Reeling In Stocked Trout

The beauty of fishing stocked trout is the great diversity of fishing options. Trout are often the only fish available in many communities and whether you are just looking for an angling opportunity or searching for a big lunker, stocked trout can provide it all.

We walked along the windswept shoreline, looking for the best spot to target trout. Wearing polarized sunglasses, I could see the clear lake surface turn a dark shade of green, indicating deeper water. The change in depth meant structure that could easily hold fish and we cast out our baits to see if our hunch about the deep hole would produce any fish.

I doubt my bait had even stopped moving after sinking close to the bottom when I felt the telltale taps of a fish consuming my colourful offering. Using the length of my rod, I slowly tightened up on the line until I could feel the pressure of the fish, then cranked on my reel to set the hook. Flashes of silver and red shooting through the water indicated a bright rainbow was on the line and headed towards shore. After reeling it in, I put on some fresh bait and launched my rig back into the deep water.

My wife, Stef, started to laugh and when I looked over she was fighting her first fish towards shore. The action was hot and heavy and we never waited more than a couple minutes between bites before doing battle with another fish.

We had left home earlier that week to do some camping and, although we planned to fish, I had not brought the proper tackle to fish from shore. Our fly rods and pontoon boats had been put to steady use, but with the strong winds we opted to fish from shore with our spinning gear for the day. Thinking we may have the opportunity to fish from shore, I had stopped in town and purchased some bait, hooks and weights. It was a simple assortment of gear that I was confident would catch fish under any conditions.

My basic rig is a standard for shore fishing. Tie a No. 8 bait hook on the end of your line, slip a bell sinker onto the line and run it up 30 to 50 centimetres. Using a split-shot weight, you lock the bell sinker from sliding any closer to your hook. When you cast the rig, the bell sinker goes to the bottom and your hook can float up the length of line between your hook and the split shot. It’s really just a Lindy Rig and if you wanted to make a simple improvement to the overall system, you could tie a barrel swivel into the line to replace the split shot. The swivel does prevent twists in the line and reduces the weight that fish may feel when inhaling or swimming away with your bait.

The concept is to use the hook to present your bait up and off of the bottom. A trout’s eyes are positioned to see above them, making it easy for them to target a meal floating in the water column or sitting on the surface. Feeding mainly on invertebrates and other aquatic insects, trout cruise close to the bottom and keep a careful eye out above them for an easy meal.

In order to get your bait off the bottom, you can use floating bait or incorporate a hook that will lift your bait off the bottom. I used to fish dew worms and inflate them with a syringe. The air pumped into the worms would make them look like a big meal and provide just enough buoyancy to lift them the length of my Lindy Rig. Worms are not always available or can be difficult to keep over several days in the field, so I started to experiment with Berkley PowerBait and Gulp. They have several trout formulas available in a floating paste that are deadly on trout. Knowing trout are visual feeders, actively looking for a meal, I like to use bright colors to draw their attention. The Berkley baits are ideal, as they come in chartreuse, orange, pink, yellow and combinations that are highly visible. Putting a small ball of the paste on a bait hook is just enough to float it cleanly off the bottom, providing the perfect presentation with color, smell and placement in the water column.

The paste can be brittle and if you aren’t paying attention the trout become masters of thievery. In order to keep the bait on my hook, I always carry a few cotton balls. Pulling a few strands of cotton into long fibres, I can work the PowerBait into the cotton to form a tightly-held ball. When you run the hook through the bait ball, the cotton will actually work to keep the hook from pulling through the bait. It is a great tip that will increase your fishing time and the number of hook ups, as your bait will stay in place on your hook. It can be especially helpful when trying to cast a long distance from shore and you really need to cast the bait with force. Without the cotton, the bait will rip from your hook and leave you fishing with nothing more than a bare piece of metal.

