Spring is right around the corner!
It’s that time of year. The harbors around Lake Michigan are going to begin to thaw and allow us the opportunity to get in on some of the best brown trout fishing in the country. That’s right the country.
Milwaukee, which is our home port, is regarded as the best place to fish browns. Why? Milwaukee has one of the biggest continuous harbors on the western shore. This giant harbor holds tons of baitfish all winter long. In addition to the baitfish, we also have a number of warm water discharges that empty into our harbor as well. These two things alone line things up to hold a ton of browns in a fairly small area. Power plants all over the lake will give you similar opportunities as well. You will have to pinpoint certain areas that hold more fish than others. Once you have pinpointed it, stay there until they stop biting, then move on to a different area. That is step one. Finding active fish.
Step two is changing your salmon thinking over to trout thinking. We are typically fishing in shallow water so line choice can be important. We scale back our salmon mono from 25 lb. test to 12 lb. test. There are two reasons for this. The first is that we are typically running a spread of crank baits so heavier line will dampen the action of that bait. The lighter line you go with, the more action you will get out of your baits. Be careful not to go too light, there are some bruiser brown around and you don’t want to break them off. The second reason is that there are times we are fishing in water less than 12 feet in depth. The fish can detect the heavier line leading to fewer strikes. Flourocarbon line is a must for all of our leaders.
Step three is picking your weapons as far as baits and where we are going to run them in our water column. Brown trout will feed all over the column so having enough rigs to set out is important. Remember we can be fishing fairly shallow water so downrigger rods might not get set into the spread due to the spook factor. My typical set for browns is 2 dipsy divers set with spoons. One, two, and three color lead cores get the nod on a daily basis. Your lead cores will probably be your most productive rods day in and day out. Last but not least, and only if I’m fishing in over 16 feet of water, I will set two downriggers in the lowest part of the water column. You will then have to pick your baits.
Choosing the right baits is key to brown trout success. I start each day with a mix of small spoons and crank baits. Of course I have my favorites. Stinger spoons in the colors of NBK, and mixed veggies to name a few. On the crank bait side I like Smithwick Rattling Rogues in clown and sour grape colors. You will have to play with colors quite a bit till you get every rod into the action. Brown trout will change what they want more frequently than salmon. What might get bit on a 1 color lead core might not get bit in a 3 color lead core. This is where you will have to start making mental notes about where your baits are running and what color they are liking that specific day.
Brown trout fishing in early spring can really get you into the right frame of mind for the upcoming salmon season, with quite a few trout weighing in over the 20 lb. mark. If you get your gear right and put yourself in the right spot you can really pump up the number of fish you put in the boat. It’s a great way to spend a day on the water as ice fishing slowly comes to a close. Good luck and see you on the water!
For more check out Badger Sportsman Magazine!