Springtime Brown Trout Tactics Part 1
For early season Browns you need to know the peak times to fish if you want to be consistent. Fishing for Browns in the spring is an early morning and late afternoon thing on sunny days. If it's cloudy you can stay a little later, but I've found that the fish shut down around 10am on most days. That's not to say that you can't catch fish all day, but your best bet is early and late. Mid March until about the second week in June are your best months to catch shallow running Browns. After that the thermocline starts to setup and the fish become scattered and start to head for deeper water. Location is probably the easiest part to handle.
For early Brown Trout action fish the warmest water you can find. Depending on the winter you may be looking for 40 degree water. Concentrate off the mouths of tributaries, shorelines, warm water discharges and bays where the water usually warms quicker because of the typically shallow depths. This time of the year I concentrate in the 5-30ft. range, sometimes going out as deep as 50ft. Try looking for mud plumes coming from the tributaries, that water will always be warmer than the surrounding water. Troll from the muddy water to the clear water and back again. If the muddy water runs up to the shoreline, fish there. No matter how shallow the water, get your boards right tight to shore, your biggest fish will be hanging there. Presentation requires a host of variables that are quite easy to understand.
First off, planer boards are a must, no boards fishing will be slow. Browns are typically boat shy and will swim away from the boat to the waiting lures run from the boards. I've caught Browns from riggers but usually when they are in a bit more deeper water like 20 to 80 feet. Run your lures back at least 50 to 200 feet behind the boards or riggers. Next, use light line, 8 to 10lb. test. I like to use light rods but you can get by with med action rigger rods. I run all of my rods with 10lb test and 10lb fluorocarbon leaders. When I run leaders, I attach it to the main line by using a leader to leader knot, then run about 15ft of fluorocarbon leader attaching it to the swivel. This works fine when I use my light rigger rods.
As for lure size, I stick with lures in the 2 1/2-3 1/2in. range or stinger or super slim size. The bait is smaller at this time of the year. I have been successful with larger baits, but the smaller ones usually out-produce the large ones. The last thing in this section is trolling speed. The water is cold so keep your speed slow, say 1.9-2.4mph. Sometimes even slower speeds are the norm. This is just the first part of this topic. Later in other parts I'll talk more about springtime setups that really work. Lure makes, colors, etc.
Springtime Brown Trout Tactics Part #2
In part #2 of this section I'll talk about the lures I use by make, color and size. This part will be broken up into 2 categories, spoons and stick-baits. First I'll talk about stick baits. Some of the baits I use are, Thunder-sticks, Rebel Fastracks, Rapalas, Smith-wick Rattling Rogues, Reef Runners, Bombers and Challengers. I'm sure there are many other good lures to use, but if I bought anymore I'd go broke. Besides, I do just fine with the lures mentioned above but feel free to try others. There are numerous colors to choose from, but I've narrowed those down to try to keep it simple. In the Thundersticks I get the Jr's. and Deep Jr's. in the following colors; purple scale, blue scale, metallic green, metallic rainbow, purple w/black dots, metallic watermelon, black back prism, chartreuse and any natural looking colors. Metallic green and blue scale are by far the best colors for me. The Rebel Fastracts are hard to come by now, but they work excellent also. The colors I use in this model are: orange/gold, blue/silver, black/gold and the best color I've found is metallic rainbow. The Salmon and Browns both hammer that color. I probably have more Rapalas than any other stickbait in the box. Here I choose a few sizes to use. In the jointed models I use J-9, J-11, and J-13s. The J-13s are a little big, I usually use them for Salmon, but an occasional Brown will take one, so it's good to have that size also. In those 3 sizes I use silver/blue, silver/black, gold/black, orange/gold and chartreuse/silver. Those colors should be all you need. In the floating models of Rapalas I use size 9, 11 and 13's. Same colors as above but here I also get the rainbow pattern and a few of the more natural colors. Lastly, I would buy some Husky Jerks and X-Raps in 8's and 10's as they have allot of new great colors but I have to test them first so I will get back to you on that.
The second style of lures I use is spoons.
They come in so many different sizes and makes that I couldn't possible cover all of them so I will tell you what some of my favorites are. My bread and butter spoon or my number one has to be the Michigan Stinger spoon. Colors used are metallic purple and black w/silver, metallic chartreuse/blue (a real smoker) watermelon w/purple spots and some of the glow colors like the die hards and all of the alewife series. All in the Stinger and Stingray size. Actually, I use so many Stingers I couldn't possible put them all here. They are all awesome!
Next, Northern Kings in sizes D4 and Nk 28's. Top producers are the new purple passion, watermelon, monkey puke, black/white w/glow green tape, silver/green, their new dolphin color and black/purple. I have many other colors but these few work the best. Flutter Devils made by the Eppinger company in silver with a variety of different custom tape jobs are really good also. I usually tape just the edge,(about an 1/8th. in. strip of tape along the entire length) for best results. I also use Alpena Diamonds, Pro Kings, Evil Eyes, Dream Weavers, Fishlanders, Northport Nailers, Silver Streaks and Yecks in the same colors. These spoons are usually in sizes from 2 3/8-3 1/2in. in length.
