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Written By: Cal Kellogg, March 13, 2012
As I sit here at my keyboard with a super successful Sacramento ISE Show in my rearview mirror my thoughts have turned to fishing. I’ve got a 2011 fishing license burning a whole in my pocket and I’m itching to hit the water for the first time this year.
With so many options available across the breath and width of Fish Sniffer Country, choosing a location and a species to target is always an exciting dilemma! I’ve settle on Collins Lake as the destination and trout as my primary target. Collins is only about an hour from my home in Auburn and the drive through the foothills is beautiful and relaxing. I’ve fished Collins extensively over the years, so kicking off the 2011 season there is akin to going home.
From what I’ve been hearing the trout fishing at Collins is fair to good, but far from wide open. I spoke to some folks at the ISE Show that headed up there and got skunked and others that visited the lake and caught a few husky rainbows. This tells me that there are trout available that are willing to strike, my task is to figure out what they want.
I’ve heard from quite a few folks that struggle when it comes to catching trout during the dead of winter. Some days fish bite, some days they don’t, but I think one of the big reasons these folks don’t often enjoy good fishing is that they don’t approach their day on the water with a solid plan. To have a good shot at success you’ve got to consider the conditions and then come up with a systematic approach that is going to eliminate unproductive water and presentations, until you uncover a strategy that pays dividends.
Along these lines I’m going to share the thoughts I have about my upcoming trip to Collins in hopes that I might be able to help you in planning your next trout fishing adventure.
Let’s start out with the condition of the lake. The water is stained with 1 to 3 feet of visibility depending on where you go. The lake has come up a great deal and it now completely full. The surface temperature was 54 degrees several days ago and may well be a bit higher now with the unseasonably warm weather we’ve had.
If this information is accurate the trout will be up near the surface and shouldn’t be sluggish, since the ideal temperature for rainbows is around 56 degrees. The visibility could be an issue, but since it has been pretty constant I’m not too worried about it. Trout have acute senses and I haven’t found visibility to be a huge factor unless the water is really muddy or if there has been a major visibility fluctuation in the days immediately prior to my trip.
Certainly there will be rainbows scattered in open water, but I also expect to find trout concentrated around shoreline structure. I’ll start the day plying some open water areas, but my primary focus will be on pounding structure.
Whenever I go trout fishing I like to start out moving quickly and cover as much water as possible as I seek out active fish. If a fast presentation fails to produce fish I’ll gradually slow down until the fish respond. I’ll have everything I need for soaking Power Bait and worms from the bank with me, which is of course the ultimate slow presentation. I’m sure at some point regardless of how productive trolling is, I’ll spend a some time setting in the sun soaking Power Dough simply because I enjoy that style of relaxed fishing as much as I enjoy trolling.
So lets get started. First thing in the morning I’m going to rig up a pair of trolling rods with small minnow plugs. One will be a bright rainbow trout finish, while the other will be at traditional black over chrome pattern. I’ll spool these baits about 200 feet behind the boat and troll them at 3 mph. For my first trolling pass I’ll work from the Swim Beach down past the campground across the face of the dam and up the eastern shoreline for a short distance. At that point I’ll cut across the lake diagonally and work the shoreline inside Elmer’s Cove.
If the minnow plugs fail me and I’ll be surprised if they do, I’ll switch over to a medium fast pattern. On one rod I’ll tie on my go to trout lure, a chrome and blue Cripplure and on the other rod I’ll rig an orange Sep’s grub 18 inches behind a 6 inch UV Sling Blade. I’ll pull these rigs at 2 mph from 175 to 200 feet behind the boat. I’ll once again hit the Swim Beach shoreline and proceed across the face of the dam and back to Elmer’s Cove.
If I still fail to hook up, I’ll bust out the night crawlers. I’ll pull one threaded to roll on a leader without any added attractors. A second ‘crawler will be pulled behind a set of Vance’s Slim Willie flashers. I’ll pull the worms at just over 1 mph from 100 to 150 feet behind the boat. I’ll focus on trolling the worms from the Swim Beach to the eastern corner of the dam, since over the years these two areas have yielded very consistent result for me.
I’m confident that I’ll hook fish while trolling, but if I don’t or when I decide I just want to soak some bait, I’ll work my way up into the river arm and find a good place to beach the boat near the power lines. The narrows created by the river channel naturally concentrate fish and the area near the power lines sports a lot of interesting structure.
Once the boat is secured and my chair and rod holders are set up I’ll rig up a pair of rods with sliding sinker rigs utilizing 3/8 ounce bullet weights and 18 inch leaders tipped with No. 10 Eagle Claw Lazer Sharp octopus hooks. I’ll arm one rod with rainbow colored Power Bait and anoint is with a shot of anise krill bait scent. The other rod will utilize an inflated mini-crawler, slathered with crawfish scent.
Since the trout won’t be holding in deep water, I won’t cast too far from the bank. Many times when the water is cold bank anglers that cast for distance are actually fishing beyond and below the majority of the fish. At the first sign of a bite, I’ll open my reel and give the trout plenty of time to run and fully engulf the bait.
Here’s a final tip that we all tend to overlook at times…I’m not going to let whether or not I catch fish be the measure of a successful day. At this point I just want to get outside and enjoy the sights and sounds of one of my favorite foothill lakes. Any fish I catch will be a bonus!
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