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Spring Brown Trout Action!

By Captain Marty Papke - March 1, 2002
With some of the most abundant waters throughout the Midwest we have some pretty big ponds, Lake Michigan is one of them! As the tell tale remnants of winter pass and longer, warming days bring a time when the Great Lakes awaken to the activity of feeding fish!

April usually sets this time-capsule into full swing and after a long winter's nap, Brown trout without a question just like northern pike, walleye, bass and other predator fish are definite scavenge eating fish. Hears why? After the long winter stressed baitfish like smelt, alewives and shad common to the Great Lakes waters lying dead on the lake floor, twitching yet on the surface swimming circles become easy targets for this sought after trout species.

This feeding activity generally starts when the water surface temperatures begin ranging in the 40's and water depths surprisingly to fish are in the 15 foot range and shallower. Local places to commonly find good concentrations of these Brown Trout are creek mouths, piers and break walls throughout many of the many Lake Michigan harbors. The entire eastern shoreline of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan has good concentrations of Browns’ but nothing compares to the fish that locate along the shoreline waters off the Oconto/Marinette shores! These shallower waters as many of us fisherman understand warm faster bringing in schools of these baitfish creating a smorgasbord for these "pot-bellied" fish!

Fishing methods and although when Lake Michigan fishing is talked about it's generally thought of as "trolling!" Indeed trolling is a great method for catching these fish and using standard stick baits; Frenzy Diving Minnows in chrome/black, threadfin shad colors of chrome and natural are good bait choices. Line picks and we've lightened up to using ten and twelve pound XL and XT lines.

Technique is pretty simple with long-lining these baits from 50 to 150 feet behind Off Shore Boards while covering these shallow water haunts of these fish produce the most strikes. Our electronics both the Raytheon L-740 Fish Finder with its great resolution allow us to finding these schools of baitfish and seeing feeding fish as well on the screen means only hitting the quick save function on our RC-420 chart plotter to making repeat passes and drifts over active biting fish! Trolling being the optimum method of fishing these Spring Browns another very productive fishing approach is using deadbait. Deadbaits like smelt and alewives can produce some good catches as well as possibly some of the biggest fish at this time of year. Quick strike rigs in either two or three hook models using either a #6 or #8 hook size will be sure of positive hook ups! Pre-rigged hooks and leader lengths are kept at about 24 inches and tied with a ball bearing swivel to assure no twist in your main line. Hooking your deadbait in both the head and back letting it flow naturally during the trolling passes being made.

Slow trolling these "deadbaits" picking baits in the natural lake size varies from three to even as big as ten inches. Attaching these baits to your in line planer boards and a good rule is starting short lengths (50 to 75 feet) and finding the pattern best suited to the fish.

A good rule of thumb and varying both stickbaits and deadbaits can find you patterns to working with. Its important to remember that trolling speed can be critical in catching these spring biting fish, varying your speeds is generally the triggering mechanism for catching these Brown Trout.

A final method of which many of our clients really do enjoy is once finding the fish we will shut down our engines and drift across these areas with a multitude of fishing approaches. Casting crankbaits especially in a school of active Brown Trout with their "feeding-frenzy" going on can be some extreme fishing fun!

Drifting across these fish using deadbait whether dragging bottom or suspended below a slip-float is fun as well. Throughout the years of this business our goals have always been making fishing fun, "teaching people how to fish" as well as helping you catch fish!

If its another fishing approach you need to add to the New Year's agenda why not try for some Brown Trout on Lake Michigan.

See you on the water!

Author Captain Marty Papke

Captain Marty Papke
Captain Marty Papke is the owner of Little Bay De Noc Fishing Charters. Captain Papke wears many hats as a full-time fishing educator, communicator and guide. Marty authors dozens of articles annually for fishing publications, and is frequently used as a source of information by other outdoor writers. You can get a hold of Marty at 1-800-708-2347 or email him at [email protected]. You can also get more information about his guide service by visiting
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