Hunting Turkey Out Of State? Six Steps to Success

By Tracy Breen

For the traveling turkey hunter, hunting out-of-state equals extreme fun –  without breaking the bank!

I’ve never met a hunter who doesn’t dream of putting his familiar stomping ground in the rear view mirror and heading to a new state to hunt. Some dream of a whitetail adventure; others dream of bugling bulls or big bears. Of the critters I’ve chased in dozens of states, my favorite game to hunt away from home is the wild turkey.

breen with colorado merriam turkey 420x336

A Colorado Merriam’s turkey and a mountain backdrop is a scene that’s dramatic and memorable.

Don’t get me wrong; I love chasing elk, deer and other big game, but chasing turkeys is a ton of hot action. Translation - extreme fun!

Going on a low budget turkey hunt out of state is surprisingly easy to do. In most states nonresident turkey tags aren’t expensive and turkeys can easily be found on public ground. Most out of state turkey hunts can be done for $500 to $1000; often less if you are willing to stay in a camper or a tent.

1.  The first challenge in hunting away from home is figuring out where to hunt. When determining where to go, you must first determine your objective. Do you want to hunt another subspecies or just hunt another state? If you want to hunt another subspecies, you will likely have to travel several states away. When traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to hunt, I typically try to have at least a week to hunt. It’s best to have lots of time when going blind into anew area. It takes time to find a good place to hunt, locate birds and put all the pieces of the puzzle together. The more time you have, the better your odds will be of pulling the trigger.

2.  When planning to hunt in unfamiliar territory, contact a biologist in that state. A biologist or state habitat manager isn’t likely to give away his favorite hunting area, but it’s in his interest to give you some good hunting locations on public land. Many are not afraid to share information about large tracts of national forest or state land. I always start by asking about large tracts of land where there are plenty of birds. From there, I ask questions about their turkey population, what kind of winter they had, and how much pressure hunters put on the birds.

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Print aerial photos of the places you plan to hunt, and take them with you.

3.  Zero in on big properties. One of the main reasons I always ask about large tracts of public land is because large pieces of ground are a great place to locate birds even where the hunting pressure is high. Over the years, I’ve learned that most hunters never travel very far from any two-track road when hunting. As a result, birds that spend most of their life off the beaten path typically aren’t hunted as hard. Finding backwoods gobblers will take more work, but if you can find that needle in the haystack, odds are high you will be able to call him in.

4.  Continue research by downloading aerial photographs and maps of the area. After I’m armed with a little information about a certain area, I use aerial photos and topographic maps to locate ridge lines, river bottoms and places where I think birds may roost. I like to find several potential roosting areas before I leave home, and check them out when I get there.

5.  Plan for some time to scout. If you’re going for the season opener, arrive a day early to do some scouting. On any other day arrive early enough to look for roosting areas and strutting zones to hunt the next day. With advice from biologists and habitat managers, maps, aerial photos, and a good GPS, finding turkeys usually isn’t extremely difficult.

6.  Cover as much territory as possible. When hunting on public land, my goal is always the same: cover as much ground as possible. If I have never hunted in area and have very limited information about the state I’m hunting, the only way I will tag a bird is by hunting long and hard. Each day I start hunting at daylight and hunt until dark if it is legal. If I don’t tag a bird at first light, I run and gun the rest of the day. It is not uncommon to walk five or more miles a day in search of longbeards. I will typically walk and call, walk and call all day in hopes that eventually I will find a hot, talkative tom.

breen with missouri turkey 299x448

Missouri is a state loaded with eastern wild turkeys. If you can’t go all the way west, it’s a great place for success.

Finally, some personal comments. My favorite away-from-home turkey hunts are in the West. A backcountry do-it-yourself hunt is easy and inexpensive in places like Colorado, or any state where public land is abundant and hunting pressure is minimal. Colorado is home to the Merriam’s subspecies, which is a beautiful bird.

I’ve talked mostly about public land, but don’t overlook private land—gaining access there can be surprisingly easy for turkey hunters. Ranchers often consider turkeys a nuisance and will grant access to hunters who knock on their door and politely introduce themselves. States like Nebraska are typically overrun with turkeys.