Lindy Rigs are great for any kind of bait, from fresh grasshoppers to meal worms. A floating jig head or Styrofoam float placed on your line will provide the buoyancy required to get the bait up and off the bottom. I see trout anglers at many ponds fishing with their favourite or secret baits. Some use garlic flavoured marshmallows, while others might be trying kernels of corn or other homemade concoctions. If you are used to fishing pickerel rigs from shore, you might want to try a Lindy Rig, as it provides more control of your hook, the depth you want to fish and is easier to fish without tangles.

Many trout anglers believe the best way to catch their favourite game fish is with artificial flies. I must admit that a fly rod and reel is an exciting tool to catch fish with, and once you find success it is easy to get hooked on this method of fishing. I do like casting a dry fly from shore or into flowing water, but have caught more trophy-sized trout with my sinking line than with any other method.

Using a fly rod and reel, I rig up a floating line and basically troll it. Large minnow patterns, leeches and nymphs all work well. There are some seasonal favourites, like dragonfly nymphs, late in the summer and back swimmers throughout the fall, but the bigger offerings in the summer months simply appeal to the voracious appetite of larger trout.

Pontoon boats, belly boats or canoes are ideal for long-line trolling with your fly rod. I strip out line until I’m almost in my backing and then slow troll the fly through deeper water. Big trout tend to hold in the deep, cool water during the summer months and a sinking line will take your fly to the depths they are watching for a meal. I like to troll in an “S” pattern, as it helps provide vertical action to the fly. On inside turns, the fly line will pick up speed and raise the fly in the water column. On outside turns, the line will sink slightly, pulling your fly into deeper water. The rise and fall of your fly is often the best trigger to draw a strike.

My wife and I spent the better part of the week fishing our fly rods from our pontoon boats. If it weren’t for the terrible winds we encountered, I don’t know if we’d have enjoyed the tremendous shore fishing with our Lindy Rigs, which ultimately produced the biggest fish of our trip.

Not everyone can operate a fly rod effectively, or you may not own the right equipment, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fishing with a fly. Bobbers are a great way to cast dry flies on lakes or streams and provide the extra weight required to get a fly into productive water with spinning or spin cast gear.

You can use the standard red and white bobbers, but there are better options. Tapered, casting bobbers allow you to thread your line through the centre of the bobber and lock it into place by twisting the rubber core inside. I like to run a bobber about a metre behind my fly, giving it plenty of room to move naturally and still keep the line short enough to cast without snags. I like to cast the line out and as soon as the bobber hits the water, I snap my rod forward to straighten the line and fly out behind the bobber. I then wait for the ripples to stop moving around the bobber before I start my retrieve. It has proven to be a deadly way of targeting trout and the next time you are out at a local lake or pond and the fly fishermen seem to be out-fishing you, break out a bobber and give it a try.

If you’re the kind of person that can’t sit still and patiently wait for the fish to find your bait, you can actively go looking for them by casting your favourite hardware. Spoons, spinners and jigs are often overlooked for trout angling, but the flash, color and vibration they produce are excellent fish attractors. When fish are aggressively feeding, the faster action of a spoon or spinner can allow you to out-fish everyone around you. They can be fished at different depths and at different speeds, making them versatile to actively look for fish. You can walk the shoreline and try to locate the best fish-holding areas that you can then return to with bait. Make sure to use a swivel to prevent line twist, and if a certain color or shape doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to try something different. When it comes to hardware, a specific look or action can make all the difference in the world.

Spinners are my last line of defence when I can’t seem to catch fish. The fast, erratic action of the spinning blades can draw a strike for many reasons. The fish feel the vibrations and thumps put off by the blades on their lateral line, allowing them to zero in on the exact location of your spinner. They may strike out of feeding instinct, but when fish are in a negative mood, a spinner can agitate trout and draw a strike out of aggression, trying to get the annoyance out of their territory.

You don’t need highly specialized gear and if you use the basic techniques suggested above, you’ll find that you can always catch trout without having to make a major investment in tackle or gear. If you already have a rod and reel at home, the opportunities are endless for fishing trout from shore or on the water. All you have to do is make the time to go explore and field test the techniques for yourself.

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