The three most targeted fish species in the Yukon are lake trout, Arctic grayling and pike, and are sought after in that order.
Lake trout are active all year, but prime time for them is right after the ice goes out in May and lasts until late June, especially in the bigger lakes.
Our waters never really warm up, but through the spring and into early summer the surface temperatures rise enough to get this cold-water fish deeper down and harder to locate.
Lake trout are abundant and they’re hungry in this early part of the season, often feeding on insects right at the surface and bait-fish in the shallows.
For a number of years I fished the spring time the same as the rest of the summer. I’d use my depth sounder to find drop-offs and fish along the edge of the deeper water.
Not too many years ago, mostly through boredom and lack of action, I moved closer to shore and cast into flooded willows and trolled in the shallows along the shoreline. I started catching a lot more fish than in my previous efforts.
One of many lake trout Larry Leigh has caught in Yukon waters PHOTO: courtesy Larry Leigh
I was suddenly catching 3-10 pound lakers in three to 12 feet of water, and it was a lot easier than all the frustration that went with using the manually operated downrigger in the deeper water.
In this shallower water, the boat can disturb fish, so using a side planer runs the lure closer to shore and on a different line than the boat. Occasionally it is sight-fishing, where you are casting to some of the many fish you will see.
Water depth has a lot to do with the choice of lures as some run deeper than others with the same amount of line out. Shallow running crank-baits, hot colour flutter spoons, Scyclops and traditional favourites like Five of Diamonds, Ruby-eye, Gibb-Stewart and assorted William spoons are all good choices.
On very still evenings, dry flies are often productive. These fish are fighters and a larger one can put your gear to the test. They are very strong right from the first hit and the fight gets even tougher as soon as they see the boat.
The Yukon fishing regulations need to be read and understood, as there are slot limits, maximum sizes, hook rules including, barbed, barbless (single or treble) and five different daily harvest and possession limits, all depending on which of the three water-body classifications you have chosen to fish.
It is embarrassing and expensive to learn the rules by way of a ticket or the loss of your tackle.
Learn proper live-release techniques, as the size and harvest limits require that some fish be released unharmed. Most landing nets harm the fish, or at least complicate the live release.
Net only the fish you are sure you are keeping. Put tape or felt marker slot-limit sizes on the net handle, paddle and sides of the boat. If it’s a fish that must be released, don’t even take it out of the water.
Photos are often a must, but be kind to the fish by having your partner ready with the camera, hold the fish horizontally without touching the gills and minimize the length of time the fish is out of the water.
Fish care is as important as meat care. Fish do not have the connective tissue found in red meat, so they do not retain their quality and good taste if not cared for properly.
If it’s a keeper, kill it quickly, bleed it and bag it in a cooler with ice in it. Keep the cooler out of the sun.
Lake trout are among our most delicious fish. Like all fish it should not be overcooked.
Try baking or barbecuing it, stuffed or unstuffed, with or without tin-foil wrap. Leave the skin on fillets and BBQ skin side down with a brush of olive oil and sprinkling of lemon pepper.
There are numerous packaged batter mixes and spiced coatings but rolling in flour, dipping in milk and egg, and coating with bread or corn-flake crumbs is an old standby that never fails to please.