Finding turkeys in a far off land isn’t as difficult as finding a trophy buck or bull—and that’s one of the many reasons I like turkey hunting across the country. With a little luck, some hard work and a week’s vacation, almost anyone who knows how to work a turkey call can fill a tag or two without breaking the bank.

***

tracy-breen-outdoor-writerAbout Tracy Breen

Tracy is a full-time outdoor writer and consultant in the outdoor industry. He works with a variety of television shows and outdoor brands including Havalon Knives. Learn more at www.tracybreen.com.

 

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Turkey Hunting Strategy – Outwit Unpredictable Turkeys

By Judd Cooney

Are You A Switch-Hitter?
Use these tips to nail that gobbler that
comes in on your offside.

two turkeys in woods 448x299

Does that bird on the right have a double beard? Being able to shoot opposite-handed might get you the better trophy.

We’d been watching the big Iowa longbeard strutting for half an hour 150 yards down the roadway traversing the ridgetop between two large tracts of dense timber. He was “spittin’ and drummin’” for the two hens that were loitering around him. Although he gobbled at every sound I coaxed out of my slate and diaphragm calls, he showed no inclination to head our way.

My two jakes and a hen decoy were positioned 20 yards to our left front to make it easy for my right-handed client to get into shooting position for the most likely approach of the gobbler. An ideal set up. Ha!

gobbler on your right 299x448

An almost impossible situation. If the gobbler comes past you but turns to his right, you’ll have no chance unless you can shoot left-handed.

Expect the Unexpected
I worked the henned up, vocal gobbler for over an hour, but not being the trusting type when it comes to tom turkeys, I also kept an eye on the edge of the timber along the harvested corn field behind us. Luckily, I caught sight of another heavy-bearded bird while still 75 yards out, moving warily and silently toward us but staying just inside the edge of the timber. Occasionally he’d break into a full strut, but he never made a sound as he closed the distance.

By the time he got to a small clearing just inside the edge of the timber 30 yards away, and once again puffed up into a full strut, my client had eased his shotgun to his LEFT shoulder and was ready. My whispered words, “Take him when you’re ready,” had barely cleared my face mask when the turkey went down in a cloud of feathers and oak leaves.

Two days earlier my hunting partner had never fired a shotgun left-handed. However after umpteen situations where a contrary gobbler approached a calling set up from the backdoor, offside position, where it was almost impossible for a hunter to turn and shoot effectively, I decided to start changing the odds.

takes little practice to shoot left handed 448x299

It takes practice, but surprisingly little of it, to make you as comfortable shooting left-handed as right-handed.

My Own Lessons
Early in my hunting career my dad and I used to head to northern Minnesota, duck hunting each fall. My dad’s good friend, hunting lodge owner and master duck hunter, Clarence Allen and I would often float the local rivers in a flat bottomed duck boat, jump shooting ducks from the rice beds growing out from the banks of the rivers. Clarence was left-handed and I was right-handed, so he’d take the jumped ducks from the right side rice beds and I shot at the ones jumped from on the left-side of the river. As a ten year old I thought a lot more rice beds were on the right side than the left, because Clarence seemed to get a lot more shooting.

shoot at real turkey target 299x448

Shoot at a real turkey target – that’s the only way you’ll know you’re holding the center of your pattern on the turkey’s head and neck.

I decided to remedy that perceived inequity and over the course of a summer, I taught myself to shoot left-handed. Since those early years, being an ambidextrous shooter has been the downfall of many turkeys, waterfowl, predators and even several big game critters that appeared on my offhand side, where least expected.

Outwit Unpredictable Turkeys
As an addicted turkey hunter as well as outfitter and guide for turkey hunters, I find nothing   more frustrating than successfully seducing a longbeard with my calling only to have him upset my best laid plans by approaching from the side or rear on the offhand side. Most of the time excessive movement or trying a shot from an awkward shooting position allows the bird to escape unscathed – and a bit wiser.

Today when a turkey hunter shows up in my Iowa hunting camp, one of my first questions is: “Can you shoot both right and left-handed?”  After over twenty years of guiding turkey hunters I don’t recall more than a couple hunters who allowed they could shoot both ways.

