Three Season Trout Fishing

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Trout fishing isn’t reserved for the fly fishermen

The early morning sun was heating up the surface water of the lake, causing the cool air to lift off the water and create a misty fog. It was a warm morning and through the mist cutthroat trout were rising all around my float tube, eager to take my tiny imitation fly. There was rarely a cast with the fly rod that a cutthroat didn’t raise to my offering and it was one of the most memorable mornings of fly fishing I’ve ever had.

However, as the morning sun rose higher in the sky, the surface bite slowed and eventually stopped as fast as it started. Like most trout, the cutthroat plunged deeper into the depths to wait out the afternoon sun. It was time to put down my fly rod and go after them with my spinning rod and a variety of baits that could get down to the fish.

When you mention trout fishing, many anglers’ thoughts quickly turn to fly fishing. However, as effective as a well-placed fly is, there are many other baits and lures that will land a variety of trout species. For example, during the ice fishing season, an angler has no choice but to go after trout with a small jigging spoon or a small baited hook. But once the lakes and rivers are ice free, many anglers put away these baits and believe a fly is the only way to catch trout. But many other baits and lures have a time and place throughout the fair-weather season and, at times, can be more effective than a fly.

 

Spring

Like most anglers, I can’t wait to get on the water as soon as the fishing season opens. One of my favourite places to fish in spring is at the mouth of the creeks or rivers that spill into or run out of a lake. Trout will often take refuge from predators in these areas, or will be entering/exiting the lake through these natural waterways. To get a break from the current, trout are also known for hiding behind rocks or vegetation, darting out to retrieve a meal that happens to float by with the current. It is believed that trout can see you on shore, if you’re standing close to the bank, and they will shy away. When fishing smaller feeder creeks from shore, anglers should try to wear clothing that blends in with the surrounding landscape and keep movement to a minimum. But one of the most important things to remember is don’t cast your shadow over top of the area you are trying to fish. This often-overlooked mistake will affect a trout’s willingness to leave its underwater cover to bite a hook.

Water that flows into a lake will often make a deep pool where it spills in. The depth of the pool may only be one or two feet deeper than the surrounding area, but it’s enough of a change in depth and structure to attract trout. To get down to these fish, I tie on a small spinner bait like a Panther Martin or a No. 1 Lyman Lure plug. I cast the lure to the far side of the pool so when it’s retrieved the lure is naturally moving through the fish. I’ve found that casting my bait into the fish will often spook them, resulting in no hook ups.

After the bait hits the water, I retrieve it fast enough to keep the blades turning or the plug swimming, making the bait look like an easy meal moving with the current. When trout are feeding aggressively, they will often compete to feed, and if the water is shallow and clear enough, it’s not uncommon to watch them chase your bait. Again, be mindful of your shadow whether you’re in a boat, float tube or fishing from shore.

 

Summer

Once the hot summer sun of July and August begins to warm the lake, trout will move to deeper water, and to catch them you will have to get your baits down to them. The fly rod will still land a number of fish, especially in the early mornings and as it cools off in the evenings. But when the sun is high and hot, that’s when I pull out my spinning rod and reel.

Spoons come in all sizes and can be fished at a variety of depths by slowing down or speeding up your retrieve. Having a good understanding of the baitfish in the lake you’re fishing is important to consistently catch the trout species you’re fishing. Be mindful of not only the colour of your spoon, but also the size of the spoon. If the majority of the baitfish in the lake are small minnows, say one inch in length, then tie on a spoon one inch in length. Also, keep the colours of your spoons similar to the colours of the trout’s natural forage in the lake. If minnows are the primary food source, I go with silver-coloured spoons or hammered silver and gold combinations. Trout can be attracted to either the flash of the spoon or the vibration. While bigger spoons create more vibration, trout will often shy away from spoons bigger than their natural forage.

Spoons are commonly known to be trolled or casted and retrieved, however, I’ve had some incredible successes jigging a spoon or a Panther Martin spinner bait on cutthroat, rainbow trout and even brown trout. After the morning bite exhausted itself during my cutthroat trip mentioned above, I quickly pulled out my spinning rod and reel and tied on a small spoon. Sitting in my float tube, I let the bait free fall vertically until it hit the bottom and then I began jigging it, similar to jigging for walleye. However, jigging a spoon is more effective when jigged aggressively. The lift of the rod needs to be fast enough to get the blade spinning to create flash and vibration from the spoon, depending on what you’re using. With the tip of your rod pointing at the water, give it a sharp, aggressive lift straight up, moving the rod tip about four feet and then let the bait fall to the bottom. Trout will often take the bait as it falls or even after it sits motionless on the bottom for a short period of time. Keeping your line tight as it falls will help you detect a bite during the lure’s descent. When you feel the weight of the fish, set the hook. The trout species are well known for their aggressive headshakes and never-give-up attitude. Therefore, keeping a tight line during the fight is a must, or the trout is sure to spit the hook.

