Egging On Fall Trout
Written By: Cal Kellogg, September 14, 2012
Location: American River - Lower, American River- Middle Fork, American River- North Fork, American River- South Fork, Bear River Reservoir, Baum Lake, Beardsly Reservoir, Berryessa Reservoir, Boca Reservoir, Bowman Lake, Bridgeport Reservoir, Britton Lake, Bucks Lake, Bullards Bar Reservoir, Camanche Reservoir, Caples Lake, Chabot Reservoir, Collins Lake, Consumnes River, Crowley Lake, Deer Creek, Davis Lake, Del Valle Reservoir, Don Pedro Reservoir, Donner Lake, Eagle Lake, East Carson River, East Park Reservoir, Eastman Lake, Englebright Reservoir, Fallen Leaf Lake, Feather River- Lower, Feather River- Upper, Folsom Lake, French Meadows Reservoir, Frenchman Lake, Fuller Lake, Gold Lakes Basin, Grant Lake, Grouse Ridge Lakes, Gull Lake, Hell Hole Reservoir, Hennessy Lake, Hat Creek, Ice House Reservoir, Indian Creek Reservoir, Indian Valley Reservoir, Jackson Meadows Reservoir, Jenkinson Reservoir, June Lake, Lafayette Reservoir, Lake Almanor, Lake Alpine, Lake Amador, Lake Edison, Lake Oroville, Lake Tahoe, Lake Valley Reservoir, Lewiston Lake, Little Grass Valley Reservoir, Loon Lake, Lyons Reservoir, McCloud River, McClure Reservoir, McSwain Reservoir, Millerton Reservoir, Mokelumne River- Upper, Natoma Reservoir, New Melones Reservoir, Pardee Reservoir, Pleasant Valley Reservoir, Prosser Creek Reservoir, Putah Creek, Pit River, Rancho Seco Pond, Rollins Reservoir, Rucker Lake, San Pablo Reservoir, Shasta Lake, Shastina Lake, Shadow Cliffs Lake, Shaver Lake, Siskiyou Lake, South Lake, Spaulding Reservoir, Spicer Meadow Reservoir, Stampede Reservoir, Stumpy Meadows Lake, Sugar Pine Reservoir, Trinity Lake, Trinity River, Truckee River, Tulloch Reservoir, Twin Lakes, Union Reservoir, Union Valley Reservoir, Walker River- East, Walker River- West, Walker Lake, West Carson River,
It was 107 degrees on my porch yesterday, according to the digital thermometer. During a heat wave like this, it’s hard to believe that fall with it’s cold nights and mild days is right around the corner. It is and with fall comes some of the best trout fishing of the year for those in the know.
We all have our favorite trout baits and lures and truth be told most traditional lures, baits and flies will catch trout during the fall simply because the fishing is so good, yet it always pays to utilize the most effective tool available. From a bait fishing standpoint it’s hard to come up with a more versatile and effective bait for both lake and stream fishing then salmon eggs. Here’s why….
Both planted trout and more importantly holdover and wild trout relish salmon eggs. Now it’s easy to understand why the wild rainbows residing in the Sacramento River eat eggs, after all they are surrounded by spawning salmon for several months of the year, but what about the planter that has never seen anything to eat beyond government issue trout pellets. Why does that rainbow go out of its way to inhale that bright red Green Label egg?
I think on an instinctive level the goal of the fish is two fold. First a trout or salmon is motivated to destroy any spawn it encounters such that it’s own offspring will have a better chance at survival. Second eggs are packed with nutrition and the trout seem to know that a loose egg or two is not a meal that should be passed up.
Regardless of why the trout hit them, eggs are an outstanding tool for fall trout whether your goal is a limit of fryers for breakfast or hooking a reclusive brown that has survived many trout seasons.
Let’s look at some methods for using salmon eggs and explore the various salmon eggs available to match a range of different situations.
Some folks look at egg fishing as the method of choice for the unsophisticated angler in search of planters. While fooling trout with eggs may not be as tough as catching bone fish on the Christmas Island flats, the aspiring egg angler will still benefit from having top notch gear tailored to the task at hand.
For lake fishing where vegetation isn’t a factor you’ll want a 7 to 8 foot medium action-spinning rod. The soft action rod will allow you to cast long distances with minimal weight without flinging your soft eggs off the hook.
