Post By: MathGeek Posted: 7/22/2012 4:30:15 PM Points: 351
This tips were adapted from what Chris Sutton of A-Lure Charters on Lake Erie taught me about trolling for walleye. [log in for link] You'll learn a lot and put fish in the box for sure!
My records show that we've caught over 200 trout in our first ten trips to the Mile this season, and in some cases, we caught 20 trout in just a bit over an hour. I'm sure some anglers do even better, but talking to folks at the ramp suggests a lot of folks could improve their technique. Our big trick is using diving planers (we used to use dipsey divers, now we use walker deeper divers because they are more widely available) to spread the lures out and using line counter reels to control the depth with the amount of line out. The angler in the bow of the boat has his divers set to pull to the furthest left and right, almost always a setting of 3 on the planer disk. He lets out line to put his lures at the desired depth, according to the chart. If keeping things 10 ft deep, he usually uses a regular sized diving disk planer however, to get to 20 ft deep, a large planer is required.
The angler in the middle of the boat can either use a setting of "2" or "3", but if he sets at "3" he needs to use a smaller planer than the angler in front to avoid tangling. Depth is controlled with line out on a line counter reel.
The angler in the back usually runs a diving planer setting of "1" or "0" and is running straight back or nearly so. These rods are often the slowest in the boat because the boat can tend to spook fish out to the side a bit. This can be mitigated by running them further back, but then they tend to be deeper, unless I use a mini diving planer, which is often a productive strateg, especially when the fish are biting at 10 ft deep.
Choosing depth to run the lures is critical. In Spring and mornings, the fish tend to be shallower (5-10 ft). In Summer heat, they are deeper (20 ft or more). In productive areas, there is always a band of bait fish somewhere between 5 and 12 ft deep. In the early morning and late evening, there are usually trout hitting the bait fish. When the sun gets high, these fish move deeper. We use a combination of sonar, experience, and seeing what works to choose depths. But once we're putting fish in the boat with a given depth (or lure, or color) we tend to switch the other lines to what is working.
If you don't want to spring for line counter reels, we've also had success using colored line where the line changes color every so many feet.
The leader between the diver and the lure is 15 lb fluorocarbon. We've caught many, many more fish since we switched to fluorocarbon. Sure there are days when the fish don't care, but fluorocarbon definitely helps when the fish are finicky and there are lots of boats on the water and the sunlight is penetrating and everything is visible to spooky fish.
Location: We love the west side, along the south shore, in 20-30 feet of water. Some days call for working deeper water. Most do not. It bewilders us that we see boats make one pass through this prime water and then move to other areas if they don't catch fish their first pass. Now sometimes, it is hotter from Goose Island to Lazy Boy and sometimes it is hotter from Lazy Boy to the 20 ft contour (where it gets too weedy to continue west), but if you're not catching fish in this water, you need to adjust your presentation, not your location.
OK, I get it, the weeds are a pain, especially west of Lazy Boy. But if you are willing to clear the planer and lure of weeds every five minutes or so, you will catch fish.
Lure selection: Just about any lure will work, as long as it is orange. We prefer light trolling spoons with a splash of orange up front, a bit of pink and some darker rust colors in back. Stripes of orange and other colors also work. As the sun gets higher, often more muted rust colors or less bright oranges work well also.
Speed: 2 mph is "normal." Once in a while, I'll mark some fish on the sonar a bit deeper than we're running the lures. I'll immediately slow to 1 mph or so to let the weight of the divers take the lures 5 ft or so deeper and then I'll put it boat back at 2 mph. The lures will rise as the boat gains speed and often this will entice a strike. I will often go 3 mph over short stretches of unproductive water if there are no fish on the sonar.
Netting: We put over 80% of the fish we hook in the boat. Putting the rod tip high allows the fish to jump and often results in head shakes. We have more success keeping the whole fish in the water, bringing the fish alongside the boat with the rod tip low, and working a big landing net around the fish from behind. Once a fish jumps or has its head out of the water shaking the hook, it's less than a 50-50 proposition.
