Lake Trout Fishing In The BWCA – An Early Spring Trip!

Lake trout fishing in the BWCA - an artist's rendition of some lake trout.
Lake trout fishing in the BWCA – an artist’s rendition of some lake trout.

Aside from a few charters I have taken over the years on Lake Michigan for salmon and lake trout, I have never really actively pursued lake trout fishing on my own.  Sure, I have had opportunities to go after them on early summer trips to Lake of the Woods, but never did.  As an avid walleye fisherman, I never set aside time for lake trout.  Until now, because I am currently planning to go exclusivity lake trout fishing in the BWCA (Boundary Waters Canoe Area).

As I write this latest blog post this website, TD All Outdoors, is fairly young and only has a dozen or so posts to it.  Currently it is not getting found to much by people who may be searching out the topics I am writing about here.  Which is a bummer, because I would love to get some pointers from people who have fished lake trout in the BWCA.

Luckily there is some good information to be found online, and I have been doing a little research every day to add to my fishing knowledge base.

Lake Trout Fishing In The BWCA – A Spring Solo Trip

As of right now the trip I am planning will be a solo excursion.  It is possible others may decide to go along at a later date, but as of right now all my planning for this trip is being done with the intent of it being solo.  I have up until the time I apply for my access permit to enter the Boundary Waters, for other people to decide if they want to go along.

Me, with a Laker Trout I caught May 20th 2019 in the BWCA.
Me, with a Laker Trout I caught May 20th 2019 in the BWCA.

There are a lot of BWCA lakes that are entry level lakes, or one or two lakes in from entry lakes, that have lake trout in them.  So luckily I don’t have to spend much time paddling to get to waters to fish for them.  My plan is to setup a base camp and do some casual fishing from a lake that is either an entry level lake, or one that is only one or two portages into the BWCA.

I plan to travel light and bring dehydrated meals to eat.  With that said it is my hope to catch at least some lake trout to eat.  Nothing is better than cooking up some fresh caught fish over an open fire while camping.

Fishing Lake Trout In The BWCA In The Spring

From what I head researched online, ice is usually off the BWCA lakes the last week in April or the first week or two in May.  Only once in the past ten yeas did the lakes still have ice on them at the time of the Minnesota fishing opener.

I don’t plan on heading into the boundary waters the weekend of the fishing opener in May, but do plan on my trip by the week after.  Very likely I will plan to have my entry permit for BWCA access in the middle of the week after the fishing opener.

Everything I have read online about lake trout says they are in shallower waters during the early spring shortly after ice is off, usually around 9-14 feet of water.  In the hot moths of summers, when water temperatures are warmer, lake trout head for deeper waters past 50 feet deep.

Canoe on Seagull Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota.
Canoe on Seagull Lake, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota.

It should be pretty easy to fish for them in the spring when they are shallow.  But as a guy who mostly fishes for walleye, I will need to buy some more lake trout specific lures, like more spoons and such, which many BWCA fisherman seem to prefer to use.

Anybody who happens along this blog post, and who has lake trout fishing experience in the spring when they are shallow, please be so kinda and share your bait and lure choices with me in the comments below.  It will much appreciated.

The BWCA In Mid May

I am preparing for a cold trip.  Temperatures in May in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area can be very pleasant, or they can be chilly.  Snow is still a possibility that time of year, though not overly likely.  The average day temps are in the low to mid 60s, which I love.  The average night time temps are on the upper 30s to low 40s.

I have the necessary camping gear to stay warm and be cozy.  I’m pretty darn skilled at maintaining a fire as needed for warmth, cooking, and camp ambiance.  With the proper clothes, gear, and camping/bushcraft skills learned over the past couple decades – no worries when it comes to solo camping and staying warm.

Planning My BWCA Lake Trout Fishing Trip

I’m not going to go into hard details as of right now, such as what lake I am planning to fish, which day I intend to get my access permit for.  It is still a bit early to share same of that information.  As the trip gets closer and final preparations are made I will of course go into more detail.

As of right now I have contacted an outfitter located along the Gunflint Trail and made my trip intentions know.  I asked some questions about fishing on a lake or two I am considering I want to camp and fish on.  There were other questions as well, such as early spring traffic in the BWCA, and ‘ice off’ as well as things I may need to consider for a spring trip.

I will be renting, as of right now, a solo Kevlar canoe from the outfitter.  All the other gear for the trip will be my own.  Of course if a buddy or two decides to go along the need to rent additional canoes (solo or tandem variety) would be in order, and would not be a problem.

I do have a tentative trip planned, meaning I am 90% sure which access point I plan to use, which lake I plan to camp on, and what campsites I am interested in staying at while on the lake. is a great place to go and plan a trip, as is Paddle Planner.  I use both actually to do research for my trips, as they have information on lakes, campsites, and portages.

Of course, having a good set of BWCA maps is also very helpful, which I have and blogged about here: BWCA maps.

More To Come

I’m sure I will be making future updates about this trip.  There are a few pieces of kit I want to buy and upgrade before I go, and when I do I will write product reviews on those items.  Of course as the trip draws closer and I apply for my access permit and nail down 100% my plans, I will be sure to share them here as well.

As mentioned above, I have never done lake trout fishing in the BWCA.  If you have insights into BWCA lake trout fishing in the early spring, I would love to hear from you on what works and what doesn’t.  I’m looking to have a fun spring camping trip, catch a couple ‘lakers’ for a meal or two, and relax.

Thanks for reading,



TD is the owner and publisher of TD All Outdoors. He has been enjoying the outdoors since since he was a child. Over the years he has spent as much time as he can solo wilderness canoe tripping, overlanding, hiking, fishing, bushcrafting, hunting, hammock camping, and more. Aside from this blog, he also own his own coffee brand,

2 thoughts on “Lake Trout Fishing In The BWCA – An Early Spring Trip!

  1. I am going up to the BWCA in late May, 2018 with a group of four and are looking to target Lake Trout as well.

    Would like to understand what bait and tactics you plan to use. We are amateur hacks at fishing, but have a blast each year we go!

    1. Hi Brian,

      I can slay the walleye like a long time pro… trout, aside from fly fishing the streams around where I live in Wisconsin, I don’t have much experience go after the lakers. With that said, I have been doing a lot of research on early season lake trout fishing when the ice is fresh off. Up in the BWCA, it seems early season most people use spoons and rapalas to go after them. I have also heard good things about Acme Kastmaster spoons.

      Colors I have been focusing on adding to my tackle box are silver, gold, trout, and perch. I have spoons in all those colors, some smooth, some indented. From what I have read they like metallic colors. I also have some silver/blue metallic variations. On top of the spoons and raps, I am also bringing in some jogs and plastic baits as well, which I hear can work when spoons and raps aren’t.

      That time of year they should be shallower, between 5 and 15 feet.

      For me it will be a lot of trial and error. I am confident I will find and catch trout, but I will need to do some messing around to see what works.

      Good luck on your trip! I am looking forward to mine.


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