The biggest fishing event of the year will occur this weekend as a quarter million plus anglers hit the lakes of Washington in search of easy limits of stocker trout and perhaps a few of the jumbo-sized trout that are planted along with them. There are a lot of opening days in Washington, but this one's the big kahuna!
Here's a few techniques that might help put a few of these silver-sided torpedoes in the boat this weekend.
Pautzke Fire Bait, Berkley Power Bait, and Zekes Sierra Gold are the three most popular dough baits on the market right now. These baits work extremely well for both bank fishing or fishing from a boat and they consist of a dough-like substance that can be molded into many different shapes. All three companies make baits that are formulated specifically for hatchery-raised trout and stocker rainbows simply go nuts for this stuff.
The most common technique is to mold a round or elongated ball around the hook, leaving the point of the hook exposed. All of these baits float and the most productive technique is cast it out and let it sit on the bottom in three to six feet of water where stocked trout are cruising early in the season. Slide a half ounce egg sinker onto the main line followed by a bead, then tie a swivel on below the egg sinker. Tie a two foot leader of 4 to 6 pound monomfilament leader to the swivel with a size 10 to 12 single or treble hook and your in business. Shy away from flourocarbon lines for this of fishing, as they tend to sink, pulling the bait down with it.
When I was a kid the only egg we used was green label Pautzke's Balls O'Fire and not much has changed since then. Pautzke's has sold 85 million jars of single eggs in their storied history for a reason…they work! Single eggs can be fished under a float or on the bottom. They don't float, so a marshmallow is needed to float them up off the bottom. A garlic, cheese, or anise flavored marshmallow will do the trick.
When using a bobber set the float three to four feet above the bait and use a split shot or two to get the eggs down. Put an egg or two on a single 12 or 14 egg hook and use 4 to 6 pound flourocarbon leader to draw bites. Single eggs have been overshadowed by dough baits in recent years, but they still put plenty of spring trout on the stringer and many old-school anglers still swear by them.
My all time favorite lure for catching stocker trout is the F-4 Flatfish in frog pattern or orange with black dots. I've put limits of trout in the boat on this lure for over 30 years now and it works just as well today as it did in the 70's. A close second would be the Triple Teaser in gold with a red head, silver and blue, and white and silver UV.
Flatfish will dive enough so that they can be flat-lined and to get them down a little deeper add one or two small split shot two to three feet up the mainline. Triple Teasers won't dive without some weight and require a split shot or two to get them down below the surface. A small swivel is also necessary a few feet up the mainline to keep them from twisting up. I suggest starting light with a single split shot and then adding more weight if the bite is slow to get the lure down a little deeper. Troll slowly, work the edges of the lake, and make turns on long straight stretches to vary the lures action. Rainbow trout will hit both of these lures hard!
Stocked rainbow trout will generally hang out in the top 3 to 5 feet of the water column the first few weeks after they are planted. Target the edges of the lake and the edges of underwater shelves to find trout early in the season. Unless we see a dramatic change in the weather here in Washington the next few days, which is not likely, still fishing with bait could be the most productive technique until water temperatures warm up a bit.
Lastly, don't forget to check out the stocking reports before heading out to the lake. Here's a link to the Washington Catchable Trout Plant Statistics.
Best of luck out there and don't hesitate to post your reports on the Outdoor Line Forums, or better yet, call us in the 710 ESPN Seattle studio Saturday morning at 866-979-3776 with a live report!
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