Roeing For Fall Trout?
Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
Late fall and early winter and synonymous with trout fishing, that’s a given. But how do you go about hooking those trophy browns and rainbows?
For a long time I was only aware of a couple of different tried and true methods. If you had access to a boat fast trolling with minnow plugs or slow trolling or “rolling” rigged baitfish are solid approaches.
For bank anglers, plugging with the same minnow plugs that trollers use or soaking inflated crawlers produce results for patient anglers.
A couple years ago, while talking with north state trout guru Doug Neal of Almanor Fishing Adventures a new trophy trout method popped onto my radar screen. Neal employs trout roe for tempting both trophy caliber browns and hefty rainbows. Using trout roe makes perfect sense, yet very few anglers have ever heard of the method.
Before I explain how “Roeing for trout works” let’s explore why it is such an effective approach. Browns residing in lakes and reservoirs gravitate toward tributaries in the fall and early winter. Browns are fall/winter spawners and they will ultimately surge into these tributaries to complete the spawn process.
In the days and weeks before spawning activity actually occurs, the browns stack up around the mouth of the tributaries. Often times large rainbows will be found in the same area, drawn there by the opportunity to gobble up wayward eggs once spawning takes place.
Both before and during the spawn, both browns and rainbows will enthusiastically pounce on a well presented piece of roe. Salmon eggs will work and so will salmon roe, but not nearly as well as the real thing. You need trout roe!
You can’t buy trout roe, so you’ve got to harvest it yourself. Basically you need to find the areas where the browns are stacking up and catch one of them. Short of having trout roe, one of the best offerings you can employ is a natural colored Pautzke salmon egg. It’s not trout roe, but with persistence it will work.
We’ll talk about how to present roe and salmon eggs later, but at this point let’s pretend that you’ve caught a female brown. You don’t want to keep a really large fish, because it is important that those fish are allowed to spawn. For the sake of this article we’ll say that you’ve landed a fat 3 or 4 pounder.
The first thing you want to do is stun the trout and then cut its gills. You want to drain the trout’s blood so it can’t pool up in the roe. Once the trout has been bled, carefully slice the fish open and extract the roe skeins without damaging them. The roe should then be placed in a zip lock bag and immediately placed on ice.
According to Phil Pirone of Pro-Cure, you don’t want to freeze the roe prior to curing it for the best results, but he confided that if you must freeze it, the curing process will still work once it is thawed. “Frozen roe isn’t as pretty as roe that hasn’t been frozen, but the fish really don’t care about that,” confided Pirone.
Whether working with fresh or frozen thawed roe, there are several products and methods available for curing it. I like to keep things simple so I either employ Pro-Cure’s Wizard Egg Cure or Pautzke’s Fire Cure.
For this article I’m using the Wizard Egg Cure, but the approach is virtually the same with Fire Cure. These cures come in a variety of bright colors, but for trout it is best to stick with a subtle color. When using Wizard Cure I go with the Natural Glo color.
The first step in curing is to open the skeins using a scissors. The skeins can be left whole or precut into chunks. I like to carefully chunk the roe. For trout go with dime size or slightly smaller chunks.
After cutting, place the roe on a flat surface with the skin side of the skeins down and sprinkle the cure onto the roe. Don’t go crazy with the cure, but don’t skimp on it either. Just make sure that the eggs get a good coating of cure.
Once you’ve covered the eggs, place the chunks in a glass jar. The eggs will expel a lot of juice. Allow the eggs to remain in the jar for about an hour, rotating and rolling the jar several times to ensure the eggs get a good bath in the juice.
Next remove your roe from the jar and put it into a strainer for an hour or two. Once the eggs have drained place them on a dry towel or piece of screen and cover them with another towel. Allow the eggs to firm up for 12 to 14 hours.
Once the eggs are firm sprinkle a light coating of borax on them and then place them into a plastic tub or zip lock bag. The eggs will keep in the refrigerator for weeks or can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
Fishing the roe from a boat or the bank is simple as long as you remember one thing. The roe needs to be fished near, but not on the bottom. From a boat you can either drift or anchor and mooch the roe 6 to 18 inches from the bottom. Using a reel loaded with 8 pound test line and a 6 pound fluorocarbon leader, pin the roe on a No. 8 hook and employ a single split shot to get the bait down.
When fishing from the bank, the same rig can be used, but you’ll need to employ a slip bobber rig to get the bait into the strike zone.
Fishing for fall browns and ‘bows is a great pastime, but when you are ready to take a break from fishing set a course to the Jackson Rancheria Hotel and Casino for a different kind of excitement. At Jackson Rancheria, you’ll find great accommodations, top notch dining, headliner entertainment and plentiful gaming fun!