When most anglers think of vertical-jigging lake trout, fall and winter and winter come to mind—not necessarily summer. But here’s the deal: Visit Fort Peck, Montana, and June and July can produce lake trout in both numbers and size.
We talked with Northern Minnesota guide, Tom Neustrom, who visits Fort Peck a few times of year with his wife, Renee, and friends. They just returned home to Grand Rapids, Minnesota, Monday, June 5th, from a very successful trip to Fort Peck where they rented a house within a mile of the Duck Point Landing located right in Fort Peck.
Bucking the trolling trend common to many summertime anglers chasing Fort Peck lakers, Neustrom and company vertically jigged all their fish with the help of electronics, watching lakers literally clobber 3- to 4-inch paddletails on ½- to ¾-ounce jigs right on their Humminbird screens.
High Probability Laker Locations
“We fished a lot of points on Fort Peck. The Gilbert Bay area produced lots of fish—and the York Island area was very good. The thing with York Island is there are a lot of little humps off of the points that are connected to the main island, and they were just loaded with fish,” offers Neustrom.
In terms of depth, Neustrom says you don’t have to ply 100-foot depths like might have to on a lot of lake trout waters. “We caught all our fish between 50 and 70 feet. 60 feet seemed to be the magic number.”
While they didn’t catch many fish on their first day, days two and three were an absolute smack-fest.
“You have to search out lake trout. If I don’t mark fish, I don’t stop,” notes Neustrom. “We kept trying new spots. Bell Point is an area where we fished and did well. It’s up the main arm of the lake on the south end. Still, I think the York Island area produced the most fish for us.”
Neustom calls Fort Peck lake trout “brutes” and says he, Renee, and Judy lost as many fish as they caught.
“When you mark three, four, or five fish together they become very competitive and will chase any bait that’s down there. It’s amazing how they react. It’s an absolute slam-fest. We had lots of doubles and triples on,” adds Neustrom.
Neustrom uses a 7 ½ foot medium or medium-heavy power, fast action St. Croix spinning rod, a 2500 size Daiwa Ballistic reel, and 20-pound braid tied with a double-unit knot to an 8-foot section of 10-pound test fluorocarbon.
“You drop straight to the bottom, crank up three times, let it sit; crank up three times, let it sit; and then reel casually to the surface. A lot of times the lake trout will hit it on the straight retrieve to the surface,” advises Neustrom.
Neustrom says the cadence is kind of a “different deal”.
“You can’t just sit there and jig like you might with a Rippin’ Rap style bait. You have to fish it differently. We didn’t troll at all – we caught all our fish vertically jigging,” adds Neustrom.
Neustrom’s experience on Fort Peck over the past several years has convinced him that in terms of average fish size, it’s the best lake trout fishing in the lower 48 states.
“I think June and July are probably the best months to come out. They’re on the chew. We cleaned a couple to smoke and every fish was packed with 4”-5” silvery baitfish,” observes Neustrom.
With any big water, anglers should keep an eye on long-term weather forecasts when planning a visit to fish Fort Peck, Montana.
“For us, we had very little wind so the vertical fishing was easy. But wind can be a big factor. You need to look at the long-term weather before you come out. You don’t want 15-30 mph winds. However, there are some places you can hide from the wind, but they’re probably not going to be where the fish are. Best to plan to visit when the weather’s going to be good.”