I have one other setup that I learned last year and I could't believe how good it worked. That was a 4-6in. Lhur-Jensen dodger in chrome/blue or just plain chrome with a leader length 1 1/2 times the length of the dodger with a blue/silver Alpena Diamonds tied on. I fished it 50-75ft. behind the ball and 5-15ft. down on the rigger.
This just about covers most the lures I use for springtime Browns. I'm sure I missed a few so come spring time e-mail me and I will let you know what's hot!
Springtime Brown Trout Tactics Part #3
Rigging For Success
This last section will cover setting lines on the boards, downriggers and also flatlines and Dipsey Divers. First, I'll explain the use of boards because that should be the first piece of equipment used at this time of the year. Assuming you're rigged for planer board use, I start by putting my boards out 60-80ft. from the side of the boat. You can go out further, but in boat traffic or tight quarters I like the shorter distances. The only time I run longer is if the fish are really tight to shore and I need to get the boat into deeper water.
Once I have the board out, I let the first lure out 150ft., then I clip it in the release and send it to within 2 foot of the board. Your first lure should be the shallowest running lure you plan to use.(see Planer Board drawing for an explanation) Sometimes I run spoons here. The next lure should run a little deeper than the first and it should be let out 125ft.. Clip it in the release and let it down to within 15ft. of the previous lure. The third lure should be the deepest running lure and it should be put 100ft. out and then send that one out to within 15ft. of the line before it.(The reason for this is that fish have less a tendency to get tangled up when they take a lure.) If you're running both boards do the same for the other. If the water is deep enough, I sometimes run a small size 3 Dipsey Diver or a Big Jon Diver Disk on my inside line back 30-60ft. Run a 4ft. leader and then your favorite lure. This works good when fish are spooky and run down and away from the boat when it passes over them. If I need to get lures deeper when using boards, I will add BB size split shots 2ft in front of the lure and 6in. apart if adding more than one. I used as many as 3 in front of Nks last year when trolling in 25ft. of water or more to get to the strike zone.
Now that the boards are set, I usually run 4 to 5 downriggers. I'll let out 100ft. of line and half hitch a rubber-band on the line and hook it to the downrigger ball via a large paper clip or a red color plainer board release made by the Off Shore company. I will then put it down anywhere from 3 to 15ft. or deeper depending on where the fish are. The second rigger will be set 50-75ft. back and so on. The reason I use rubber bands is that in the spring you get some small fish that won't trip a regular release. Sometimes they won't even break the rubber band, but with the rubber band you will see the rod jump at the take and while the fish is trying to get free, so that way you know you have a fish. Lastly, I set one or two flatlines. Sometimes I go back 200ft. and sometimes I put them 15-30ft. back right in the prop wash. These methods, when mastered, will produce fish all the time. It will take a while to learn the boards but they are a must for springtime Browns. Good luck and have fun.
In-Line Plainer Boards
Well, it's getting to be that time of the year when the serious fishermen start getting the boats ready, which means buying new toys to help swing the fish catching odds in our favor. In this segment, I thought I would talk about in-line planer boards and how I use them for early season fishing. There are two types of boards which you can use, in-line boards and the bigger boards which require a tow line. I have both, and have used each effectively to catch early season Trout and Salmon. This is how the in-lines work:
In-line boards are exactly what they imply, and that is, that they are placed on your main fishing line from your fishing rod. The best boards out there I feel are the Church Walleye Boards made by the Church Company. They have the best releases and the best ease of use and have a releasable line peg so you can pop it off your fishing line with ease. They're really easy to use once you get the release set right. In-line boards can be fished three ways. You can have the board break away when you get a strike or you can have it slide down the line when you get a strike or you can set it so it stays put until you reel in the line and take it off yourself. I prefer to have it stay put on my line for a couple of reasons. First, I don't like the idea of retrieving my board in an area that I just caught fish in, it tends to spook them out of the area, also, it's wasted time. Second, if the fish should get off or if it was something other than a fish that caught your line like a log, again it's wasted time. For those reasons I use the stay put method when using in-line boards.
Now, to set it up for fishing, I'll let 125-150ft of line out, then attach the board and let that out to the desired distance from the boat set the releases to tight and it's as simple as that. The last thing with the in-line boards is setting the release, and that can be a pain. I like to have mine set so that the water currents and debris won't release the boards. Therefore, I set my release tight! So when I get a fish it will actually drag the board back, at which point I grab the rod and give it a quick wrist snap to set the hook and the fight is on. Just remember to take the board off the line when it gets to you. That's all there is to it for in-line boards.
I hope some of this info will help you set up your boat to catch fish for you! Good luck and FISH ON!