In the British Columbia Interior we are spoiled with the species of fish that we get to fish for. These species mostly consist of Rainbow Trout, Kokanee, Lake Trout, Brook Trout and Bull Trout/Dolly Vardens. One thing all of these fish have in common is the affective way an Angler can fish for them; and that is the method of trolling.
I would like to share some simple but effective techniques that I’ve had great success with over the past years when trolling the BC freshwaters.
Speed & Direction: One mistake that I use to always make when I first got my boat was trolling way to fast! One of my fishing boats is equipped with a 5 horse 4 stroke and it is shallow 14 foot aluminum. Everyone around me would be catching fish and I wouldn’t even get a bite! Then one day I passed an old timer with a red mop bucket being towed behind his boat. At the boat launch I asked him curiously why he was towing the bucket. He explained to me that his new 4 stroke motor idled 2 times faster than his old 2 stroke so he brings the bucket along to slow down his trolling speed. Well the next day I took the mop bucket from the kitchen and headed back onto the lake. Within my first hour of fishing I had 3 Kokanee in the boat.
I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to tow a bucket behind their boats, but to be aware of your trolling speeds. Some fish like a slow presentation while others like the presentation fast. If the weather turns from cold to warm, or warm to cold in a dramatic timeline I find that a slower presentation works much better. This is mainly due to the fish adjusting to the weather change, in this transition the fish tend to be less aggressive. I try to pay attention to what the weather has been doing for the 3 days prior to the day that I am out fishing rather than just the day I am out on the water. The trolling speed should also depend on what species of fish you are targeting and the lure that you are using. When using gang trolls with wedding rings I go a slower speed (1 mile per hr) than if I am trolling a large plug or Apex lure with a large Dodger (2 miles per hr). If you’re not experiencing success when trolling always adjust your trolling speed before changing up your presentation.
The “S” pattern troll works very well for all species. I tend not to troll in a straight line no matter what species I am fishing for. Troll straight for about 100 yards, then start making large ‘S’ turns (4 to 5 turns in a row); then repeat. Most of the hits will happen on the line that is on the inside of the turn. Fish will sometimes follow the lure for miles as they are curious, but when the action of the lure changes it intrigues the fish to bite it.
Wind: Sometimes the wind can be very irritating to an angler when fishing, especially when trolling in a smaller vessel. When the surface of the water starts to ripple aggressively the fish will slow down and become less aggressive. What I like to do is troll with the wind, not against it. Not only does this make it easier to control the boat but majority of the time the lure will pass the fish in the right direction. Fish will face in the direction of where the food source is coming from. What the wind does is it stirs up food sources and moves it through out the water in the direction of the wind. The fish stay suspended in the water and wait for their dinner! This is similar to how a fish faces the current in a river and waits for the food to float by. Trolling with the wind the lure will be moving towards the fish the same way as their food source. Also, try trolling in towards the shoreline or points and back out. A lot of the time the fish will be on these points and drop offs as the wind pushes food in towards the shore.
Depths: Most of BC’s freshwater fish feed upwards. They will come up sometimes as much as 20 feet (depending on water clarity) to bite the lure. When finding the fish on the sonar it is best to troll the lure from 5 to 10 feet above were the fish are layered. Example: If the sonar reads that the fish are at a depth of 50 feet, troll your lure at 40 to 45 feet.
Downriggers: Downriggers are a great tool for a BC angler when trolling deeper freshwater lakes such as Lake Okanagan. BC offers numerous lakes with depths of well over 200 feet. The most affected way to troll for deep fish is with a downrigger as you can be certain of which depths you are trolling at. The other nice thing about a downrigger is that when a fish bites and gets hooked on, your not fighting the weight of the sinker, it’s just you and the fish! One trick that I have found when fishing a downrigger is to adjust the depth of the line sporadically. This creates the same action as the ‘S’ pattern troll. A fish may be following the lure for a good while, then when the depth of the lure is adjusted sporadically this will sometimes spark a bite. I usually adjust the depth up about 10 feet for about 2 minutes then back down 10 feet to the level of my original trolling depth.
Colours of Presentation: The rule of thumb when trolling is to use bright colours during bright days and darker colours during darker days. I must admit that this old wise tale has proven to be correct to me numerous times over the years. When looking into the science of this it does make sense. Colour is simply how the reflection of light bounces of an item. Some colours need more direct UV light to appear than others. As the lure is set deeper into the water the less light it has to reflect the colour. On cloudy days when the light is limited it adds to this limitation of available light. The colour red only displays its colour approximately 20 to 25 feet, so this colour is good for a surface troll but not necessarily a deep water troll. After 25 feet the colour disappears and it turns to a grey shade rather than a colour. The colour blue on the other hand doesn’t loose it’s colour until well past 80 feet, making this an ideal colour for lures for deep water trolling. You don’t have to learn the science of colour reflection to determine which colour of lure to use when trolling. But, I do highly recommend switching colour patterns of the same lure type when not having success. When you do start to get into the fish always remember what colour you were using and at which depth, you will soon find a pattern that works best for that body of water. Sometimes it only takes a slight change in presentation to attract that deep water beauty!
I learnt these basic tips when I first started trolling by trial and error, as well as from fellow experienced anglers. They have brought me much success in the BC Freshwaters and I hope they do the same for you.