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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
The winter fishing season is off to a great start. We’ve had rain, but it has been spaced out enough to prevent most lakes from becoming muddy. The temperatures have been cool, but not frigid. This equation adds up to great trout fishing.
The water in our impoundments isn’t cloudy enough to put the fish off the bite and it isn’t chilly enough to make the trout lethargic and reluctant to feed. Basically, Norcal’s trout are feeling feisty and trouters are taking full advantage.
Catching these winter trout is a fairly simple proposition, but there are some fine point that separate the unsuccessful anglers from the moderately successful and highly successful and let’s face it all of us want to reside in the highly successful group.
Perhaps the first thing we need to understand about reservoir bound trout during the winter months is their desire to hang out in fairly shallow water fairly close to the shoreline. This makes late fall, winter and early spring the time of the year when anglers fishing off the bank can score as well or better than their boating brethren. This being the case, let’s take a look at some proven approaches to boast our success to the maximum level when fishing from the shoreline.
The first thing we’ll need when we set out for a day of bank fishing is a rod, or more specifically a pair of rods, since most of us purchase a two rod sticker for our fishing licenses. Most light to medium weight spinning rigs will work when bank fishing for trout, but a 7 to 8 foot lightweight rod works best.
My current pet rig consists of a 7’ 6” Berkley Tactix rod balanced with an Abu Garcia spinning reel armed with 6 pound test line. The rod is rated for 1 to 6 pound test line and has a very soft action, which means I loose very few fish once hooked.
Once you’ve got your rods picked out, it is important to pick up a rod holder for each of them. Having your rod stable and positioned at the proper angle is an important part of bank fishing success. There are a number of different rod holders on the market that only cost about $2.
The required terminal tackle for the bank bound trout angler isn’t extensive, but is fairly specific. You can use both lures and baits when banking, but most of the time fishing baits will produce the best results so we’ll focus on bait fishing in this article. At times fishing bait suspended under a slip bobber can be very effective, but much of the time baits rigged on a sliding sinker set up and floated off the bottom work just well.
This being the case, the first thing we’ll need is a selection of ¼ to ½ ounce sinkers. Traditionally anglers use egg sinkers for this work, but I prefer to spend a little more and stock up on the bullet shaped sinkers preferred by bass guys. I find that these sinkers are less prone to snagging in rock terrain.
In addition to sinkers we’ll need to pick up a few 3/16 to ¼ inch plastic beads, some high quality No. 10 octopus hooks, some small swivels and a spool of 4 or 6 pound test Berkley Vanish fluorocarbon leader material. Finally toss in a couple old school red and white plastic bobbers about 1 inch in diameter and we’re all set in terms of terminal tackle. At home attach a bent paper clip (see illustration) to your bobbers so you can hang them on your line.
You’ll want to set up your rig like this. Take your main line from the rod tip and pass it through your bullet weight from the pointy end exiting the large end. Next slide on a bead and knot a swivel to the end of the line. To the swivel attach an 18 to 24 inch section of fluorocarbon and knot on a hook using a Palomar knot.
Fluorocarbon leader material is expensive, but it is important since to the eyes of a fish it reflects light at the same intensity as water, rendering it invisible. At times it doesn’t matter if you use fluorocarbon or not, but at other times you won’t get hit without it. For this reason I use it all the time.
There is one variation of the basic leader that I use at times. Mimicking the way bass anglers set up a drop shot rig, I attach a second hook at the midpoint of the leader using a Palomar knot. This allows you to fish two different baits on one leader. I’ll talk more about this later.
Now that we understand how to rig up we’ve got to pick up some baits to arm our hooks with. In most situations you only need three basic baits to hook trout, dough baits like Power Bait, Pautzke salmon eggs and night crawlers.
Power Bait is one of the easiest to use and most effect baits you can carry. The three must have colors are yellow, orange and chartreuse. To bait up with Power Bait, use your finger and dig a small portion out of the bottle and form it into a ball. You want a ball midway between the size of a dinner pea and a marble. Push your hook into the center of the ball, lightly squeeze the hole where the hook entered shut and you're ready to fish.
I like to carry both red and natural colored salmon eggs. Since salmon eggs don’t float and you can’t inflate them with air, this is where I employ my two hook leaders. I place a ball of Power Bait on the hook at the end of the leader and place 2 or 3 salmon eggs on the other hook. When the Power Bait floats up the salmon eggs are suspended off the bottom.
‘Crawlers are my personal favorite bait. To fish them you’ll need to pick up a worm blower, which is basically a needle attached to a plastic bottle. To rig a worm start off by pining it on the hook and then insert the worm blower and squeeze in air until you seen the worm plump.
All these baits are fished the same way. Cast them out, place your rod in a holder so it is at 45 degree angle and hang one of your bobbers on the line between the eyes near the end of the rod. Let out enough slack so the bobber hangs at least 2 feet below the rod. When a trout takes the bait the bobber allows it to take line without feeling resistance. When the bobber is pulled up to the rod, set the hook and yell FISH ON!
When you head out for a day of bank fishing for trout, it’s going to be chilly. If you find yourself trouting in the Motherlode, stop in at the Jackson Rancheria Hotel and Casino to warm up when you are done fishing. As you thaw out you can enjoy some of the best food and most exciting gaming in the foothills!
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