By Jason Brooks
There’s something about trout fishing that always gets me excited. Maybe it’s the fact it’s a sign of Spring and after this past long and wet winter I am ready for some sunshine. But mostly I get excited for the lowland lakes trout opener because it reminds me of my youth. Like most other anglers I learned to fish by heading to the local lakes and fishing for trout on the opener and the following weeks. A time when it is easy to fill the stringer with fresh fish and head home where I learned to dredge the rainbows in salt and pepper flour and fry them. This time of year brings back memories and reminds me to go back to the basics.
In today’s fast paced world, high tech accessories, and new innovations always making me think I need to rush to the sporting goods store and fill the basket with new tackle. This is okay and even a few of the items are really a great idea and can increase your catch. But there is something about just heading to the local waters with a small Plano tackle box and some basic gear. Often times we get caught up in having to boast our success and exploits on the internet and if we don’t catch the biggest or the most then we feel like a failure. In reality just getting out and enjoying our passion of fishing is what is most important. This is why the lowland lakes opener is a perfect time to relax, wet a line and catch some trout without worry.
For the bank angler basic trout fishing it mostly soaking bait. There are a few tricks and tips that increase your success while sitting in a lawn chair waiting for the rod tip to jiggle. Increase your leader length to 36 inches. Often times the bottom of the lake near shore is infested with weeds and the longer leader allows your bait to get above the pesky weeds. Downsizing your hooks to a size 10 baitholder also helps with the catch rate. I usually have four or five leaders pre-tied as the fish will often swallow the smaller hook and it’s easier to cut the leader and retrieve the hook at the end of the day when you clean your catch.
The sliding set-up is the bank anglers best bet on hooking fish. On your mainline use a ¼ ounce to ½ ounce sliding egg sinker then tie on a swivel and then the leader. That way when you get a bite the line draws tight without the fish feeling the pull of the line until it’s too late. I spool my reel with Izorline’s XXX in Hi-Viz yellow. This allows me to leave it slack and watch the line pull tight indicating a bite. For baits it’s hard to beat PowerBait “Power-eggs” as they stay on and I can usually catch two or three fish before having to re-bait. But since we’re talking about going back to the basics, grab a jar of Pro-Cure single salmon eggs and a bag of multi-colored mini-marshmallows. Put a single marshmallow and two or three single eggs on the hook and cast it out. The marshmallow helps float the eggs up above the weeds and using the multi-colored ones provides some entertainment for the younger anglers.
I mentioned lawn chair and anyone who had sat along the banks of a lake knows this is another “must have” piece of equipment. Looking at the various chairs this past winter I found one that is specifically made for fishing. It has a cup holder, as well as a large pouch to put your tackle storage containers in and even a built in pole holder! A small wagon with large wheels is also nice to have along as you can cart all of your gear to the lake’s edge, including a small cooler or thermos and a lunch.
The boat launch areas get very congested in April, but it is also a bit of entertainment for the anglers stuck on the bank. You can immediately pick out the boaters that haven’t backed a trailer for several months. But all of this traffic also makes it hard to fish if you’re stuck on the bank. Luckily there are several lakes that offer city and county parks or other WDFW access areas besides the boat launch. It’s best to scout out the lake at the WDFW website before heading there.
If you have a small boat, kayak, pontoon or float tube that can be launched by hand along any type of lakeshore then you have just opened up a world of fishing opportunity. By having a small watercraft you can get away from the bank anglers and find some great fishing. Personally I like to fly fish out of my float tube as well as my drift boat. The kayak angler can easily troll along and catch a lot of fish while getting in some exercise and enjoy a day of paddling. For small boat operators the electric motor is perfect for trolling.
Regardless if you have a small watercraft, a large party barge or something in-between, getting out and away from the shore increases your success. Going back to the basics for the boater is as simple as using a lightweight spinning rod and a 1/8 ounce black rooster tail by Yakima Bait Company or a chrome Super-Duper by Luhr Jensen. I put a smear of Pro-Cure’s Anise Super Gel on them which increases my strikes. Keep in mind that if you use scent then the fish caught go against your daily catch limit even if you release them unharmed.
Going way back to “old school” basics, it’s always fun to fish some “pop gear” or “gang trolls”. I prefer to use the Flash-Lite series by Mack’s Lure as the mylar blades allow me to use a lightweight action rod. Put a ½ ounce banana sinker in front and trailing behind the Flash-Lites is a wedding ring spinner tipped with a piece of worm. Honestly this is one of the most productive trout techniques I know. It is a great set-up to use when fishing a new lake as it helps you locate the fish. And if there are kokanee in the lake you have a great chance at catching them as well with this technique.
Opening day of the lowland lakes brings back many memories for most of us. It’s the time when we caught our first fish, a time when generations of families get together, and often times is one of our only weekends where we can let go, not worry about catching the biggest fish and have fun. If you get the opportunity to take a non-angler out fishing please do so, as they will remember this trip forever. Going back to the basics is a lot of fun and reminds us that fishing is not a competition but a way to relax and get away from our daily stressors. And if you haven’t backed your boat down a ramp in a long time, maybe head out and practice a bit before opening day, otherwise expect an audience lined up along the shoreline in lawn chairs having a good laugh!