Lake trout were first introduced in our area in the late 1800’s, when they were stocked into Lewis Lake. Over the years, the smaller fish made their way down the Lewis River and into the upper Snake River drainage. Once in Jackson Lake, the fish grew, spawned and started a good population of their own. The Wyoming Game and Fish has further enhanced this fishery by planting fish and doing extensive studies. Jackson Lake is now a trophy Mackinaw fishery, with a Wyoming state record 50 pound fish to its name.
Excellent fishing on Jackson Lake starts right after ice out, usually early to mid May but sometimes as late as early June. At this time the fish are in the shallows in search of baitfish, which makes them especially vulnerable to bank fishermen. Concentrate your efforts on points, shallow coves and large flats bordering drop offs.
Once the warmer weather sets in and the water warms these fish will spend the majority of their time in water 80‑200 feet deep. This makes them out of the range of the fly fisherman and for the most part, the shore spin fisherman too. Anglers using trolling rigs or vertically jigging will do well in the middle of the summer.
In mid‑September the water temperatures start to drop, triggering the spawning urge of the lake trout. The Mackinaw spawn on deep wind‑swept points in 20‑90 feet of water with gravel and boulder strewn bottoms. The fish become the most active at sunset and in the night. Midday action can be incredible if a big storm rolls through. I’ve had excellent action in severe snow storms in late September. Be careful at this time of year, as the water is cold and the waves can swamp a small boat in no time. Jackson Lake is closed in October to protect the spawning macs and opens up again in November.
Tackle is very similar to other lakes of this size and your choice depends on the season. For spinning gear in the spring and fall I recommend a medium action with 8‑12 pound test line. Some of the favorite lures include Krocodiles, Panther Martins, Flatfish, Rapalas, Kastmasters, jigs and Jake’s Spin‑A‑Lure. As I said, in the middle of the summer you’re best off with a trolling rig.
Although fly fishing is not easy on a lake of this size, it can be done, especially if you have a float tube or canoe. Because of the wind, have a 9 foot rod for a 6 or 7 weight line. Both sinking and shooting tapers will all be useful for fishing here. Some suggested wet patterns should include Wooly Buggers, Zonkers, Conehead Zuddlers and Clouser Minnows. Early in the season is the best time for fly fishing, but you can also have some luck in the middle of the season if you fish early and late in the day.