Golden Rule of Trolling Speed
Need for Speed
Golden rule for trolling speed does not exist. Never has and never will. There's no one size that fits all situations. Nor should there be. During my Great Lakes fishing career that began back in in the late 1960s, I've seen a slow, barely moving, dead crawl of less than 1 mph to between 4 and 5 mph take fish. This is 1000% true when it comes to targeting surface fish. But that's good news for the less experienced in sport fleet that struggle with boats not suited to troll down below 2 mph without the aid of trolling devices.
Boat speed can be used as a tool to cover and explore water. At 4 mph, you'll cover twice and much area and can knock miles off your return journey to port, as at 2 mph. Other boats can clue you in too. Just set the pace of your boat to the one's that are catching.
Steelhead are said to have a burst speed from zero to 20 mph (or more) in one second. So, it's highly unlikely you can pull a bait too fast they can't catch. Especially, if they're on a hard bite. Problem is? ...fish are not hard bite most of the time. Trolling speed I used in 2015 with my spoons was 2.5. That seemed to be the sweet spot. Salmon Buster spoons caught at 1.5 to over 3 mph in 2015. So, this is a very forgiving spoon that works across the full spectrum.
Your boat's trolling direction/course can have a huge impact on how your lure is presented to a fish. A bait traveling on a E-W line will intercept south, or northbound fish's attention better. Reason being? ...the fish will have visual acuity in both eyes ...seeing the bait coming, then going across their snout. Rather than the fish just one eye seeing your lure moving off at a slant in a distance. It has been said, right course is an attention grabber!
Stealing Surface Steel
Surface trolling tactics for Steelhead has to be about the easiest part of our Great Lakes Fishery. Going after these fish is a pure no-brainer. Downrigger speed-temp issues have left the building and are not part of the equation. This is all about big-time fun with an almost zero learning curve. The methods discussed here work equally well with shoreline Brown Trout in April. Just with just a little less attention to the red and orange base colors of spoons. April Brown Trout on Lk. MI out of my home port of Manistee, MI is not a clear water fishery. Best fishing for Browns is in the stained, but not muddy water.
Steelhead don't have the quite the stamina of King Salmon. From the onset of the bite, they put on a fantastic struggle. Their main goal is become escapees by leaping skyward. Only bad part about these silver-rockets grabbing air? ...it's going to be a long ways from your boat, not up close and in your face. Surface fish off boards, or "birds" are long distance hookups in the 1st place. 100' leads off the boards, means 200' of line could soon be off the reel. Out to 300' is not unusual. Given enough time and patience, Steelhead can be tamed by the time you get them to the net. Harsh rod handling with Steelhead does not work!
One of the most asked questions I've had to deal with: ..."how to find fish?" This comes from thinking there's a secret magic bullet that instantly puts you over fish. Best way I can describe on how to find fish? It's a process of exploratory elimination that's loaded with a lot of trial and error. Let's say, you're trolling at 2.5 mph, in 2 hours you just covered a 5 mile swath of water and didn't find much. This leads to knowing where not to fish in a dead zone area and opens up other places to explore, that just might hold the mother lode.
Please Read before Watching this You Tube Video
This video was shot in late October 2015. Todd B and I were fortunate enough to capture the action on 5 of 6 Steelhead to share with you. All fish were caught with my 4.0 Salmon Buster™ spoons in variants of the HRP (hot red panties) patterns. Except for one fish that came on the 4.0 Bluetail on a 2 color off a rigger set at 13'. Board rod setups all had 1/2 oz bead chain keel weights and plain duo-lock snaps on 5' 6" leaders. This video edited down to 14 scenes. Comprising 16 minutes of awesome footage with tips and tricks sprinkled in along the way.
Trolling speed on the
surface came of the GPS showing speed over ground aka "SOG" at
2.5 mph most of the time. We slowed down to fight a fish,
we had a rod go off at 1.5. Last fish came a little over
3 mph. Reason for being 3 plus mph? ...was to cut the
travel/time distance back to port.
3. Fundamental Tactics & Mindset
5. Big Boards vs. Inline planers (birds)
8. Golden Rule of Trolling Speed