In Search of "Salvelinus namaycush" and "Salvelinus confluentus"!

 

Ya, I know, a fancy name that doesn't mean much to us laymen but, I thought I'd spice up the title for a change.  With our first ever Char derby coming up in June I figured it only fair to give those entering a better chance at catching these critters, 'cause they can be alot of fun!

Lake Trout and Bull Trout are found throughout the Shuswap Lake system, and that includes Mara Lake.  Although I haven't fished as much for them on the Shuswap or Seymour Arm's of the lake, they are there and in great numbers.  Spots like Ruckel Pt. and Nine Mile Point can be terrific spots to drop a line, but then that goes for most of the rest of the system as well.  I'm going to concentrate on my side of the Shuswap Lake system as that is where I have found it to be most productive for catching these species of fish.

First off, contrary to what some think, these fish are a sport fish and not a garbage fish so they should be treated with the same respect as your illustrious rainbow trout.  They can fight more or much less than the rainbow and tend to "bulldog" much more than rainbows do.  While they may not put up much of a fight to start with the bigger Char will give you quite a back and forth tussle once at the boat.  Have good gear, the small spin cast rod with 8 lb test line probably won't do, so your rainbow gear with 14 lb+ line is the way to go.  The Char (especially Lake Trout) have horrendously sharp teeth, more so than rainbows.  They also like to "twirl" when caught and get the line in their yap and it doesn't take much to cut the line.  Be very careful when extracting a hook from their mouth as you'll wind up with multiple cuts on your fingers and hands if you dig in to deep, good pliers are a must.

This time of year (April) the Char will be hanging throughout the water column, but, come summer they dislike warm water so hit the deep spots on the lake or in front of river mouths where cooler water is coming in.  Because you'll be bringing up Lake Trout from the depths they have a major problem with "off gassing" air from their air bladder.  So what happens is you get the fish to the surface, its belly is bloated, and you cannot get it to go back down even though it is full of life and fight!  Hence the "Put 'Em Back Fish Release" gizmo I made up.  Down in the States there is a thing called "fizzing" that the anglers do to release air from the fish's bladder.  Their technique consists of a hypodermic needle that they insert into the fish's air bladder and withdraw the excess air.   Needless to say this method is frowned upon simple because the persons using the needles are anglers and not Dr's and half the time they wind up piercing other parts of the fish that can kill it, let alone any infection that may arise.  The gizmo (Article) is simple and effective in getting those bloated fish back down to the depth they were caught at.  There's nothing worse than seeing a bunch of Lake Trout flopping all over the surface of the lake, unable to go back down simply because of bad gas!

Now for the meat and potatoes to catching these fish.  Downriggers are a must, if you don't have one, borrow one or rig something up to get at least one line down to some depth.  Depth doesn't necessarily mean 400' but an optimum depth for everything in this lake is either 48' or 84'.  For those with downriggers, the shoals I fish are 90' to 140' in depth. The best spots, right close to Sicamous!  Although I do love going up to the Narrows it isn't necessary and as there are anglers who don't have bigger boats and the weather could be crappy, right in close to town can be fantastic fishing. Check my map (Article) for the spots I mention or pick up a Suncruiser magazine for more detailed maps.  As you leave the launch and head onto the lake, Semaphore Pt. is along the railway tracks.  It is a small jut of land into the lake and can be amazing trolling and jigging spot for Char.  Depths range from 60 to 140' for fishing here.  I've found that fishing over deeper water will produce more fish in June, so rather than hug the shore stay out in deeper water.  If you do have downriggers keep one at 112' and follow the bottom contours, keeping your lure from zero to 10' off the deck.

Keep following the tracks until you come to the first tunnel, there is a light at the point.  Right off that point and deeper is a good spot.  Remember that this is all rainbow country as well, run your second line up higher from zero to 48' to cover it.  If you pull up your lines at this light and head further south towards Salmon Arm you'll find Annis Bay, only another km or so from the light.  There is a small cottage right on the tracks, it has a flag out front.  From this spot and out to the middle of Annis Bay can be great fishing and has produced some of the bigger lake trout, but by going right to the bottom and again following the bottom contours.  OK, pull your lines, we're headed back to town.

Coming out of the launch and staying right, you'll go by the Eagle River.  This can be a dynamite spot for Lakers and bull trout.  Stay deeper than 40' and work back and forth in front of the river, going out as deep as 120'.  This area is where I jigged up that 17 lb Bull last year!  From the Eagle you can troll through Old Towne Bay which is right beside the Eagle but again stay out in the deeper water.  If you troll all the way up the side you'll hit Murdock Pt..  Just before you round the corner at Murdock is a great spot for Lakers, fishing 80' to 140' of depth.  The contours here are great for the fish as they "stack up" all along them when they feed.  What I have found is that the Lake Trout move from real deep water (300-400') and up to these shallow spots to feed on whatever is in the area.  If they are "stacking up" they'll be very obvious on your sounder and this is where you put both lines down and right in their face.

