Many of you ask quite frequently how difficult it is to catch mackinaw (lake trout) on Flaming Gorge. And, quite honestly, I respond by saying that at times they can be easy to catch, and then at other times it seems like I am fishing in The Dead Sea.
This past week, however, I was finally able to spend some quality time figuring out fall lakers and this week’s column, if nothing else, should inspire perhaps one more trip to Flaming Gorge before Thanksgiving.
For a month now, the lake trout have been heading in mass to their spawning beds. I fish from the pipeline (over the border in Wyoming) to the Hideout area just south of Sheep Creek, so much of my time is spent fishing in the Lucerne area.
The community hole in is an old gravel pit that holds the perfect underwater gravel humps that attract all lake trout large or small. While watching my Lowrance fish finder last Thursday, I charted a school that extended from 30 feet deep to 60 feet. That means the school was 30 feet thick!
Due to very great weather on Thursday, I was able to fish from 8:30-11 a.m., take a break for a few hours and then return at 3 p.m. and fish for two more hours before a late wind forced me off the reservoir.
Since a favorite method of catching lake trout is to use five-inch tube jigs on 3/4-ounce jig heads, I developed a system in which I fished two rods, a white tube and a green tube, both tipped with a small piece of sucker meat. Normally, I would fish one rod only because lake trout are notorious for biting one time and one time only, so if you are not holding your rod you will NEVER hook a fish.
However, not knowing for sure which color was right for the day, I dropped both colors down to 65 feet right in the middle of a large school, dropped both rods to the deck and watched the rod tips for signs of a strike.
Within a few minutes, I saw the rod with the green tube twitch. I immediately picked it up, felt another tick and set the hook on a 24-inch beauty. Then, the white rod twitched. I repeated the processed, picked up the rod, waited for a second tick, set the hook and brought in another fine fish.
All told, by 11 a.m. I had caught 20 lake trout that averaged 22 inches in length. And, since a family fish fry is on the schedule for early November, I kept a 12-fish limit.
Later that day, I headed out to the gravel pit to try for some burbot. Instead, I caught and released 12 lake trout that weighed between seven and 10 pounds each. Clearly, this was a great day on the water.
The very next day, the bite changed entirely. I still caught fish in the morning but only brought 12 fish to the boat, missing perhaps 20 bites. But, a friend of mine texted me and said the lake trout were biting near some kokanee beds and told me to get over and take advantage of a “great” bite.
Armed with a three-inch white tube without sucker meat, I found my buddy working a bank on the south side of the Lucerne area and just as predicted, I caught lake trout quite literally on every other cast.
Between now and Thanksgiving, all over Flaming Gorge, the “pup” lake trout will be targeting kokanee spawning beds to eat their eggs. With a liberal 12-fish limit, I can’t imagine a better fall fishing trip than to try for huge lakers on their beds and then shift gears and work the shorelines for some 18- to 24-inch lake trout on lighter rods and smaller tubes.
There is no doubt that the Gorge is red hot … even flaming.