February 01, 2013

A splake is a hybrid between a lake trout and brook trout. Splake have been used to produce popular trout fisheries in inland lakes that have excessive fish community competition and will not support brook trout and rainbow trout. Splake can compete in what are called two story lakes. In typical two story trout lakes fish species like bass and bluegill inhabit shallower warmer waters in the summer, and the splake inhabit the cold oxygenated deeper water. Splake have also produced good trout fisheries in near shore waters of the Great Lakes that are accessible to smaller boat anglers, pier and ice anglers.

A nice splake taken by trolling. As genetics work 25 percent of splake look more like the brook trout parent and 25 percent look more like the lake trout parent. The remaining 50 percent look like a combination of the two parents.

Splake are actively feeding and in shallower water in the late fall, on early ice and then again on late ice and early season when the ice clears off. Splake anglers can catch these fish with simple tackle of a fathead minnow or golden shiner suspended under a slip bobber or tip up. Trolling with minnow baits is also very effective in larger waters. Splake are relatively easy to catch and fight well. Splake are used in a “put, grow, and take” fishery to provide good recreation and fish to take home. This is in contrast to a fishery where the Assinica strain of brook trout is used for low bag trophy fisheries or the expense of taking a large boat off shore in the Great Lakes to access good lake trout fishing.

Splake are stocked as yearlings about 6 to 8 inches in length. They are reared at the Marquette State Fish Hatchery where lake trout and brook trout are also raised. Splake are the product of a hybridization of a male brook trout and female lake trout. This yields a fish that is an adequate predator and can attain larger size like the lake trout. The splake also has characteristics of the brook trout by being easy to catch and is often in shallow water. Splake readily eat fish forage as they increase in size. Several of the splake we caught last winter were spitting up young of the year bluegill.

For specific splake fishing regulations you should refer to the Michigan Fishing Guide although in most of the inland lakes in this area minimum size limit for splake is 12 inches. The inland bag limit is five with only three being over 15 inches or larger. On the Great Lakes the splake size limit corresponds with the lake trout size limit in the area you are in on Lake Superior. In Northern Lake Michigan the splake minimum size limit is 10 inches and 15 inches in Green Bay, according to Michigan Conservation Officer Terry Short of Menominee. Of course you must have a trout upgrade on your license (formerly a trout stamp) to fish for splake.

Splake are fairly easily caught and popular with anglers so there is often not much carryover in inland waters from when they become legal sized to the following year. There are a number of stocked inland splake fisheries in the Upper Peninsula. A complete list can be obtained online at the following DNR web address –http://www.michigandnr.com/fishstock. There are only four splake stocked inland waters in the Lower Peninsula one being Maceday Lake in Oakland County and the rest in Montmorency County. Some long time standouts in the western half of the U P are Imp, Ellen, Alice, and Golden Lakes. “Tank and Belle Lakes in Luce County have been good inland splake producers” in the eastern U P according to Steve Scott, Eastern Lake Superior Unit Supervisor. “These two lakes have carryover of splake to larger size,” said Scott. 

From top to bottom, lake trout, splake and brook trout tails are displayed in this Wisconsin DNR Fisheries photograph. The splake tail is intermediate in forking between the forked lake trout and square brook trout tail.

Splake are used in many states to provide a fishery although they often have relatively slow growth until they reach about 14 inches in length. Once they attain that size their growth typically improves as they can utilize inland lake forage fish species more efficiently. Occasionally this growth pattern has been misinterpreted by fisheries managers resulting in splake being dropped as a management tool.

In a very controversial move the entire Northern Lake Michigan and Green Bay splake fisheries were dropped by Lansing DNR Fisheries. The reason stated for dropping the maintenance stocking was the extremely small chance that the hybrid splake would reproduce with lake trout. Lake trout rarely inhabit those waters in Green Bay and Bays De Noc and the splake formerly produced a popular fishery through the ice and early and late season troll fisheries. Chris Wahl of Bay View Bait in Gladstone said “We had really good luck catching nice splake in the fall and early spring troll fishery as well as through the ice in the Bays De Noc.” Both the current and previous Michigan State record splake were both caught in Big Bay De Noc within the last decade. The Fisheries Committee of the Upper Peninsula Sportsman’s Alliance has engaged in discussions with the DNR Fisheries Division about re instating these formerly successful fisheries.

Splake stocking in Lake Superior was maintained and the fisheries there remain healthy. Splake stocking in Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw Peninsula results in an outstanding splake fishery. Phil Schneeberger, Lake Superior Basin Coordinator for the DNR said that “splake provide a fishery for near shore anglers in Lake Superior”. A good fishery is also found at Marquette, Autrain, and Munising Bay. A splake fishery is also available in the Cedarville/ Hessel area of Lake Huron. Some of these Great Lakes fisheries are more available to boat and pier anglers since safe ice is usually not found on those areas of the big lakes. The splake fishery is often a large bonus to early and late season trollers looking for walleye and other species of trout like browns or coho salmon.

If you are looking for some trout fishing action, splake fishing on area trout lakes is a good way to extend your trout fishing season. Splake also make excellent table fare and fight well, so get out and try your luck on the nearest trout lake.