For stream fishing a 4 to 6 foot fast action rod is in order. The faster action gives you the power you need to control fish in current, while the shorter length makes navigating streamside brush easier.
The both rods should be balanced with a spinning reel spooled with standard 4 or 6 lb. copolymer line like Trilene or P-Line CXX. I like moss colored line, as I believe the fish have a tough time seeing it.
Some folks may be tempted to spool up with fluorocarbon. That’s not a good idea. I advocated using fluorocarbon leaders. However fluorocarbon line sinks and some of the egg fishing techniques I’ll describe work best with neutral buoyancy copolymer line that stays near the surface of the water.
With your rod and reel taken care of we’ll need some components and other toys. Start off with a couple spools of fluorocarbon leader material in 4 and 6 pound test. Next add to that a selection of octopus hooks in size 8, 10 and 12. I go with either red or black Eagle Claw Lazer Sharps.
You’ll also need a selection of small black swivels, split shot and some ¼ ounce bullet weights.
To round out your gear selection you might have to shop around a bit to find exactly what is needed. First you’ll want to find a P-Line Trout Fishing Bead Assortment. The box contains 6mm and 8mm beads in 20 different colors. Next you’ll want some steelhead fishing yarn in subtle orange, yellow and pink hues. You don’t want the really bright stuff in most circumstances.
The final piece of the puzzle is an assortment of standard slip bobbers as well as an assortment of small ½ and 5/8 inch foam strike indicators that are used by fly anglers.
There are all sorts of salmon eggs on the market. For quality, selection and cost Pautzke eggs can’t be beat. They’ve been selling their “industry standard” Green Label eggs since the 1930’s.
It’s the aforementioned green and white lidded jar of red Green Label eggs many of us started trout fishing with and it’s these eggs we think of when we think of fishing salmon eggs for trout. Yet there is far more to the Pautzke egg line up than the tried and true Green Labels. I think there are at least two other “models” of egg that every serious trout angler should be carrying for both lake and stream fishing.
If you check out the Pautzke website you’ll find that they produce six different types of bottled egg in the Ball’s O’ Fire line. I’m sorry but I seldom run Green Labels anymore instead when I want a red egg I usually go with a Premium Egg. Hand picked from late harvest king salmon, Premium is the highest quality egg in the Balls O' Fire line. These top of the line eggs are uniform in size, tightly graded, clean and big eggs. There are no loose fragments of eggs in the jar. They are the highest quality egg available. Where you might use two or three green label eggs to cover a hook you’ll only need one Premium egg to do the same job.
As good as red eggs can be, when it’s time to fool holdover rainbows and big wild browns with spawning on the brain, natural colored eggs are best. This brings us to Pautzke’s yellow and orange eggs. They call their orange eggs, “Orange Deluxe” and the yellow ones are dubbed “Yellow Jackets”.
Orange Deluxe salmon eggs aid anglers in presenting a more natural colored salmon egg to salmon, trout and steelhead. For the most part, natural color eggs aren't red, rather a shade of orange. Orange Deluxe eggs are carefully cooked to emulate the natural tint that salmon, trout and steelhead eggs have.
Yellow Jackets are similar to Orange Deluxe salmon eggs as they strive to retain characteristics of natural colored eggs found in lakes, streams and reservoirs. Yellow Jackets carry a natural yellow tint to them.
If you check my gear I may or may not have other eggs with me, but I always have Premium red, Orange Deluxe and Yellow Jackets. If I had to pick one as being my favorite it would be the Orange Deluxe simply because it is such a versatile natural looking egg.
You could probably write an entire book on ways you can rig and fish salmon eggs. I’m going to move quickly and outline a few of my favorite methods.
Let’s start with stream fishing. In the fall the absolute best stream fishing opportunities exist where streams enter lakes that hold brown trout. You’ve got to check your regulations because on some lakes these areas are closed to fishing. Once you locate a brown trout lake that allows you to fish near the inlet, it’s time to explore both the stream side and lake side of the inlet.
Browns spawn in the fall and winter. It’s very common for these fish to stack up both in the lake offshore of inflowing tributaries and in the lower reaches of the tributaries themselves. Holdover rainbows move in and patrol these same areas looking for loose brown trout spawn.
A natural presentation is always important, but it is absolutely key when dealing with wary trout holding in shallow water. There are two ways to target these trout. You can either drift a natural colored egg along the bottom or drift one suspended beneath a small bobber.