 

Jigs

Lake trout are more commonly found in deeper, cold water lakes. Because of the lake trout’s love for deep, cold water, many anglers will set up downriggers and troll large spoons and wooden plugs that imitate whitefish. I consider myself a jig fisherman and jump at any opportunity to catch fish using jigging gear. Lake trout may be suspended in deep water or holding tight to the bottom, but they are usually located on or near underwater structure with a hard bottom. When fishing big bodies of water, your electronics are crucial to finding the fish and the structure they’re using in the deep water. On my favourite lake trout lake, that water depth is usually 90 to 120 feet deep. I tie on a three ounce silver stainless steel jigging spoon and send it into the depths. You can also tip the jigging spoon with bait, adding scent to the lure. No stretch line in 20-pound test is best for this style of fishing. With 90 to 120 feet of line below you, I’ve found that monofilament line has too much stretch and getting a good hook set is tough with that much stretchable line out. Once the lake trout are located, the same aggressive jigging is needed. In these depths, vibration becomes a bigger factor to help the fish locate your lure. Bigger and stronger fish are found in the deeper water and the fight will test you and your gear. A good quality reel and drag system is a must.

 

Fall

During the fall season, the insects are all but gone and as the days get colder and shorter, instinctively trout begin to feed aggressively to prepare themselves for winter. This can be one of the most productive times of the year on the trout waters. At this time of the year, October through to ice up, trout will bite on a variety of baits and lures. This is a great time to experiment. Spoons, jigs, jigging spoons, wooden lures and crankbaits can and will work on a variety of trout species during the fall months and if I’m not out hunting, I’m on a trout water anticipating one of the best trout bites of the year. Last fall I had three incredible days throwing spoons and wooden lures into the fast-moving current of the Bow River in the month of December. Both brown trout and rainbow trout couldn’t resist the flashy lures in the cold water.

 

Stocked trout ponds

Small stocked trout ponds litter the Canadian provinces and can provide hours of entertainment for the whole family. Many youngsters get their first introduction to fishing while standing on the banks of a stocked trout pond. And if you’re fortunate enough to have one close to home, they’re the perfect after-supper outdoor activity. These are definitely one of the trout fisheries that often get overlooked. Stocked trout ponds are stocked by the province, county, township or by the local hunting and fishing clubs within the area, but each pond may be set up differently.

Some ponds are catch and take, some are catch and release, while others are designed to be a trophy fishery. Small stocked trout ponds can be fished from shore or from float tubes. One of mine and my son’s favourite pastimes is sitting on the side of our local trout pond after supper, watching our bobbers floating on the surface. With a spinning rod and reel spooled with six-pound test, I slip a bobber on one of our lines with a No. 6 J-hook tied to the end. I pinch on a split-shot for weight about 12 inches above the hook. A bobber stop needs to be placed on the line so the hook is positioned four to six inches off the bottom of the pond. A skinny bobber provides less resistance on the surface of the water when the fish takes the bait. Therefore, the trout will hold onto your little baited J-hook longer, resulting in more hook ups. I bait the hook with a piece of cheese, maggot, corn or a red worm and cast it out and let it sit. My son watches the bobber with anticipation until it goes under. He quickly grabs the rod and sets the hook and reels in his stocked rainbow trout. With the second rod I do everything the same, except I leave the bobber off. I cast it out and let the bait sit on the bottom and wait. Rainbow trout will pick the bait up and try to swim for deeper water. The slightest tug on the line or if your line begins to move sideways, set the hook. It’s one of the most relaxing ways to catch trout, and a great way to introduce a youngster to fishing.

Before you leave on your next trout fishing adventure, take the time to do a little research and find out what the major food source the trout feed on in the lake or river you plan to fish. Then stop by your favourite outdoor store and “match the hatch” with a few flashy spoons, lures and spinner baits. There’s a full season of trout fishing ahead of us and it’s not just for the fly fishermen.

The following sites list the bodies of water stocked by each province. To find a stocked lake or pond close to you, access the latest report for more information.

Alberta

British Columbia

Saskatchewan

Manitoba

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