Practice Four Ways

After discussing the philosophy behind my question, I get the turkey hunter on the range for some serious offside shooting practice.

  1. Start with light trap loads rather than shoulder bruising turkey loads to get used to weak side gun positioning.
  2. Concentrate on non-dominant eye sight picture and wrong hand trigger squeeze.
  3. Fire your shotgun offhand, from the opposite knee or a mono-pod or bi-pod to simulate likely shooting situations.
  4. It takes only a few shots to get proficient and confident enough to be ready for a sneaky offside gobbler.
turkey in a field 403x336

If he’s at your extreme right, is he a sitting duck, er, turkey? Not unless you’ve practiced shooting left-handed.

Most hunters are amazed at the results of a little offside practice and become hooked on this effective tactic.

The hunter in the opening scenario had taken a number of turkeys in various states and didn’t figure he really needed to learn to shoot left-handed to kill his Iowa and Nebraska birds. He could have been right, but curiosity got the best of him. He quickly mastered left-hand shooting with half dozen shots from various positions and actually enjoyed the challenge.

When he killed his Iowa bird left-handed, he was as ecstatic as if it had been his first gobbler. He also purposely shot his Nebraska Merriam’s turkey left-handed just to extend the challenge and prove the first bird wasn’t a fluke. As he left camp for another turkey hunt in the Dakotas, he emphatically stated, “I’ll never take another hunter after gobblers again, especially neophytes and young hunters, until they get some lessons on switch shooting for those contrary offside gobblers!”

***

About Judd Cooney

judd-cooney-head-shot-457x542For the past 30 years Judd has been writing and photographing full time in addition to running his guiding and outfitting operation, spending 18-20 hours a day trying to avoid working an 8-5 job. He says, “I wouldn’t change it for the world!” He has articles or photos in many of the outdoor magazines every month, covering bowhunting, muzzleloader hunting, big game, small game and predator hunting, plus turkey, waterfowl and upland game hunting. He can be reached through his website, www.JuddCooney.com.

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Fishing for Early Season Trout

By Darl Black

Top 5 Bait Options and How to Rig Them

stocked lakes hold many trout 448x299

During April and early May in northern states, tens of thousands of anglers are drawn to streams and small lakes seeking stocked brown, rainbow and brook trout.

Trout like worms! Don’t let the purists blame you for that! As a youngster during the 1960s, I’d plan for Pennsylvania’s opening weekend trout season as soon as the last sign of winter snow disappeared. I would retrieve the rods from a dusty corner in the garage where we stored them since fall, wipe them down and strip all the old line from the reels. Next, Dad would then clean and grease the reels.

A week before the opener, Dad and I would shop a local sporting goods shop for fresh 6-pound monofilament line, some new hooks, a jar of salmon eggs and a package of salted minnows. Sometime during that week, it was my responsibility to gather worms from our own little worm farm—several old wooden boards we left lying by the garage.

When it came to trout fishing, Dad was a bait angler. For summertime bass, he had a rusty metal tackle box full of lures, but during trout season the only thing on the end of his line was a worm, minnow or salmon egg. His lessons and my decades of bait experience will help youngsters and novices of any age catch more trout.

So, here’s a rundown on five readily available live bait and prepared baits that will prove effective for early season trout.

dinner-bait options for trout 448x299

Serving up dinner for trout. Here is a plate full of options for early season trout: salted minnows (upper right compartment); wax worms, butter worms, mealworms and nightcrawlers (main entrée compartment); floating trout nuggets, small salmon eggs, large salmon eggs (upper left compartment; jars of trout dough
in paste form.

1.  Worms: Since the earliest annals of angling history,worms have been the iconic bait for trout. The thought of a trout caught on a common earth worm sends shivers through ardent fly-fishermen I know! I tell them not to blame me if trout like worms! I prefer fishing a small ’crawler (the ones walleye anglers would reject) over a skinny little red worm. Using a size 10 or size 8 bait hook, I hook a small ’crawler once though the middle so both ends are free to squirm.

