea-running varieties are silvery with dark, wavy markings on the back. In mountain streams Dolly Vardens are spotted with red. Large lake-dwellers are silvery with yellow spots. The average weight in streams is generally less than one pound (450 g), while lake-dwellers and sea-runners often weigh more than 15 pounds (6.8 kg). Dolly Vardens feed on spawn and small fish, rodents, frogs, and birds, and are regarded as destructive to other trout and salmon. Bull trout can be differentiated from brook trout (S. fontinalis) by the absence of distinct spots on the dorsal fin, as well as yellow, orange, or salmon-colored spots on the back as opposed to red spots with blue haloes on the brook trout.

Bull trout identification

Bull trout lack the deeply forked tail fin of lake trout. Bull trout have been recorded measuring up to 103 centimetres (41 in) in length and weighing 32 pounds (14.5 kg).

If you want to learn more about these varieties of trout, and even other sub-species, it may be helpful in your research to know that trout belong to the family Salmonidae. (Since there are lots of “experts” out there, it’s easy to get confused since although they claim to be experts, their opinions differ… go figure!)

True trout are of the genus Salmo. The rainbow trout is O. mykiss; steelhead are Salmo gairdneri; the cutthroat, S. clarki; the brown, S. trutta; the golden, S. aguabonita. Chars are of the genus Salvelinus. The lake trout is Salvelinus namaycush; the brook, S. fontinalis; the Dolly Varden, S. malma.

Sometimes you never know what you’ll find in your own backyard.



Growing up in the Midwest, Canada was always the Mecca for catching great fish. The further we could get away from civilization the bigger and better the fishing. There must be some “great white north” fishing ratio of miles-to-pounds – for every 50 miles further north add 2 pounds per fish and 4 fish per day.

Even visiting my mother’s family in Upstate New York often included a trip to family cabins in Canada on Crosby Lake.

Finger Lakes
Finger Lakes

Later, when I was still in high school, my family moved “Upstate” to Canandaigua, New York.

The area is generally referred to as the “Finger Lakes” and is well known for producing wine. In autumn, travelers flock in to enjoy the fall colors, spend cool days on wine tours, and some even stick around for the winter skiing nearby.

Canandaigua Lake is in fairly close proximity to Rochester, New York and is one of the lakes in the region that is particularly known as a summer resort town, so to speak. Lakefront property values go higher every year and the city is one of the fastest growing in the state.

Since Canandaigua Lake was so well known for other lake sports, I never thought of it as a great place to fish. The city is well populated and there are lots of recreational power boats on the lake. It just didn’t square with my idea of a serene and promising lake-of-choice where I could get my fix – the adrenaline rush from a healthy strike.

Most of the recreational watercraft spend their time on the northern end of the lake. So from time to time I’d go out on the south end of the lake, but for a serious outing in the region we’d travel a short distance to other nearby lakes.

Uncle Dale at 86 - his classic smile.
Uncle Dale at 86 – his classic smile.

My Uncle Dale (who is now 86) is what I think of as “old school”. He’d make most of his equipment, maintained his own boat motors and even made electric down riggers using automatic-window motors from an old car. I think because he has a sense for how things work, it served him well on the water. He rarely came back without something on the stringer.

In July, I traveled back to Canandaigua with my family to visit Uncle Dale and the rest of my family there. Upon arriving at my father’s house I picked up the local newspaper and was treated to an EYE POPPER… a 21 pound Lake Trout.

My first thoughts were… Ontario Lake? Seneca Lake? …but to my surprise it was my own -taken for granted- Canandaigua Lake. Suddenly I had a flash back to my best friend growing up, David… actually I flashed back to his voice saying “you gotta fish the pump house!”

At the pump house there’s a 90 foot hole at the bottom of the lake – perfect for lake trout because of the depth.

So at this point, I’m trying to square things again and decide to do some research. I began by looking through newspaper archives and even found some research done by a student at Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Stephen Dwyer) in 2006 and his analysis of Seneca Lake as the “Lake Trout Capital of the World”. Stephen looked at the effects due to the presence of sea lamprey, zebra and quagga mussels, and smelt on the lake trout population in Seneca Lake, as well as, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) management.

This research and other articles led me to the following conclusion: The Lake Trout Capital of the World is more likely to be Canandaigua Lake than Seneca. Here’s why…

Continue reading

Trout Lake, Ontario Canada

Trout Lake, Ontario Canada

This week I wanted to share with everyone a message that my Uncle (the Hamm’s Beer jingle-singing uncle) Paul sent out to several of the fishermen among friends and family. These trips to Canada have been going on since I was a little boy and even before.  I was green with envy thrilled to receive these pictures and an account of the week.

There is some great information here that will be useful to anyone who is interested in visiting Trout Lake. There’s also a link to the Sandy Beach Lodge website. Be sure to tell Wade (he runs the place) you heard about Sandy Beach on Sport Fishing Americas.

Enjoy… Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: