Lake trout have long been a favorite of northern anglers and it only takes one or two experiences to figure out why. There are few freshwater fish that taste delicious, grow to giant sizes in the north, and can therefore put up one heck of a challenge when hooked!
Many long-timer anglers talk about hitting that special moment just as day is fading into night, or just after sunset, when lake trout “go on a feeding frenzy.” This is a rumor that has a strong life, but is it true?
According to multiple professional guides, lake trout are not more likely to feed at night than during the day. In fact, the general consensus seems to be that lake trout actually feed MORE during the day than at night, making the night feeding frenzy rumors false.
So if lake trout feed more during the day than at night then how do you give yourself the best chance for catching lake trout if you can only go fishing at night or in the late evening?
Do Lake Trout Feed at Night at All?
Lake trout don’t have an automatic switch that takes them from feeding consistently to not eating at all. So, yes, it is possible to catch lake trout at night because there will be lake trout that eat at night depending on the lake, time, season, and just how many fish are actually hungry.
The season can also make a difference. This in-depth study of lake trout feeding habits in the state of Alaska indicate that the depth where lake trout are found, how much they feed, and where in the lake, depends heavily on the season.
Just because lake trout tend to be most active during the day in general, and the morning in particular, doesn’t mean that you can’t catch them at night. Especially in the spring where they are more active to come up after ice break and feed on the many insects returning to the water’s surface.
Most Common Feeding Times for Lake Trout
Several of the northern fishing guides I talked to were honestly a bit flummoxed at where this rumor came from. “You’re far better getting up in the very early morning,” one commented, suggesting that the best “night” time to fish is in the 20 minutes before dawn.
From multiple studies done by state and federal wildlife agencies in both the United States and Canada, there are two times that seem to most often pop up as when lake trout are the most actively feeding.
- Extreme early morning like dawn, as well as the 20 minutes before and after (pre-dawn & post dawn)
- Some window between 20-90 minutes of time that most often occurs between 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Now keep in mind, each lake is going to have its own variations that can alter these times. When does the lake warm up? When are Arctic voles and large bug populations most active?
Unusual weather or outside factors affecting a lake’s ecosystem could also affect the natural feeding habits of the lake trout in these habitats.
Where Do You Find Lake Trout at Night?
Finding lake trout at night can be a bit tricky. The key to doing this well is to actually do research during the daylight hours. Lake trout tend to come up to more shallow areas at night when it’s cooler, but they don’t just come up to all shallow water.
Lake trout are looking for very specific areas.
Where do lake trout show up at night?
You are looking for four main things to help you pinpoint where you’re most likely to hit some lake trout willing to feed at night.
- Areas where creeks, rivers, and currents feed into standing lake water
- The areas where currents dissipate over an area
- Where the eddies in the lake are
- Any of those top three areas that received little to no boat traffic during the day
If you look for these areas your chances of nighttime success fishing for lake trout is going to go up dramatically.
How Do Lake Trout Feed?
This depends heavily on the season, the time of day, and to a lesser extent the individual factors that alter a population of lake trout in any given body of water.
Generally lake trout are most active feeding in the spring to early summer, move a bit to deeper water during the summer, and then in fall have on and off days of feeding heavily but then retreating back to eating a lot of plankton.
Lake trout are a fish that can be active during the winter, and they are caught with some regularity from ice fishing. Because the water is so cold they are going to come up to shallower water at that point.
They are not nearly as affected by low oxygen levels as many other popular freshwater game fish, so this is less of an issue for them.
What Do Lake Trout Eat?
This section might be called “teach me what to look at for bait.” Fair enough. One of the reasons why lake trout tend to thrive, especially in waters where there are big pike and muskellunge populations to be wary of is because of their wide diet.
That and the willingness to avoid shallow weedy areas in preference to deep sections of lake.
Just a small list of things lake trout love to eat (only some of which are commonly available for bait) includes:
- Alewives (also a favorite of northern pike)
- Small grayling
- Small insects
- Insect larvae
- Local baitfish
- Smaller fish
- Arctic voles
Depending on the lake there might be something local that the lake trout there love and are used to hitting. Talking to local guides or long-time anglers in the area can help you learn what works and what doesn’t.
How Do I Catch More Lake Trout at Night?
Above all else, observing the eddies, currents, and other spots of a lake where water bugs or insects are going to be shoved in mass matters most. If you don’t fish in the right place then it doesn’t matter how good your techniques are, they won’t get the job done.
Assuming you’ve found the right spots one of the best things you can do is use artificial bait or lures. While live bait is a favorite among many guides during the day, then at night to separate your bait from everything else in the area you need to stick out.
Glowing lures are a great way to do this. Add in the fact that lake trout tend to love clear water and hate brackish water, and that little glow can make a huge difference to help them see your lure and strike at it.
The final verdict is pretty clear. While it’s always possible to get a night lake trout here or there, this is not the best time to catch lake trout. So if you can only fish for lake trout at night, go for it and use the tips in this article to give you the best chance of success.
You don’t need some magical semi-mythical lake trout feeding frenzy at night in order to catch a great stringer of this delicious freshwater fish. Use smart fishing strategies, talk to local guides, and pay attention to local waters, and you will enjoy your lake trout fishing experience.