Trolling for Trout: Tips for Success

A kayak set up ready for an anglers to go trolling for trout
Fishing kayaks provide an easy way to enjoy trolling for trout on Adirondack ponds.

As the sun climbs above the evergreens framing the pond and the morning mist lifts from the water, a fisherman pushes his canoe into the placid waters of a mountain pond for trolling for trout.

The only others fishing there are a family of mergansers and mink bobbing along the shoreline. The angler props his rod alongside and slowly paddles his canoe along the shoreline in ever tighter circles towards the deeper water in the center of the pond. The sound of bluejays or perhaps the chatter of a red squirrel is the only other sound on this summer morning as the fisherman trolls the tannin-stained water in search of trout.

The Reality of Trolling for Trout in the Summer

Although many anglers might prefer to fly fish or cast spinners for brook trout, the reality of trout fishing in the summer is that you must usually fish the deeper, cooler, and well-oxygenated waters where the fish are found. For a lot of Adirondack anglers that means slowly paddling on an Adirondack pond in search of active trout in their comfort zone.

More Spring trolling tips.

Secrets of the Lake Clear Wabbler for Trout Fishing

The traditional method is to circle the pond gradually moving your lure deeper as you head toward the center of the pond. Some anglers do this with a sinking tip fly line and streamers or Wooly Buggers. However, a majority of anglers tend to rely on the old Adirondack standby – the Lake Clear Wabbler.

The Lake Clear Wabbler is an oval-shaped flasher-attractor that gains the attention of the trout by its action and flash. Typical sizes range from two to three and a half inches in length and come in a variety of finishes or colors.  The gold-plated finish of a Breck’s Lake Clear Wabbler gives a great reflection and flash even at greater depths where brook trout may lie in summer.

Mastering the Lake Clear Wabbler Rig

Most anglers fishing for brook or big rainbows of trout tie one end of the Lake Clear Wabbler directly to their monofilament line. At the other end of the Wabbler they attach a 12 – 18 inch leader and then a hook and worm. Some anglers prefer to use a streamer, large nymph, or even a small lure instead of a worm at the end of the leader.

Proven Technique for Landing Record-Breaking Trout

Gary Marchuk of Bear Cub Adventures guide service in Lake Placid usually prefers a copper finish Wabbler attached to his 8-pound test line with a snap swivel. At the other end, he uses a barrel swivel and a 3-pound test leader. He uses just enough worms to cover the hook.

The rig is trolled at very slow speeds, which allows the Wabbler to wobble without spinning. Typically you should let out 100 – 150 feet of line behind the boat with the rod held perpendicular to the boat and 45 degrees off the water. The hook set should be subtle.

Richard Beauchamp of Mayfield, NY caught the current New York State record brook trout in Silver Lake using a Lake Clear Wabbler rig. Beauchamp also caught three other trout over 5 pounds that day on a Lake Clear Wabbler rig.

Trout Trolling Set Up on Larger Waters

A collection of great lures to use while trolling for trout.
Traditional lures to use while trolling for trout include the Lake Clear Wabbler, Mooselook Wobbler, and Williams spoons.

A similar trout trolling set up with the rig trolled behind a boat with a motor can be used on larger waters. However, most of the anglers trolling for trout, rainbow, or brook trout on larger lakes prefer to use small stick baits or thin spoons such as the Williams or a Mooselook Wobbler which also produce a lot of flash and action.

Helpful Tips to Use While Trolling for Trout

Depending on the depth that anglers want to get their lure, they may use added weight or a three-way rig. When Tom Yacovella caught what was then a state-record brook trout on Raquette Lake, he used a three-way swivel with weight added to get his three-inch Rapala stick bait down to the thermocline and below the water column where the bass was suspending. The big 5-pound 4-ounce brook trout had been feeding on two-inch minnows so in essence Tom was ”matching the hatch.”

