How Lake Trout Fishing Works

Trolling for Lake Trout

Trolling means slowly dragging a line through deep water. Most trolling is ­motorized -- from a boat whose motor has been quieted so as not to frighten the fish away. However, people occasionally stroll and troll, dragging their lines by walking along the shore. Obviously, you can't do that everywhere. Once again, know your location.

In general, the faster your boat moves, the higher your hook rides in the water. Think of a banner attached to a car antenna: When the car moves fast, the banner flies out behind; when the car moves slowly, the banner droops lower. That's exactly the way a trolling line falls behind a boat. The other factor here is the line's weight. The heavier the line, the more friction it creates in the water.


Your trolling equipment should include

  • A spinning reel or bait caster
  • A rod -- either a heavy trolling rod with heavy line, a spinning rod, or a more sensitive light-action rod with light line
  • A weight to maintain depth -- probably two or three ounces, depending on your speed and the season since lake trout typically swim deeper in warmer months
  • A light lure or trolling spoon shaped like a small minnow, or a live minnow, hooked through the lips so that it can still move
  • A downrigger to attach your rod (or rods) to the boat

Once the boat starts moving, let out your line a few feet at a time, until you feel the weight hit the lakebed. You can often estimate depth by letting out your line carefully, but you might want to invest in a depth finder.

You may want to use a swivel or a three-way swivel to attach a weight to your line and leave your lure free to move. The weight should hang about 4 feet below the swivel. If you use this approach, reel in a couple of feet of line after you feel the weight hit bottom.

To learn more, visit the links below.


R­elated HowStuffWorks Articles


  • "Bait and Equipment." Take Me Fishing. (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • "Downrigger Setup and Installation." Lake Michigan Angler. (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • "Exotics: Sea Lampreys." Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council. (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • "Fishing Techniques." Take Me Fishing. (Accessed 11/13/08)
  • "Lake Michigan Fishing Tips." Lake Michigan Angler. (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • "Lake Trout Fishing." Freshwater Fishing Canada. (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • "Lake Trout (Salvelinus namaycush)." Take Me Fishing. (Accessed 11/12/08)
  • Marsh, Ed. "Spoon Jigging for Trout in Lakes." Luhr Jensen/Lake Michigan Angler. (Accessed 11/13/08)
  • Skrzec, Gary. "The Art of Lake Trout Fishing." Seine River Lodge. (Accessed 11/12/08)