5 Trout Trolling Tactics to Catch More Fish By Paul Lewis
Summer is arriving- that means trout which have enjoyed the ability to roam the shallow waters of the lakes they call home will be pushing off and congregating in deeper and colder waters, which stay in the mid-60’s or cooler. Trolling is the preferred method in lakes this time of year, but aside from using our regular trolling tactics, how else can we increase our changes of putting fish in the boat? Between lures, speeds, and lake-specifics, there is a plethora of things that turn a slow or average day into a great one. This article will cover 5 key elements of putting more fish in your boat.
5: Lake Contour
Every lake has different topography, which can be a crucial part of locating fish. Often, when trolling for trout, we forget about structure relation, which affects trout for a number of reasons, namely bait relation. Fish follow bait, so when a contour which is great for bait holding arises, it will be a key place to troll. Many of our lakes in the summertime have shallow areas with drop-offs near them. Since trout live in colder water, they will live in the cooler waters on the deep ends of drop-offs, while baitfish will congregate on the shallower side. Even a 3 or 4-foot drop-off is one to focus in on, but spots where there are drop offs of 6, 8, or 12 feet are the best, as there will be cooler water on one side and nice bait holding on the other. Using chart plotting technology is the most beneficial, but if you’re not equipped with that, using regular sonar and trolling perpendicular to the shoreline or searching for lake maps on Google are good alternatives. As water temperatures rise, look for deeper drop-offs in at least 30 feet of water. In early summer, you can still find good drop-offs tight into the shore while the fish are still moving out.
4: Lake Inhabitants
We all know about matching the hatch, but what is the best bait to key in on? This will depend on depth and the main food sources of a particular lake at a certain time. Lots of smaller lakes are host to an abundance of warmwater species such as perch and sunfish, which will be key targets for trout. In larger lakes, there will be stickleback, chub, and shiner species- all of which hold deeper and offer great schooling food sources for trout to relate to. Using appropriately colored and sized lures in these spots will lead to more success. In larger lakes with tributaries, focusing on smolt returning to the main lake is a fantastic tactic to locate fish. These tributaries could have returning salmon smolt, kokanee fry, a host of sucker species, and more.
3: Water temperature and where to fish:
Like all cold-blooded species, trout become more active when water temperatures are warmer (although temperatures above the high 60’s will create issues for them, so depth is paramount in the summer). Warmer waters lead to more movement and faster metabolism- thus the need to eat more. Trout will not be afraid of erratic or large baits. Lots of winter fishing requires more finesse, but trout need to meet the demands of their metabolism and will be feeding more heavily. In turn, since the lake temperatures above the thermocline will be changing significantly with sun, trout will feed heavily at certain times of day and then go deep as the sun warms the water above the thermocline. The same occurs at dusk, as the water begins to cool again. Because of this, early morning and late evening trolls are great times to fish higher in the water column, then as the sun warms, moving deeper and running baits deeper will help to stay on fish.
2: Trolling Speeds
In the summer we can troll faster due to trout having higher metabolisms. Spoons, spinners, plugs, and swimbaits all fish well in general, but speed can be the difference between action and nothing. Understanding the bait that you are trolling is a key part of trolling speeds. Spinners and swimbaits put off a lot of action when trolling slower (1.3-2 MPH), whereas spoons and plugs/crankbaits do very well at faster speeds (2-3 MPH). The lure to choose comes down to several factors including the hatch, time of day, how much water you are looking to cover (a new lake may be ideal to cover and learn the water, whereas a known lake may have favorite spots), and most importantly, confidence. Fishermen often underestimate how much confidence has to do with lure selection, but trolling baits that you know will put off the action you are looking for makes all the difference.
1: Variety – The Spice of Life
When trout fishing, every day can be different. Shoot, every hour can be different! Switching locations, gear, scents, depths, speeds, and contouring can make all the difference to unlocking fish. As a rule of thumb, if a bite dies off or you are marking fish in a certain area, switching gear every 30-45 minutes until you figure out the bite will keep fish on your line. Even if a lure has been hot for a few hours but then dies back off, switch it up for a while and then go back to it later. Having a lot of lures isn’t necessary, but a couple different selections of spoons, spinners, and plugs give plenty of variety for the day.
Hopefully these tips help you to put some delicious summer trout in your boat. With warm water and outside temperatures, taking good care of fish becomes extremely important. Always bring a cooler with ice, bleed the fish out, and get them on the cold as quick as possible. This will keep the meat firm and perfect for the table.