By Mike Bleech
Questions on trolling for trout? Here are the answers.
Anglers who fish lakes stocked with adult trout tend to find a place along the bank where they can relax while fishing. Or, if they fish from boats, they do pretty much the same thing but with the advantage of being able to fish just about anywhere.
Relatively few take this to the next level and troll for trout. What’s the advantage of trolling? When trout numbers have been thinned by weeks of fishing, this more aggressive approach can keep you catching fish.
1. Where to troll for trout?
While the majority of anglers wait for trout to come to them, which is less and less effective as the stocked trout numbers decline, trollers are more proactive. They go to the trout, increasing the number of trout that see their lures. Even at the slow speeds necessary when the water is cold, a boat might travel a few miles in a day of trolling. Imagine how many trout might be encountered by a line that stretches for miles versus a single point. This is why trollers can enjoy good fishing much longer than stationary anglers.
Lakes that are stocked with adult trout might fit many descriptions. But to keep things simple and manageable, we’re talking about these basics:
- A small lake, less than 500 surface acres, maybe little more than a pond.
- On many small lakes, only electric motors are allowed, which means boats will be small.
- Equipment will be minimal. This is not about downriggers and planer boards. We may be stepping up our fishing tactics, but this does not mean making life complicated.
A side benefit of trolling for trout is that it gives anglers a much better picture of where trout can most likely be found. (Make a note and file it away, because this can be carried over even into the ice fishing season.)
2. What special gear is needed?
It’s not necessary to buy special equipment just for this fishing method. Like all trout fishing, lighter line in the 4-pound to 6-pound test range produces the best results. If your favorite rig is loaded with heavier line, just add a 10-foot leader made with light line.
In deeper lakes it may be an advantage to use as many rods per angler as regulations allow, which necessitates the use of rod holders. But once you find a location pattern, you’ll probably be more successful using just one rod per angler, with the rod in your hands. This lets you set the hook, which of course can’t be done with the rod in a holder.
3. What lures are most effective?
Start your trolling strategy by assembling a good selection of lures. Since trollers do not have to consider how well a lure casts, the lures you choose may be different from what you use when casting from a stationary position. The main considerations are the depth lures run, and having enough of a variety to match the mood of finicky trout. Why trout might prefer stick baits over wobbling lures, or spoons over spinners does not matter as long as you realize that it happens.
Colors also can be important. Maybe one specific color will be most appealing, or maybe shiny metallic lures will be more effective than painted lures.
What this comes down to is that a larger selection of lures is an advantage, at least until reaching the point where you do not have time to use all of the lures. But face it, you probably enjoy buying lures and likely have more than you can ever use.
Determining which lure works best and which color is most effective is part of an overall process of finding a pattern that performs well at any given time. Effective combinations of lure and color can change often, even several times in a day. The angle of the sun, whether the sky is clear or overcast, and lake surface conditions all play a role. It might seem complicated, but everything has to do with the amount of light reaching the trout.
4. How fast do you troll?
Trolling speed is another important part of a pattern. Using an electric motor, speed is measured by the speed setting which usually is on the tiller handle. The relationship of setting number and actual speed varies from boat to boat and from motor to motor. Again keeping things as simple as possible, in small boats with the electric motors typically used, the ‘1’ setting generally is best in cold water, and seldom do you need to go faster than the ‘3’ setting.
Trolling speed has a lot to do with the lure that should be used. Most lures run properly only in a specific speed range. Test the lure alongside the boat to see if it is running properly. Spoons, which you’ll probably use more than other types of lures, should wobble rather than spin.
A stiff wind will make it important to adjust the motor power setting when trolling direction changes from with the wind to against the wind. Against stiff wind, a higher speed setting might be necessary just to control a boat.
Just these few reasonably simple trout fishing tips should make you an effective troller in a stocked trout lake. It will stretch the amount of time when you can catch trout by several weeks, maybe even months, longer than stationary anglers.
About 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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