If using red worms, try stitching two worms on the hook, impaling each worm at least twice. Add sufficient split shot on the line about 12 inches above the hook so the worm will slowly drift and tumble along the bottom with the current flow.

trout anglers using bait on secluded stream 336x448

Trout anglers using bait may take the stealthy approach on secluded stream.

2.  Minnows: Small minnows are excellent for trout – especially emerald shiners. However, carrying a minnow bucket when walking and wading streams is cumbersome. Furthermore, live emerald shiners are banned for use on inland waters in several northern states if the source of baitfish is the Great Lakes or another water where viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS) has been discovered. (New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Ontario have such restrictions in place.) Freezing and thawing does not kill the VHS virus, but preserving dead shiners with salt does.

Ironically, “strung” salted minnows have been a staple of trout anglers since I was a kid. A rigged preserved minnow should be fished with a more active retrieve than drifting a worm. Focus on riffle-like water, casting a rigged minnow upstream then working it with gentle rod twitches on the downstream drift. (For more information on rigging a minnow, check sidebar.)

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Bait anglers at a lake may fish side by side in a party atmosphere.

3.  Salmon eggs: Yep, trout are egg-eaters. Like many other species, trout instinctively recognize that fish eggs are an easily-obtained nutrient-rich meal. Now, I cannot imagine that trout select salmon eggs over other types – fish eggs are fish eggs. But being larger than most fish eggs, salmon eggs are certainly easier to handle. Some anglers insist the hook be hidden completely within the egg, therefore choosing a short shank octopus hook in red or gold to match closely the color of specific salmon eggs.

If that gives you confidence, go with it. I am more concerned with the proper presentation of the egg (or eggs, if you put two small ones on a single hook). As with worms, eggs should drift naturally at the same speed as the stream current. Use of a float can be very helpful, especially when fishing larger water which may demand long casts to reach a fish-holding seam.

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Regardless of stream or lake, anglers using bait will most likely have success on stocked trout in the early season.

4.  Larvae: Don’t throw out any left-over insect larvae at the end of ice fishing season. Save ’em for trout season! Readily accessible at most tackle shops, the more popular larvae for trout are mealworms, wax worms and butter worms.

I thread a single larva on a size 12 thin-wire long-shank Aberdeen hook to prevent the bait from easily being dislodged. Use a small float and one BB shot, drifting the rig in slowing tail-out water of a riffle, pocket eddies, or moderate-flow runs.

5.  Dough bait:Since making an appearance on tackle store shelves in the 1980s, floating doughbait has gained popularity among trout anglers. Typically these slow-dissolving concoctions consist of amino acids, hatchery food and a selected scentsuch as cheese or corn. Fish-attracting additives in the mixture have proven highly successful in catching hatchery-stocked trout.

Available in both nuggets and paste, dough baits do not have a reputation for staying on a hook. Therefore you’ll want to use specially designed dough-keeper hooks, such as the Uncle Josh Springed Trout Hooks which complement Uncle Josh’s new Natura Floating Trout Bait. While many fishermen will use this bait in streams, floating dough bait was designed forthe stillwater of lakes where slowdispersion of scent and flavor can attract trout to one spot.

Special Rigs for Trout Baits

Stringing a Salted or Preserved Minnow—The easiest approach is to spend a couple buckson a Trout Rig kit at a tackle shop. The kit consists of a 3-inch baiting needle and a double hook on a short wire lead. Remove the double hook from the wire lead, slip the wire lead over the slotted eye of the baiting needle. Then run the needle through the mouth of the salted minnow and out the vent. Remove the needle and slip the double hook back in place; adjust the hook and attach your line to the front of the wire lead. Crimp a split-shot on the line about six inches in front of the minnow.

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Samples of rigged baits, from left: nightcrawler on baitholder hook, salted minnow on rig, salmon eggs on salmon egg hook, butter worm larva tread on long shank hook, floating trout bait on special dough-holder hook.

Rigging Dough Bait for Lake Fishing—Slip a 1/8-ounce sliding egg or slip cone sinker onto the line; tie a swivel to the line to act as sinker stop. Snip a 14-inch 4- or 6-pound fluorocarbon from a leader spool and tie to the other end of swivel. Tie a dough-keeper hook on the terminal end of the leader. Bait with floating trout paste or nugget and cast out. Take up slack line so there is tension to the sinker. Put rod in rod holder with some sort of a bite indicator attached to line (perhaps something as simple as a piece of a folded straw) and the bail open.

