Brown Trout: trolling with camera
2015 Ontario Steelheaders Newsletter
These are the folks who contribute the most to make steelheading in Ontario as great as it is!
Had a great time out with Rob Dankowsky of Big City Fishing this past week. We absolutely hammered the fish in a short span of just 3 hours of kayak fishing! Three huge Chinook Salmon came to the boat in the first forty minutes, followed by a smaller one. Lake Ontario grand slams were easy to come by on this trip, when just after that initial burst we had a plethora of Brown Trout, Coho Salmon and Lake Trout.
Our timing was perfect having connected with 13 fish in total. Unfortunately the warm weather has arrived and now driven the fish out to deeper water in search of baitfish. Watch for this episode to air on Big City Fishing later in 2015 or early 2016.
We now shift our efforts to cooler waters of Lake Huron and the Niagara River in search of more salmon and trout. Be sure to book your next fishing adventure with Nomad Adventures!
Fishing has improved dramatically in Southern Ontario over the past 10 days. We had our first group of the season out on Lake Ontario for some spring trolling.
Air: 10C @ 7am start, 19C @ noon finish
Wind: 20km/hr W or less
Fish: Brown Trout, Lake Trout, Coho Salmon
Baits: body baits 3-4" long
Things will only get better now until June. Be sure to contact Nomad Adventures for your next fishing adventure!
Jeff Wall | Nomad Adventures
This article is intended to provide basic information to anyone wishing to take advantage of the spring Great Lakes Steelhead fishery. Although we are targeting migratory rainbow trout, there are many incidental catches that fill our day with joy and help us learn tactics for catching other species we may encounter.
Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) is a species of salmonid which is native to the cold water tributaries of Pacific Asia and North America. Steelhead is an anadromous(sea-run), or in this case, lake-run form of Coastal Rainbow Trout(Oncorhynchus mykiss Irideus) that have been introduced to Great Lakes tributaries. These fish spend their first 1-2 years in the tributaries, then enter the Great Lakes, to later migrate back to their natal streams when they reach spawning maturity.
Primary spawning runs occur in the Great Lakes tributaries from late March to late May depending on the winter.
Season and Habitat
Timing as they say is everything. Especially on a sunny, warm spring day where the lake hasn't been stirred up much. If the water is clear and sun is high, then I'm already off the water looking at my pictures of the day's catch. A light wind is not a bad thing either provided it is in your favour. I prefer to fish a small chop when fishing steelhead and other minnow eaters. It displaces the baitfish more and allows for a wider, deeper zone to troll through. Fishing can be equally as good in the last two hours of daylight too. Finding a lightly wind blown warm shoreline near a creek or river can give whole new perspective on Great Lakes kayak fishing if you time it right! A spot where the sun has warmed all day long with a decent outflow nearby will start to get a trickle of minnows just before dusk that can provide fast and furious action as the sun disappears.
Most of the time you are fishing less than 20' of water. Fish are shallow as 5' when the sun comes up and usually stay in less than 20' until then light starts to really penetrate then water. Try to find temperature gradients close to a mud line as they are your best indicator of where to start fishing. The transitioning water colour from brown to green is the area you want to focus on the most. This is where the bait are hanging out to avoid being in plain sight. Zig-zag trolling in and out of the mud line will surely get you bit.
This is the season where kayaks have a real advantage over motorboats because of the relatively silent trolling capability. There is no need to run inline planer boards unless you do it to clear other rods when trolling multiple. If you have a leg propelled kayak like a Hobie Mirage series then things are even that much more simplified with hands free fishing.
We primarily target spring Steelhead before they enter the tributaries to go about their reproductive business. Anytime that conditions allow and you feel you are capable of dealing with them is the right time to go. This article is not about safety so if you feel there may be a risk and are not comfortable with it, then do not go. Steelhead begin entering Great Lakes rivers in October and can still be around in early June. Spring runs are more consistent from April to mid May. Once they are safely higher up in the system, it is our practice to give them free passage. Although we are not afraid to go and pound on a fresh run of fish near the lower stretches of rivers, we prefer letting those who passed the gauntlet, to carry on and make lots of future angling opportunities. Especially on rivers that yield wild fish!
Locating and Timing
The old spawned out warrior in this picture is a catch we try to avoid but can't always when targeting migrating fish around rivers. For this reason we tend to concentrate our efforts in the lake near the river, rather than in it. He took about 5 mins to revive even in icy cold water.
A chrome bright fish in the spring does not mean it is a fresh arrival! Many steelhead finish their spawning ritual before the river season opens, and they are almost fully healed from their wounds, leaving them with their beautiful silver sheen. These kelts are the most sensitive of the lot. They are extremely hungry and feed ravenously on anything they can find. They are also very susceptible to death if hooked and and fought to exhaustion with less oxygen in the warming rivers. They cannot recover since they have no reserve body mass to fall back on. Please do not target these fish!
This spring hen was caught in Lake Huron near a major tributary. She was fully recovered from spawning and caught June 1 gorging herself on shiners when she hit a Live Target Rainbow Smelt.
Anything resembling a shiner or smelt style minnow and fished near a river outlet on the Great Lakes will get bit... by something. It will most likely be a steelhead, coho salmon, or brown trout but could be any number of other species following the bait. Move around in the lake until you mark bait or spot it.
Lake Huron Spring Chinook Salmon
Jeff Wall | Nomad Adventures
The groundhog said six more weeks of winter from Feb 2.... he was wrong! It has been a lot of years, close to 20 since I was able to put some decent time in on the spring Great Lakes fishery. April is normally our second busiest month for river guiding, but the winter that wouldn't go away gave us some time for personal fishing.
Canadian kayak fishing guide Jeff Wall showcases his spring catch. Over 40 fish caught in six outings last spring. All were salmon or trout except one giant out of season walleye.
Steelhead, Coho Salmon, Brown Trout, Chinook Salmon, Atlantic Salmon, Walleye, Lake Trout were all caught and released over six separate days of fishing.
Long lining shallow crankbaits on light lines pretty much sums up the spring kayak fishing in Ontario for the Great Lakes region. We employed a variety of minnow baits, smaller spoons, and kwikfish style lures. Slow trolling with abrupt direction changes were the ticket in the open water trolling but crashing two lures thru the baitfish schools got us several doubles. I don't have to tell you how exciting that is in a kayak!
Please always consider best practices when heading out on the Great Lakes, especially when it is still winter. Better yet, hire a guide!
Be sure to look up Nomad Adventures for your next spring kayak fishing trip.
Hope you enjoy!
Giant Lake Ontario Walleye
Lake Ontario Atlantic Salmon
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