Dark green to grey, with dapples that range from white to creamy yellow, and a mouth that just seems too large for its head. The description alone makes it easy to tell that the subject is lake trout — a top predator fish that haunts waters from the Arctic Circle, across Canada, through the Great Lakes and into New England.
Nowhere, however, does this magnificent gamefish grow as old and large as it does in the big, deep and cold lakes in northern Canada. And Saskatchewan has its share of these pristine waters. So, if this is the year you’re finally going to make that epic quest for a bucket-list laker (30, 40, maybe even 50-plus pounds), here’s a quick guide to the world-class trout fishing you can find here.
At roughly 175 miles in length and 30 miles at its widest, Lake Athabasca has about 3,000 square miles of surface area, reaches depths of more than 400 feet, and is arguably the home of Saskatchewan’s premier lake trout fishery. Mighty lake trout grow slowly in its cold water, so though it takes many years, they can reach immense sizes. The largest lake trout on record, in fact, was a 102-pound fish caught on Athabasca by subsistence fishermen.
Through June and July, the depths remain unbearably cold, so lakers of all sizes haunt the top 20 feet or so of the water column where they’ll readily take a big 3-ounce spoon, T-55 Flatfish, or a squid-and-dodger trolled on 25- to 30-pound mono. By August, when the deeper holes have warmed up and big trout find their comfort zones, vertical jigging becomes an option.
Athabasca offers adventurous anglers a genuine shot at a laker of a lifetime, so if this is your dream, check out Lakers Unlimited (306) 864-8087, or Indian Head Fishing Lodge (800) 301-4896, and Blackmur’s Athabasca Fishing Lodges (877) 922-0957, all of which have a longstanding reputation for producing trophy-class lake trout for their guests.
Known as a factory that produces giant northern pike by the thousands, Wollaston Lake is rather unique in that it drains both into the Arctic Ocean through Lake Athabasca and the Mackenzie River, and into Hudson Bay via Reindeer Lake and the Churchill River. More than that . . . it’s also an amazing lake trout destination.
Catching a trophy of 40 or 50 pounds may take a bit of patience and persistence, according to the angling experts at Wollaston Lake Lodge (800) 328-0628, but it can be done — and has been done many times over. Also in a prime location on the lake is Minor Bay Lodge (888) 244-7453.
Prime time is early June through late July, when fish are shallow and aggressive. If casting flies to monster lakers is your dream, however, you might want to hold off until late August, when lake trout begin to spawn on reefs and other shallow structure. Wollaston Lake Lodge is “Orvis Endorsed,” and has the expertise and equipment required for an excellent fly fishing experience.
Straddling Saskatchewan’s border with Manitoba, Reindeer Lake offers some 2 million acres of surface area to fish. So, if you’re a believer in the “big water, big fish” theory, it deserves serious consideration during your trip planning process.
Reindeer is the 10th largest lake in North America, as well as an exceptional producer of oversize lake trout, according to the folks at Reindeer Lake Lodge (789) 635-2165 located on the western shoreline mid-way up the lake. Guests have caught hundreds of lakers of 20 or more pounds, with some in excess of 60 pounds, they say. On the eastern side, check out Arctic Lodges (888) 353-2432.
What makes Reindeer different from other expansive waters in the area is that it’s peppered with islands — more than 5,000, actually. They not only provide an extraordinary amount of structure, but also create a vast array of sheltered areas where anglers can fish in relative calm on the windiest days.
With 1,725 square miles of surface area, Cree Lake isn’t as large as some of Saskatchewan’s other lake trout jewels, but it’s still an expansive body of water — and does produce trophy-class fish. Twenty pounders are common and anglers have a real chance of catching fish much heavier.
Again, most fish are fairly shallow from ice out to mid-summer, so targeted trolling tactics work best. Later, 1- to 4-ounce jigs dressed with a bulky 6-inch soft plastic lure will take lakers in deeper water.
Cree might not boast the same legendary status as the other three lakes mentioned here, but its reputation has, and still is, growing. It’s a prime choice for anglers looking for consistent action, as well as an opportunity to catch the fish of a lifetime. Contact Cree Lake Lodge, (780) 870-6510.
These are just a small sampling of the many outstanding places you can go to experience exceptional lake trout fishing in Saskatchewan. After you’ve explored all the lodge’s websites, visit TourismSaskatchewan.com for details on dozens of other hotspots.