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Trout anglers fishing on a medium size stream will drift bait with the current.

Bobbers—When using a bobber for trout, choose a small slender stealthy float with colorful tip but clear or neutral color bottom. If drifting bait through swift flows, I recommend a Thill Turbo Master with the thin wire bottom for stability and minimal drag.

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A selection of terminal tackle for bait anglers: several styles of hooks including special dough bait hooks, specialized floats, and split-shot.

darl-black-head-shot

About Darl Black

A lifelong freshwater angler and veteran writer and photographer, Darl tackles a wide variety of fishing related stories for print publications and websites. Of all fishing, angling for smallmouth bass is his favorite pastime. He may be reached for assignment at darlblack@windstream.net.

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Bowhunting: Busting 7 Crossbow Myths

By Nicole McClain

Crossbows are for girls and weaklings?
Crossbows will ruin hunting?
Nonsense. All nonsense.

Nicole With Crossbow 336x448

Crossbows ARE for girls, but they’re for guys, too. They’re a great way to involve more people into the hunting lifestyle. Take them
shooting and they’ll be hooked for life.
(Photo © Nicole McClain)

The chatter goes on and on – so many negative and misleading statements about crossbows. It’s time to abandon untruths compounded (no pun intended) by ignorance, and understand why crossbows benefit the hunting community.

I’ll start with a myth I especially hate.

Myth #1: Crossbows are just for girls.

Yes, crossbows are for girls. And they’re for dudes too. There, I said it. Calm down fellas, and we’ll take this slowly.

Yes, crossbows are more accurate in the hands of more people, I’ll give you that. They’re perfect for getting a child or teen involved in bowhunting. They also allow older hunters – diehards in their 60s and 70s who might be slowing down a little – to continue hunting during archery season.

I use crossbows (and vertical bows, too). I own three. I’m a girl, but being a female hunter doesn’t automatically mean crossbows are the “best” for me.

If you want my take, here it is. (If you don’t, here it is anyway.) Shoot what you want and ignore what sales floor guys or hardcore hunters tell you. Don’t let anyone intimidate or stereotype you, or discourage you for your so-called “weakness.” Challenge yourself to be the best and remember: Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect—even if you shoot a crossbow.

One misconception about crossbows is that they let you take a deer at 70, 80 or 90 yards. That’s something that comes from the southbound end of a northbound bull. The truth? A crossbow adds only about 10 yards to what you can accomplish with a compound bow.

Crossbows by design are simply a vertical compound bow turned horizontal on its axis, connected to a stock. On a technical level? They have a much shorter power stroke, and use shorter and lighter arrows that lose kinetic energy more quickly after the shot—even though they travel at comparable speeds to any vertical compound.

Mission Crossbow 448x310

As in other forms of archery, consistency is very important for crossbow accuracy. (Photo © Nicole McClain)

From my experience, I suggest keeping shots under 45 yards. I’m more a conservative shooter so I hangout around 25-40 yards. As with a vertical bow, you need to find your own comfort range.

Myth #3: Leaving a crossbow cocked for a few days is fine.

Get me under a bare lightbulb and I’ll tell the truth: I’ve been known to leave my crossbow cocked, and unloaded, for way too many days “knowing” I was going hunting later that afternoon—and then never went back out. Bad idea, Jack.

While I’ve never run into any problems for my stupidity in this department (knocks on her head), it puts unnecessary stress on the cables, bowstring, limbs and trigger, ultimately shortening the life of your horizontal hunting pal.

Isn’t it just easier to fire a practice arrow into the ground or a portable target? I’m leaving myself a hand-written note penned by yours truly, the hypocrite.

Which brings me to my next myth.

Myth #4: You must carry an extra bolt in your quiver to shoot when you’re finished hunting.

Nicole With Bison 336x376

It’s a misconception that crossbows offer an unfair advantage. In reality, their performance is very similar to today’s common high-performance compound bows, and they expand opportunities.
(Photo © Nicole McClain)

The myth here is that you need to carry it in your quiver for when it’s time to unload your weapon.