For drifting near the bottom. Take your main line and tip it with a swivel. To the swivel attach 16 inches of fluorocarbon leader and tip the leader with a No. 12 hook. If the current is light additional weight won’t be needed. Simply bait the hook with two eggs and you’re ready to fish. If there is a good deal of current you’ll need to add small split shot above the swivel until you get enough weight on to keep the egg near the bottom, but moving at the same pace as the current.
When presenting eggs on this rig you want to cast up and across stream and let the eggs drift back down toward your position as realistically as possible. You’ll need to manage your line. You want the eggs drifting with the current, but you can’t allow a bunch of slack to develop.
Sometimes a strike will be felt as a tap, but at other times nothing will be felt and the only clue will be the line stopping or twitching. If anything odd happens set the hook. Hook sets are free and you’ll be surprised how often what you thought was a rock turns out to be a trout. When fishing eggs guys that watch the line typically catch more trout than guys that rely on “feel” to detect bites.
To fish the same areas using a float you set up your rod the same way, except your apply a fly fishing float to the line above the swivel. How deep you believe the fish to be holding dictates where you place the bobber on the line. It’s best not to use any additional weight if possible, but at times when the water is deep and/or moving fast a larger bobber and a few split shot will be needed to get your eggs in the strike zone.
The presentation with the bobber is up and across stream just like with the bottom drifting rig. The only real difference is that you’re looking at the bobber to tell you when a strike is happening. You still have to use good line management and remember when that bobber goes down you must reel until you feel the fish and then set the hook. If you fail to do this you’ll miss trout due to slack in your line.
These two methods are not used just for targeting browns. I fish eggs for planted rainbows and brook trout the exact same ways. The key is presenting the egg with a stealthy natural drift.
For lake fishing situations I use the same basic rigs. My favorite method is using as slip bobber set up such that the eggs drift just off the bottom. In streams I almost always use orange or yellow eggs. In the lake I use all the colors and often pair them to create combinations.
If a slip bobber isn’t working or I’m too lazy to set one up, I’ll often set up a bottom drifting rig with no weight and bait the hook with a couple eggs. I then cast the eggs out as far as I can and let them settle to the bottom. Every 15 seconds or so, I move the eggs a few inches. The movement catches the attention of the trout. When they come in to investigate they often munch the eggs.
Don’t worry about casting too far offshore when lake fishing in the fall. Remember that in the fall the baitfish often gravitate to the bank and the trout follow them. In the early winter at lakes like New Melones it’s not uncommon to hook quality trout within a rod length of the bank.
Mike Bogue’s Hybrid Egg Combos For Moving Water
Mike Bogue of Mike Bogue’s Guide Service is one of the state’s top guides when it comes to catching salmon, trout and steelhead in the Sacramento River between Redding and Red Bluff.
The trout fishing on the Sacramento can be downright phenomenal for wild rainbows. The trout feed heavily on salmon roe, so it makes sense that Bogue would develop some unique methods of fishing eggs to meet the demands of the Sac’s deep fast flowing water.
“There’s many ways to imitate salmon eggs tumbling down the Sacramento River. Glo Bugs and yarn flies are two of my favorites,” confides Bogue. “However, my top bait is a Glo Bug with a Pautzke Orange Deluxe salmon egg on the hook. This gives you the salmon egg look and the smell of the real thing. There’s no bait better than a real salmon egg on your line.”
“To rig this I use a slinky for weight, 6# P-Line fluorocarbon leader and a Glo Bug. I’ll cast the bugs below riffles where salmon are spawning or have spawned. In addition to trout this setup works well for steelhead in low clear conditions or when you are out of roe. I also use it under a float. For steelhead, on the other hand, I use 10# P-Line fluorocarbon leader, 12# - 15# P-line mainline and an Eagle Claw #4 Lazar Sharp Hook in the egg loop. It’s best to tie in a #12 Corky with your favorite color yarn. In addition, when using this setup with a float I put a bead in the egg loop,” tips Bogue.
“This method is bound to catch bows and steelies, but if you aren’t getting bit feel free to alter the color combination. It’s ok to switch out other Corky’s (beads), yarn combinations and also substitute Yellow Jackets, Orange Deluxe (my favorite) or Premium salmon eggs,” Bogue concluded.
To learn more about Mike Bogue’s Sacramento River trout and salmon trips please visit http://www.mikebogue.com
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