Lake Trout (Perca flavescens)

See also: Lake Whitefish, Yellow Perch, Northern Pike and Burbot.

Lake trout are highly regarded as a great sport fish for their impressive size, strong fighting ability, and year-round accessibility in many regions. In Lake Simcoe, they are particularly sought after by anglers due to their abundant presence and the thrill of the chase. These large, elusive fish thrive in the lake's cold, deep waters, offering anglers a challenging pursuit in a picturesque setting. Lake Simcoe's population of lake trout is carefully managed to ensure sustainability, with regulations in place to protect the species. 

There was little evidence in the past several decades of natural recruitment of Lake Trout in Lake Simcoe mainly in part by stresses from phosphorous loading leading to low dissolved oxygen levels in the deep waters of the lake. Lake Trout were first stocked in Lake Simcoe in 1966.  In 2001, natural reproduction was documented, something that hasn’t been seen in the previous 20 years. 

In 2010, Lake Trout stocking was reduced from approximately 100,000 to 50,000 yearlings due to increased observations of natural reproduction taking place.  It was thought that the reduction in stocked fish would allow the natural Lake Trout population to increase and thrive without having to out compete stocked fish. Unfortunately, it was found in the most recent monitoring studies that natural reproduction and the numbers of wild Lake Trout was on the decline. This led the MNR to increase the stocking numbers from 50,000 Lake Trout per year, back up to 100,000 fish.

The opportunity to catch trophy-sized lake trout in Lake Simcoe, often exceeding 10 pounds, coupled with the scenic beauty of the area, makes them a prized sport fish and a vital component of the local angling culture. 

Lake trout reproduction is a critical aspect of their biology. They typically spawn in the fall, usually from late September to early December, depending on water temperature and the specific lake. Spawning occurs in shallow, rocky areas or over gravel beds, where females deposit their eggs. Unlike some other trout species, lake trout don't build nests. Instead, they release their adhesive eggs directly onto the substrate. Males fertilize the eggs by releasing milt (sperm) near the eggs. After fertilization, the eggs adhere to the rocks or gravel, where they incubate throughout the winter. The newly hatched fry emerge from the gravel in the spring, and they initially feed on yolk sac reserves before transitioning to a diet of zooplankton and small aquatic insects as they grow. Lake trout's unique reproductive behaviors and adaptations are essential for their survival and contribute to their role as a significant species in North American freshwater ecosystems. 

Lake Simcoe Size Range: Average from 4-7 lbs, however, reports of larger trout in the 12-15lbs category are caught every year. Fish above 15lbs do roam the waters of Lake Simcoe.

Lake Simcoe Diet: Lake Trout feed on a wide variety of organisms, their diet includes round gobies, emerald shiners, rainbow smelts, lake herring, lake whitefish, yellow perch, smelt, sculpins, sticklebacks and plankton. They are also known to feed on crustaceans (mysis shrimp) and aquatic and terrestrial insects. 

Recommended Equipment: For successful lake trout fishing, it is advisable to equip oneself with appropriate gear. Opt for bait-casting or spinning rods, ideally within the medium to heavy action range and spanning from 24 to 50 inches in length. Both mono-filament and non-stretch super lines are suitable for use. On spinning reels or bait-casting setups, employing 10 to 15lb fluorocarbon or mono-filament is recommended. The slender diameter of non-stretch lines permits the utilization of heavier line options, such as 20-30lb braid or super lines. Due to the propensity of many lake trout baits to induce line twisting, integrating a small barrel swivel positioned 18 inches up the line is advisable. Additionally, it is prudent to employ 6-12lb fluorocarbon as a leader line, extending from the swivel.

Recommended Baits: To optimize your chances of landing lake trout, employing the right bait is crucial. A variety of bait options are effective in enticing these fish. Among the favored choices are live baits such as medium to large-sized emerald shiners, bait fish species including golden shiners, frozen smelts, and frozen herring. In addition to live bait, artificial alternatives prove fruitful, such as plastic minnow swimbaits (ranging from 3 to 6 inches), lipless crankbaits, spoons like the Williams Whitefish, and round goby imitators like the Meegz and Bad Boyz, which can be enhanced with live bait or small tube jigs. Jigging Rapala, tube jigs (2 to 3 inches), airplane jigs, and various hand-tied streamers and flies are also valuable additions to your arsenal for lake trout angling.

Depth Range: When the ice fishing season first opens up, lake trout can be found in close proximity to their spawning locations (shallow water with a rock, cobble bottom). Key on shallow water structure including points, humps and shoals. As winter progresses, lake trout move to deeper water, anywhere from 80 - 120 feet of water. However, lake trout will also be found suspending anywhere throughout the water column (even right under the ice!) so don't be afraid to fish the entire water column. An effective strategy is to start fishing off the bottom and reel up 10 feet every ten minutes, until your bait hits the top of the ice. Continue to do this until you find an aggressive trout willing to take your bait. In some cases, suspended fish are much more aggressive and willing to take your lure than trout hugging on the lake bottom.

Current Lake Simcoe Regulations:

Season is open from Jan. 1 to Mar. 15 and from the 2nd Saturday in May to September 30.

Sport License daily limit is 2 lake trout.

Conservation License daily limit is 1 lake trout.

Recommended Locations: Lake Trout waters include the north and south sides of Kempenfelt Bay including the northeast side into Oro. Big Bay point is another popular spot as the depths drop off fairly quickly off the northern portion of the point. Anywhere in the main lake basin in the deeper waters can hold Lake Trout. 

The deeper waters to the North of Fox Island, off Jacksons Point and off Innisfil all provide good starting points to hook into a Simcoe laker. 

You can find Lake Trout roaming just about at every depth. Generally, most anglers target Lake Trout from as shallow as 20 feet to as deep as 120 feet. 

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