Summary: A spread of six good lures running at the right depth at the right location will consistently put fish in the boat. The running depth is the biggest change from month to month and hour to hour.
I forgot to mention that the fish seem pretty boat shy by July and the divers in front that are set to pull furthest to the side (about 15' from the boat with 50 feet of line out) catch about 70% of the fish. I don't think we caught a single fish with the lines that were straight back yesterday. Early in the season, all the lines account for about an equal share, but the fish seem boat shy now and the further from the centerline of the boat, the better.
This might suggest side planer boards, but there just isn't room at Eleven Mile with the other boats, the shore anglers, and the weeds, and it takes way too much line behind a side planer to put a lure 20 ft deep. But I am always trying to think of ways to put more fish onto the lines straight back this time of year. I think I'll likely go to the mini divers and put them far enough back (100 ft or more) that the fish have forgotten about the boat that passed a while ago. When the water cooled of enough last year for the fish to be shallow again, I used some shallow diving crankbaits and that seemed to work for the lines trailing straight back.
Thanks for the kind words. I was inspired by the "Shoulders of Giants" blog and remembering how much I learned from Chris Sutton, a fabulous Lake Erie charter captain. I've also learned a lot from Larry, the proprietor of North Shore Marina, both in person, and on the weekly fishing report at the web site:
I remember our first trip to Eleven Mile three summers ago. I stopped by the marina shop, bought a few lures and was bold enough to ask Larry where we should troll and how deep to run the lures. Larry highlighted the area on my map of the lake, and we put five fish in the boat, including two big browns that thrilled my sons. We also had a lot of fish get off due to poor netting technique. The following week, the report said the west side was hot, and we've done progressively better in the years since by learning the nuances of the lake.
Feel free to ask any other questions. I'm not a big believer in keeping fishing tips to myself. Fishing is a contest with the fish, not with the other anglers.
That is a good system. I use a similar system for trout at Chatfield. The short lines to the lures keep everything close to the boat and I can troll within a small area.
Planers shouldn't be an issue unless the lures are within 50 to 75 feet of the boat. Trout move so much that you rarely spook them even when they are shallow (walleye and pike are a different story). Most fish do not spook if they are 20 feet deep. Planers are always a problem when weeds are in play and it's always more fun to hook something direct when trolling.
I would guess (and it is just a guess) that the planers out the back were too close to the boat. If a diver on #3 is out 75 feet a #0 setting for a planer at the same depth is much shorter distance and therefore closer to the boat. If the fish are shallow (<10 feet) put out a long-lined spoon (not a trolling spoon, but a Taz or kastmaster that has enough weight to get down a bit) and see if the boat matters. Most trout will move up at least 5 feet if not more to hit a lure. If the fish are deeper then stick with the diver if you are far enough from the boat or go to a diving lure that hits 10 to 15'. Shad raps etc work great or add a #5 split shot to the taz or a countdown rapala.
I haven't been up to the mile much this year, keep up the posts.
Yes, I see what you are saying. I try and mitigate shortening the lines in back by using smaller diving planers. The ones in the front are often large, the ones in the middle regular, and the ones in the back can be regular or small. The thing I need to do more of is making use of smaller planers in back at really long lengths (100 to 150 ft) but small enough diving planers so that they are not deeper than 20 ft, even at the long lengths. Weed checks will end up taking some time, but we need to improve the productivity of those lines.
Two details I've failed to mention are color of the diving planer (clear) and leader length (5-6 ft). We've caught fish on colored diving planers, but the clear ones seem to do better and is what I buy now. However, I would not feel greatly disadvantaged with a colored planer. Leader length is a balance between too long which makes landing the fish lard, and too short which risks spooking the fish with the planer. We've seen charter boat captains use longer leaders but they have bigger boats and can have more space between the angler and net handler.