Breaking The Speed Limit For Kokanee And Trout

Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 12, 2012
Species: Kokanee Trout

Breaking The Speed Limit For Kokanee And Trout

Very often in the fishing world following the cues of “conventional wisdom” will put you on the path toward success.

For example conventional wisdom dictates that sturgeon fishing is best during periods that feature minus tides and lots of water movement. On the water experience indicates that this assertion is largely true.

In relation to river salmon fishing, conventional wisdom dictates that large plugs such as Flatfish and Kwikfish are most effective when adorned with a sardine wrapper. Once again on the water results almost always back up this assertion. This being the case, can you enjoy good sturgeon action during weak tides? Sure you can at times. Will salmon hit a plug without a sardine fillet attached to it? Of course they will in the right situation.

In a general sense conventional wisdom are rules or guidelines that will help you catch fish a lot of the time but not all the time. Fortunately, as we all know rules are made to be broken!

One of the cornerstone conventional wisdom rules that I break regularly is the self imposed speed limit that kokanee and trout trollers impose on themselves.

Convention dictates that kokanee trolling is best done between 1 and 1.2 mile per hours while trout respond best to offerings that are moving between 1.5 and 2 miles per hour. Certainly thousands, indeed tens of thousands of fish are caught by anglers every season adhering to these speed guidelines, yet the reality is that if anglers would tailor their trolling speed to the prevailing conditions and attitude of the fish they would hook up even more often.

When targeting rainbows in the winter and early spring when the water temperature is hovering in the high 40’s trolling at 2 miles per hour will often pull you bait out of the strike zone before the lethargic fish have an opportunity to react.

In order to hook trout under these circumstances, I often have to resort to pulling a threaded night crawler without added flashers or dodgers at speeds well below 1 mile per hour. I accomplish this by creeping along using my electric trolling motor, often cutting the power to allow the bait to slowly freefall. This method is almost like still fishing with worms except I am covering ground albeit at a snail’s pace. As I write these lines, it is mid August. At this time of the year both kokanee and trout trollers should consider breaking out of their comfort zones and speed up their presentations considerable.

“When you are targeting late season kokanee it is important to remember that those fish are getting ready to spawn and that it is more of a reaction bite than a feeding bite,” Gary Coe told me while fishing at Lake Berryessa on August 14.

“Late in the season kokanee tend to become aggressive and territorial. By trolling faster, say from 1.8 to 2 miles and hour and upsizing the size of your dodgers and lures your gear will be putting off more flash and vibration and this will very often earn you more strikes from late season fish. When you up you speed and the size of your gear you’ll also notice that you’ll catch larger fish,” continued Coe.

Since late season kokanee are of a spawning mindset, dams and the mouths of tributaries are prime areas for employing a high speed troll with larger than average offerings. Instinctively, salmon that are preparing to spawn are drawn to these areas and this is where you’ll find the large aggressive fish that really respond to aggressive trolling tactics.

I’ve learned a great deal about trout trolling from Gary Miralles of the Shasta Tackle Company. Gary adheres to a start fast and only slow down if you have to trolling philosophy. For Gary trolling at 2 or more miles per hour is the norm. I too like to run at these speeds and I’ve been highly effective doing it.

While targeting rainbows and kings I pull my lures between 2 and 2.3 miles per hour most of the time, but with the approach of fall I speed up even more. Cooling conditions and shorter days cause trout to feed heavily because on an instinctive level they understand that the lean days of winter are right around the corner. These fish are aggressive, willing to chase and respond to offerings that look like a substantial meal.

In the fall when the surface temperature drops into the middle 60’s rainbows that had been locked into the thermocline all summer, move out of the depths and head toward shoreline structure such as rip rap along dams, points projecting off from rocky bank and the mouths of tributaries. Such areas hold baitfish and the surrounding structure enables the trout to ambush them very successfully.

For targeting fall trout stalking the bank I rely on four basic lures. My first choice is a half or eighth ounce Hum Dinger rigged behind a 4 to 6 inch Sling Blade, a 3 to 4 inch minnow plug or an Uncle Larry’s Spinner adorned with a whole night crawler. I typically troll these offerings from 2.5 to 3 miles per hour.

For maximum effectiveness these offering have to be worked close to the bank. Getting them in the strike zone requires fairly aggressive boat handling and you want the lures 200 to 300 feet behind he boat. For example when targeting trout holding on a point I’ll maneuver the boat down the shoreline toward the point, swing out hard well around it and then swing back in aggressively when I’m past it.

With the lures trailing far behind me the result will be such that the lures come across the point very near to the bank, yet the fish holding there have not been spooked by the boat because it passed well off the point.

Fast trolling for trout not only give the fish minimal time to inspect your offerings, prompting more reaction bites. It allows you to cover more ground and put your baits in front of more fish. This naturally leads to more hookups.

When you head out to your favorite lake to target kokanee over the next few weeks, or when targeting rainbows later this fall jump out of the rut and break your self imposed speed limit. I think you’ll be pleased with the results.

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