The Dog Days of August are upon us. With most of our state game fish hunkered down in deep water or spring holes, diehard anglers, those who just never get enough of feeling that tug on the line, will go after lake trout, or, in the Maine vernacular, togue.

V. Paul Reynolds, Outdoors Columnist

This time of year, togue hunters go deep with either down riggers or yards and yards of lead core line.

As a much younger man, one whose father was a dedicated Maine togue fisherman, I often shared a boat with him “dragging” for lake trout at Branch Lake. In those days, the line lashup for togue was pretty standard: lead core line, a swivel, a big shiny Murray Spoon, another swivel, 8 feet of monofilament and a sewn-on smelt or shiner.

The light tackle anglers, who mock and deride togue fishermen as the equivalent of antediluvian scallop draggers, have no understanding or appreciation for the basics of skilled togue angling. It takes intense concentration and focus to “read” a pulsating rod tip and keep that spoon just off the lake bottom without snagging up. In August, those lunker togue are skulking on the lake bottom just waiting for a meal to come along. The best togue anglers are invariably those who can keep that smelt or shiner within striking distance of the bottom dwellers without hooking up on bottom.

Laugh if you choose, but it is close to an art form.

Togue, or lake trout, are the second-largest member of the salmon and trout family. They are distributed from Labrador to Alaska and through the Great Lakes. They have been caught in depths of 300 feet and some live to be more than 20 years old.


In Maine, the record togue was for many years a 31.8-pounder caught in 1958 at Beech Hill pond by Hollis Grindle. Then, in 2020, Erik Poland of Andover, Maine, boated a new state record at Richardson Lake. The monster togue weighed in officially at 39.2 pounds. Poland, an Auburn firefighter, said he caught the fish on a lure. Earlier that year, in 2020, in New Hampshire, Thomas Knight, an ice fisherman, bested that state’s togue record with a 37.6-pounder caught at Big Diamond Lake in the Granite State.

Erik Poland, moments after landing a 39-pound, 3-ounce lake trout on July 2, 2020, in Richardson Lakes in Oxford County. Photo courtesy of Erik Poland

The world’s record togue was a 72-pound fish caught in 1995 at Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories.

From my experience, an 8-pound togue is an exciting fishing experience. Recently at a lake in Hancock County, Clifton angler Tyler Strasenburgh boated a 20-pound togue that measured 35 inches. He said that he fishes with lead core line and sewn-on live bait. He leaves the big spoon in his tackle box and simply streams 20 feet or so of monofilament attached to the end of the lead core line. Catching an 18- or 20-pound togue, even on heavy lead core line, must be quite a thrill.

How do they eat? To be honest, the big ones can be oily and a tad strong. My preference is a young togue, filleted and grilled on the barbecue. If I caught a lunker togue, I would have it smoked by Gerry Lavigne at his Dunlatre Farms smoke house near Milo.

V. Paul Reynolds is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal, an author, a Maine guide and host of a weekly radio program, “Maine Outdoors,” heard at 7 p.m. Sundays on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network. Contact him at

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