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Shoreline Brown Trout!

By Captain Marty Papke - April 1, 2004
It's not far away. Longer, sunny, warming days start that the ice melting. The ice flows are still bobbing and soon a movement of Brown Trout on an adventure seeking food to satisfy their big appetite after a winter of being in a transitional stage.

Let's examine areas and foods along with techniques and bait choices that all early season fishermen can stretch their fishing lines and cure those fishing blues!

What To Look For
Once ice-out throughout the Great Lakes has begun, shoreline areas will soon start opening, now is the time to watching for those sunny days to getting out finding these shallow roaming Browns. Water temperatures warm fast near shore and when they warm to approximately 40°-42°, it draws in baitfish like the alewives, shiners, and the others bring favorite, the smelt. Smelt come ashore and become the target food of the Brown Trout and as many of us "smelt dippers" know as a favorite food of our own!

The Browns closely follow schooling smelt and the first several weeks after this begins can be the fastest fishing of the spring and possibly the year.

Water depths where many of these fish are found in the shallow waters of 15 feet and less. But with ongoing spring weather changes of cold and warm temps, they can come into the shallows during the day and slide out into water depths of up to 40 feet at night time.

Fishing locations to search and look for would be feeder creeks, streams and river mouths entering the big lake. Reefs, stair-step shoreline structures formed from pounding waves into the sandy bottom bays and shores, holes, trenches and break-walls are key areas to search for. Using your electronics for peering into these areas, the "key" element for sure is the warmest water you can find.

Bait Preferences, Tackle and Techniques
Without a doubt, minnow style baits like Frenzy Minnows, Challenger Minnows as well the standard Rapala and Bomber baits with their floating action are the best. Concentrate on the shallows and present the constant wobble and flash of these lures to take these spring trout. Other bait selections are flasher/fly combinations like the Howie Fly. Kept shallow, the Howie Fly will attract strikes. Another method is using dead-bait rigged on harnesses. This will take some good catches of fish. Don't neglect using different style spoons as many fish will fall for wobbling spoons and flash.

Tackle choices and I prefer are lighter to medium-action rods with 10 to 12 pound XL does a great job. Baitcasting reels or line-counters work well for precise trolling passes. Much of the time trolling requires long-lining and running baits from 75 to 120 feet out that we don't spook the fish. Planer boards also let us spread numerous lines on both sides of the boat covering lots of water and catching those schooled out fish.

Some specific fishing techniques that work great for our boats are long-lining at least 75 to 120 feet of line out on baits, tying loop knots (although using snaps work fine if using the "u" snaps) giving the baits more of that side-to-side wobble is so critical and finally utilizing boat control by running large "s" turns and keeping in touch with the warmest water you can find at this time of year!

The best thing about this "Spring Brown Trout" bite is that it is for everyone out there and an opportunity for all sized boats. Areas fished at this time of year are relatively close to shorelines and river mouths with calm areas, giving small boat anglers lots of fun as well.

Yes, safety should always be thought of. Carry a marine radio as changing weather does occur in the spring even though you may be fishing within several hundred yards of the shoreline.

Places To Explore
Here are just a few Great Lakes stops for Brown Trout you might want to check out: Chequamegon Bay/Montreal River, Door County, Marinette/Menominee, Cedar Rivers of the Lake Michigan shoreline, lower Lake Michigan's eastern shoreline from Grand Traverse Bay down through Frankfort and Ludington. Keep in touch and check with your local DNR for regulations and seasons in the areas your fishing.

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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