Small Boaters Advantage – Spring Brown Trout

Spring Brown TroutBy Robert Mallory,  The Angler Magazine Monthly Contributor
Part II – Part I of the series, click here

As the surface temperatures in the shallows warm into the mid-60s, the brown trout which had been the mainstays of the spring fishing in the shallows begin to move offshore in search of more comfortable temperatures.  Brown trout of course like to eat – and will stay inshore gorging on spawning alewives and round gobies as long as the temperatures and food supply is to their liking.

The preferred temperatures for brown trout occur between roughly 48 and 65 degrees, and the trout will usually position themselves oriented to the bottom in this temperature range, in the vicinity of an ample supply of bait.  As the fish move farther and farther offshore to their summer haunts and the thermocline begins to set up , where their preferred temperatures intersect the bottom – brown trout will be found.   Many anglers continue to target brown trout into the early and mid-summer on the eastern end of Lake Ontario as they anxiously await the first King Salmon to infiltrate the eastern end of Lake Ontario.

To catch these fish once they have located offshore, it is important to understand their daily movements.  Early in the morning for a brief window of time, these fish can be found feeding on suspended alewives and often times can be taken on the same surface lures that are trolled tight to the shoreline in April and May.  Once the sun starts to come up the brown trout will then usually start to sink through the water column back to the bottom as the morning wears on.  To be successful this time of year the angler needs more than the basic setups discussed in the first part of this article – this time of year you need to present your baits at the right depths and at the right times to score on big browns.  This time of year dipsey divers, downriggers, and segmented leadcore lines are the name of the game.  Fishing higher in the column early and then lower later in the day is a typical scenario that is encountered once the fish transition away from the shoreline.  Early in the morning stickbaits fished off of inline planer boards or such as Rapala F-11s, Challenger Junior Minnow, Smithwick Rogues can be deadly as brown trout chase suspended alewives on the surface.  Once the sun comes up segmented leadcores on the same inline planers can take over.  Three, Five, Seven, and ten color leadcore segments are popular and usually fished with spoons – a 20-30 foot leader is added to the leadcore to get the spoon away from the segmented leadcore for a stealthier presentation.  The average sink rate for leadcore is about 5 feet for each “color” of leadcore that is let out and fishing in the water.  Popular spoons include a variety of Michigan Stinger spoons in the regular Stinger and Stingray sizes, as well as some older standbys such as Evil Eye (3F and 5F sizes).  Colors include anything silver/black, silver/blue, as well as brighter chartreuse and green patterns.  In the Michigan Stinger line of spoons, Black Wiggler, Chicken Wing, Natural Born Killer (NBK), and Mongoose are standard patterns that catch brown trout day in and day out.   Early in the mornings, and on overcast days darker spoons may produce whereas in the high sun, more flash and brighter colors can be the key to success.

Dipsey divers are another tool this time of year that can take a number of fish on any given day – and just like leadcore segments – these directional diving planers take your offering away from the boat and slightly out to the side out of the disturbances that are associated with the boat.   Dipsey divers can be tuned to run at almost most any depth holding brown trout by simply letting more line out to get the device and lures deeper.   Small size 0 Luhr Jensen Dipsey Divers will dive about one foot down for each four feet of line out.   The larger size 1 Dipsey Divers with the standard ring will dive around 1 foot down for every three feet of line out.  This brings me to the importance of using reels with accurate line-counters to be able to replicate successful presentations.  Fishing dipsey divers where you are marking fish or slightly above them, is the key to getting bites on dipsey divers.  Set your drags slightly loose so that line will be pulled out of the reel on a strike, or use a snubber due to the bone jarring hits that dipsey divers seem to take.  Leaders between dipseys and spoons should be around 12-20 pound test, but no heavier as heavy line can kill the erratic action of the spoons.

Downriggers are another option for catching brown trout – Downriggers can be fished at any depth.  In general, I fish a longer lead off the downrigger ball the shallower I am fishing – when the fish are deep 10-15 feet off the ball is all you need as brown trout in general are not nearly as rigger shy as king salmon.

A couple more tips that can help you put more brown trout in the boat:

If you are marking large schools and pods of bait on your electronics – they are likely alewives and in general fishing with larger spoons such as Evil Eye 5Fs and Michigan Stinger Stingrays will bring you more success.  Browns will not pass up an easy meal.  If on the other hand you are marking Brown trout close to the bottom but the large bait pods are absent – switch over to smaller spoons such as regular Michigan Stingers, and even small warrior Flutter Spoons to imitate gobies and stickleback minnows which are likely what the browns will be feeding on when the big bait isn’t present.

When trolling occasionally putting the boat in neutral for a few seconds and then kick it back in gear.  The abrupt change in wobble and speed of a spoon can cause a brown trout or a fish that has been following to suddenly grab that spoon.

Catching brown trout once they have moved offshore can be challenging at times and it can be some of the fastest action of the year.  Engaging in a tug of war with a big brown is one of my favorite things about summer fishing.  With a little bit of specialized equipment one can easily take advantage of this fishery and pass the time until the king salmon come to town.