TenPoint Crossbows offers a two-piece Crossbow Unloading Bolt (CUB) you can put in your hunting pack and snap together just when you need it. They weigh virtually the same as a regular bolt, and are biodegradable. They’re just as dangerous and lethal as a regular bolt, so treat them with the same safety precautions as a regular bolt. When it’s time to unload, discharge one and keep your hunting bolts mangle-free.

Myth #5: Cocking straps are
for “pansies”.

A guy might muscle a 180-pound pull and act like it’s a piece of cake, but it’s an act. Shooting is never an issue of pansy versus muscle head; it’s about accuracy and consistency.

So roll down your sleeves, put those muscles away, and use a cocking strap. Its purpose isn’t to make cocking easy. It’s to keep the string tension equal on both sides of your trigger release point for consistent and accurate shooting. Easy cocking is a bonus—a cocking strap takes 50-60 percent of the resistance off your shoulders, arms and back.

If you don’t use a cocking strap you’ll either (1.) waste time at the range cursing the name of your crossbow manufacturer because you can’t shoot a consistent group; or (2.) sight it in thinking it’s close enough and when Mr. 12-Point strolls by at 25 yards, you’ll miss the vitals.

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Nicole field dressing a bison. (Photo © Nicole McClain)

Myth #6: Crossbows will ruin the sport of hunting – if they haven’t already.

Traditionalists back in the ’70s cried the same tears when the vertical compound was introduced into a world of recurves and longbows.

Four decades later, vertical compounds have taken over the market, have improved cams and split risers and fling arrows at remarkable speeds. And guess what? The advanced technology neither decimated deer herds nor eliminated the challenge of close-range hunting. Who’da thunk… ?

Myth #7: Crossbows should be legal during archery season.

OK, this really isn’t a myth, it’s a chance to express my opinion. (I can do that as a rogue outdoor writer!) Here’s a headline to splash across your mind: Crossbows Aren’t Going Anywhere! Some states still ban them during archery season, but they’re legal in more states than not. In the right hands they’re more accurate than a compound bow and produce clean killing shots. Who’s against that?

Stop the chatter and downward spiral of wasted time. Crossbow hunters are your friends, especially when the anti-hunting troops rally around and try to overpower us hunters in numbers. Why focus on needless arguments within the hunting community? We should be expanding hunting opportunities for more people, young and old alike, regardless of weapon choice.

Click here for more great archery articles.

***

nicoloe mcclain head shot 115x160About Nicole McClain

Nicole is involved with brands and foundations including GearForWarriors.com, Mathews, Deer & Deer Hunting Magazine, Havalon Knives, CAMX Crossbows, Nikon, Hawke Optics, Field Logic, 20th Century Fox, Fight Like a Girl!, Kellogg’s, Susan G. Komen, Pickle Press Comics. She says, “I’m a warrior, hunter, fighter and survivor regardless of what mud you sling my way. I’m good with mud.”

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It’s Rainbow Trout You’re After?
Six Top Tips for Rainbows

by Mike Bleech

Why Rainbows Are So Common

rainbow trout are known for fighting 448x310

All trout are great fun, but pound for pound rainbows have the edge for fighting style. They are especially known for jumping, though less inclined to do so in cold water. (Photo by Mike Bleech)

Brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout are stocked into many streams and lakes. While the three have similarities, they also have important differences. One difference is eating habits. Since eating habits is what fishing is all about, different fishing tactics should be used for rainbow trout. That difference is greatest between rainbows and either brook trout or brown trout.

Odds are good that stocked trout in your favorite stream or lake are all rainbow trout, or include a large portion of rainbow trout because rainbow trout are particularly suited to fish culture. In other words, they fare better in hatcheries than other trout species.

Why Salmon Eggs Are So Effective

No other bait is more associated with fishing for rainbow trout than salmon eggs. Rainbow trout have been feeding on salmon eggs in their wild, native state for countless generations. Throughout the native range of rainbow trout – the portion that links with the Pacific Ocean – salmon spawn in the cool, rapid streams. Maybe some genetic link makes rainbows know that salmon eggs are food. Or maybe all of that is nonsense and rainbow trout just like the looks of salmon eggs.