Straight across from Murdock and on the west side of the lake is the Totem Resort, that's why there's a Totem Pole there!  I fish approx. 1 km south of the Pole, just past the last residence on that strip of lakefront property.  In fact, this is one of my fav spots for Laker fishing!  There is a underwater finger of land that juts out nearly a half mile from shore and the Lakers can really stack up around here.  When I was guiding it was not uncommon to catch 10-15 fish in less than a couple of hours and all of good size.  The "finger" is only 125' deep but drops off on both sides to 300' of water!  For those that don't mind travelling a bit, Marble Pt. is north of Murdock, approx. 5 miles, super Char fishing.  A km south of the light is a large rock cliff area, great great Bull Trout area against the wall (100-150' deep) and then out a bit further for Lakers.  Follow the shoreline up to the light but stay out in at least 80' of water and out to 140' of water.  The best thing to do for this shoal fishing is the good old "S" pattern kind of fishing, zig zagging from shallow to deep water.  Carry on past the light and you'll find one of the best Laker spots around!  Keep in the 90-140' of water and troll for about a half km past the light and then swing back and cover the same area.   From Marble, the next best spot is on the East side of the Cinnimousin Narrows.  The Narrows are 13 miles from Sicamous.  Fishing from the entrance of the Narrows (the Sea Stores might be out here by June so don't get to close to them, longggggggggg mooring cables hold them in place!) work right out in front in that 80 to 120' of water and then work south, doing the same zig zag trolling stuff.  If you go north from the entrance (another light here) work in the 80-120' zone, go a couple hundred yards past the light and then swing back and work the area in a big circle.  Huge Lakers hang out around here, it can also be a great jigging spot.  Beware however, of the dreaded "I Don't Give A Crap!" boaters in this spot.  It bottlenecks pretty bad here when the Sea Stores are in operation and 98% of the boats don't give a hoot that your fishing, don't be having any surface lines out here!

The Magic hooks!  There are none, well, not really, Lake and Bull Trout are hungry buggers and when they're on the feed they'll take pretty much whatever goes by their yap.  There are however, a few "go to" hooks that have been more productive than others over the years.  With Lake Trout, they are either taking spoons or Apex's but not both on the same day.  What I mean is that if your marking lots of fish and your spoons are not working, toss on a Apex and give that a try.  If that doesn't work then a flasher/hootchie or flasher/spoon. For whatever reason, they seem to "key in" on a specific action and a spoon and a Apex are totally different.  My best spoons have been the big chartreuse Canoe spoon, 50/50 FST spoon or big blk/whi Len Thompson spoon.  Now, any of these spoons in a different color may work as well, big is good with Lake Trout.  With Apex's, the Slow Troll models are my first choice and for colors, blk/gry, prpl/prearl, chartreuse/pearl (with spots), blu/pearl glow, Cop Car can all work extremely well.  A Apex that is out of the norm is what I call Marv's Mango, its orange/pearl and although I have not caught as many Lake Trout on it as Marv has (its also a tremendous rainbow and Bull Trout lure!) this hook is my "go to" on Kal Lk for Lake Trout.  I learned this secret from an elderly chap (94!!!!!!!) one day while on Kal.  He said it resembles a cray fish which is a big Laker food source in many lakes.  Whatever the reason, it has brought up some hugggggge fish for me on Kal and a few on Shu!  If your using a flasher, grn flasher/green hootchie or red flasher/whi hootchie have been very productive.   Also, a grn flasher with a grn/whi Coyote spoon, amaaaaaaaaaaaaazzzing!  I had some clients out in the Totem area one year and this setup absolutely slayed the Lake Trout, we could barely get it down to depth and the fish were smoking it!  Great for rainbows as well.

For Bull Trout, of the areas mentioned the best have been Semaphore Pt., the Eagle River and Murdock Pt..  They tend to stay up higher in the water column, so from 48' to 84'.  Bull Trout seem to like shiny stuff and more spoons than Apex's but with that said however, Marv's Mango has taken some nice Bulls.  The FST in all chrome and Ruby Red Eye in all chrome have worked very well, as do Coyote or Kroc spoons in all chrome with red or green on them.  Bulls are also big on the flasher/hootchie combo's and those mentioned here can work great on them as well.  I have no doubt that there will be more Lakers caught than Bull's so there's not much point in carrying on about the Bull Trout.

Also contrary to what some anglers think, Lakers are a great eating fish.  The secret to this species is to not eat the larger fish, lets say bigger than 8lbs.  Lake Trout are slow growing fish and get more body fat as they get older and bigger.  It is this fat that tends to turn anglers off from eating the fish.  With the smaller legal fish (60 cm minimum, one per day or total of 5 a year) you don't get this fat buildup.  I fillet them, put them skin side down on the barby with a little olive oil on the flesh side and season to your liking.  They are good eating!  Bull Trout can have a more pink meat and don't seem to get the fat buildup that Lakers do but again, and as with all species of fish, the smaller ones do taste better.

With respect to rainbow's in the lake, there are huge ones here and apparently even the odd Girrard that has shown up from unknown sources.  The same fodder you use on Okanagan Lk will work here.  In June there will be large amounts of fry in the various bays, great spots to yank your fav bucktail flies.  That or the Trout Killer Apex's in pnk/chrome or blu/chrome work well.  Something else I 've had great luck on is the gold Lyman plug but in the small 2" version.  Small but deadly!  Rainbows are in all the areas I've covered, the better spots at Semaphore, Murdock and Marble.  If you do venture to "the other side" of the Narrows, Ruckel Pt. and Wildrose Bay are terrific for rainbows.

That's about it, I hope this will give everyone a little better idea as to where to go and what to use.  It's always intimidating when first fishing a new and huge lake.  I've found these areas over years of fishing the lake and they have without a doubt been the most productive for me and for my clients when I was guiding.  I also don't believe in trolling from spot to spot if there's any distance involved, but rather pull the lines and blast there and fish the new area.  If fishing is dead slow then it doesn't matter where you fish and then it may be better to just troll around, but with Char fishing in the summer they are usually everywhere!  Good luck people!                  Sherm