Troll 3 -Tom Yacovella, record trout Raq Lk
Tom Yacovella caught his record-breaking trout by trolling a 3-way rig on Raquette Lake

Landlocked Salmon Trolling

Landlocked salmon are one of the most exciting fish to catch, but in the summer they will inhabit the deeper, colder water in the lakes so you might as well put away the fly rod that you use in early spring or fall. Normally the salmon are found suspended about halfway down over the deeper areas of the lake. This is often the thermocline where they find 55-degree water and sufficient oxygen.

From daybreak until the sun rises and shines on the water, the landlocked salmon may be found in the upper 10 feet of the water column where they feed on small baitfish. Early morning anglers use landlocked salmon trolling in these areas with small flashy spoons like Mooselook Wobblers or Williams Thin Spoons. These come in a variety of colors but combinations of silver and blue, black, or purple tend to be the most popular.

Kayak Salmon Fishing

Veteran anglers troll at speeds of two–three mph in a zig-zag pattern. Vary your trolling speeds because salmon often follow a lure for a desired distance and then hit it when the speed or action changes. Remember one thing for kayak salmon fishing: even if you are using a boat without sophisticated electronics installed, you can measure your trolling speed using your GPS. The general rule is to use bright flashy lures on a sunny day and darker trolling lures on overcast days, but keep changing lures until you find the pattern that works best on that particular day.

Trolling for Trout in the Lake

Lake trout require cooler water so they will quickly go into deep water as the summer temperatures rise. Lakers are always found near rocky structures so they may be found near the bottom or along rocky drop-offs on other deep lakes. In any case, you need to troll the best lures (flashy) very slowly and near their habitat.

Expectation Vs. Reality of Trout Trolling

It brings to mind images of downriggers and electronic fish and fish finders, but that isn’t always the way it is in the Adirondacks. Although these instruments do give precise control, they aren’t as essential as in larger and deeper lakes like the Finger Lakes or Lake Ontario. Many Adirondack anglers only fish for lake trout occasionally so they don’t want to invest in that equipment.

Knowledge of the lake’s structure, a simple depth finder, and a lead core line can produce lake trout for the skilled angler. Although the lead core line will not give you the precise depth of a downrigger, letting out the measured colors on the line will give you a good idea of the depth your lure is reaching. For each color of line, you let out, the line will go down about seven feet, depending on trolling speed. For example, letting out six colors of the line will put your lure down to different depths – 40–42 feet, which is where lake trout are found in many Adirondack lakes.

Slow Troll for Lake Trout

It is important to use a slow troll of one mph or slower for lake trout. Trolling in an “S” pattern and varying the speeds will cause the lure to rise and fall and give it an enticing action. A strike will often occur during a turn or a pause in your trolling pattern.

Troll 3 -Tom Yacovella, record trout Raq Lk
Rick Beauchamp caught the current record 6 pound brook trout on Silver Lake using a Lake Clear Wabbler

Other Attractors

Some anglers like to use strings of attractors like “cowbells” or “Christmas trees” to produce a lot of flash with a small spoon or plug behind them. Other anglers just rely on light spoons like a Sutton or Breck Williams spoon with a shiny metallic finish and wobbling action.

Although some people disparage the lake trout because they are not spectacular fighters like salmon, this is an undeserved reputation. Lake trout winched up from 200 feet or more depths of Lake Ontario on heavy salmon tackle are not going to give a good fight. Lake trout caught on a medium tackle in the cooler water of Adirondack lakes at varying depths of 35 – 60 feet will put up much more of a battle.

Effective Trolling for Trout and Salmon

Trolling for trout or salmon with these methods may or may not be everyone’s favorite method of fishing, but it is the most effective way to catch fish (catch trout, etc) in the heat of the summer. Doing it with proper tackle and trolling lures can be a lot of fun and a pleasant way to spend a day amidst the splendor of the Adirondacks.

Original Article By Leo Maloney

About The Author

Leo Maloney was once the editor of Lake Ontario Outdoors Magazine. He enjoys many types of fishing in NYS, especially for steelhead.

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