The standard way to rig salmon eggs is to impale a single egg on a salmon egg hook. These hooks are especially sized and shaped to be hidden in an egg. Then add a split shot several inches up the line.

Why Rig Baits Differently in Cold Water

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Pinch a nightcrawler in half for bigger rainbow trout like this. (Photo by Mike Bleech)

Early in trout season, rainbow trout are likely to be feeding mostly near bottom. The size of the split shot should be just enough to tick along bottom. What is less known is that at this time when the water is cold, the distance between egg and split should be only about six inches. This keeps the egg, which drifts above the split shot, near the bottom. Increase the distance as the water warms to as far as a couple of feet.

Of course every angler knows that one nasty thing is bound to happen quite often while ticking a split shot along bottom; the split shot is going to hang on the bottom. While fishing stretches of water with nearly constant depth, rig the egg and split shot under a small bobber. Adjust the amount of line between the split shot and the bobber so the split shot drifts just off bottom when the water is cold, then raise it a few inches as the water temperature climbs.

Why Your Bobber Makes a Difference

To be least obtrusive to trout, the best bobber has a light color on the bottom side, and a bright color on top. I prefer a light gray bottom and a bright red top. A bobber also should be small and torpedo-shaped so it exerts minimal buoyancy when a trout pulls it under.

Salmon eggs are available in varied sizes, colors and odors. Which one you use can make a big difference in success, so carry a few different types of salmon eggs.

Why to Try Grubs, Maggots & Corn

In a word, they work. Grubs, especially maggots, are excellent bait for rainbow trout. Rig them about as you would a salmon egg, except just impale the grub once without trying to hide the hook.

rainbow trout have small mouths 448x336

Rainbow trout have smaller mouths than other trout species. (Photo by Mike Bleech)

Some trout anglers will find this objectionable, but it is just plain fact that jumbo kernels of corn will sometimes catch rainbow trout when nothing else will. I have experienced this in streams far and wide. The first time was in a high mountain stream in Tennessee. After a couple hours of fishing with salmon eggs and spinners with absolutely no success, my fishing companion pulled out a jar of corn and impaled a kernel on a hook. In short order he had our first hard-bodied rainbow trout. When he offered to share the corn I accepted, starting a very fun afternoon of trout fishing.

Even large rainbow trout will take a kernel of corn, just as they will a salmon egg. Rig corn on a small, fine wire hook. From there rig it the same as other baits.

Why Rainbows Can Be Finicky

Rainbow trout tend to grow larger in larger streams, peaking in rivers. Try using half of a nightcrawler to target bigger rainbow trout. They are much more apt to take half of a ’crawler than a whole one. It follows with other baits – rainbow trout generally prefer smaller baits than brown trout or brook trout of similar size, likely because their mouths are relatively smaller.

Hook the half-nightcrawler in the middle just once. This gives it freedom to wiggle.

Recapping Mike’s Rainbow Tips:

  1. Rainbows do better in fish hatcheries – so your fishing strategy should aim for them.
  2. Rainbows have a long association with salmon eggs, and a clear affinity for them.
  3. When the water is cold, keep your splitshot about six inches from your hook to keep your bait down where the ’bows are feeding.
  4. To keep your bobber from being noticed by trout, use a light color on the bottom side so they don’t see it, and a bright color on top so you do see it. A small, torpedo-shape has less resistance to the water, so it’s less noticed when a trout pulls it under.
  5. Grubs, maggots, and even large kernels of corn rigged similar to a salmon egg are terrific rainbow baits.
  6. Rainbows have smaller mouths than other trout, so hook only half a nightcrawler and give him freedom to wiggle.

Click here for more tips and tricks for trout.

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mike-bleech-head-shotAbout Mike Bleech

Mike has been a full-time freelance writer/photographer since 1980 with more than 5,000 articles published in more than 100 publications. He is the outdoors columnist for the Erie Times-News and the Warren Times Observer. Over the years he has become an expert at hunting the Allegheny National Forest and other public lands, and an accomplished trout fisherman.

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