made my bones as an angler fishing for walleyes. I guided anglers for walleyes, competed in–and won–walleye tournaments and earned a reputation as a trophy walleye expert by learning the keys to catching them after dark when the big ones are most vulnerable.
But if you think that walleyes is all I do, well, think again. I enjoy virtually all kinds of fishing for just about all species. And among my favorite piscatorial pastimes is brook trout fishing. I’ve been doing it my whole life and still make annual trips to the Upper Peninsula to spend a few days with some buddies, fishing the rivers for Michigan’s state fish.
I usually spend a week each year at a fly-in resort in Ontario (PK Resort), and we often take a fly-out day trip to other lakes; when we do, it’s to fish for brook trout. Fact is, I have recently returned from a weeklong driving fishing trip with a handful of guys to northern Ontario, where we fished for a variety of fish–walleye, pike and, drum roll please, brook trout. The brookies were the highlight of an outstanding adventure. They were trophies–up to six and a half pounds!
It took all six of us fishing in two different boats a couple of days to figure it out. It was a lot of trial and error. We started out trolling in deep, open water, and we caught lots of fish, mostly lake trout and whitefish and we caught an occasional brook trout deep, but it wasn’t until we figured out that we had to fish up near the bank to zero in on the brook trout. Then it was game on.
We fished for them with Husky Jerks, size 10s and 12s, Mepps spinners, and Blue Fox spinners. You want a heavier spinner–at least a quarter ounce, often heavier–in bright, flashy colors. That’s because you had to make long casts–the water was crystal clear–and we had to keep the boat as far away as we could because we found the best fishing around the rocks, big rocks the size of pickup trucks or our boats and the bigger the rocks, the better the fishing.
You had to cast the baits right up against the bank, and they’d often chase it right up to the boat. They weren’t boat shy. Sometimes they’d hit it 10 inches from the boat, and if they slashed at it and missed, I’d tell whoever else was in the boat which way he went and tell them to cast in that direction. About 50 percent of the time, one of the other guys hooked up. We caught some lake trout and whitefish doing that, too.
We treated like we were bass fishing, just stay on the electric trolling motor, keep moving, covering water and cast, cast, cast. It wasn’t every cast, that’s for sure. It was sort of like muskie fishing–you know, the fish of a thousand casts–but they came a lot quicker than that. You spend a lot of time casting, but the real big ones are not a fish of every cast, you’ve got to put your time in and cover a lot of water to get the big ones. We caught plenty of smaller trout, too. They had to be 22 inches to keep, and we caught a number of them that size and bigger, but we had plenty of other fish to eat, so we just let them go.
We used six-pound fluorocarbon line. We wanted light line so we could get good distance on our casts and we wanted low stretch but nearly invisible line (again, gin clear water) so we could get a good hook set on them. We saw some real monsters that we didn’t catch; but six-pound brook trout are pretty good trophies.
I think the fish were up shallow because there was a bug hatch going on and the minnows and sculpins were up there feeding on the bugs and the brook trout were feeding on the minnows. When we cleaned other fish that we caught up in the shallows, the lake trout and whitefish had lots of minnows in their bellies. The whitefish had lots of bugs in their bellies, too.
The other key was we paid close attention to the water temperature. Whenever the water approached 60 degrees, we had to pull out and go elsewhere. The fishing just died. We looked for colder water. Once, when we found some 38-degree water, the fishing was fantastic.
Another thing we noticed is they weren’t always smashing hits. Sometimes it felt like a little nip, kind of like a bluegill or perch bite. And sometimes didn’t even feel the hit–you’d just feel the vibration of the spinner stop, or the wobble of the husky Jerk just stop. When that happens, you’d better set the hook. If you don’t feel the bite; you just feel the lure stop working–set the hook.
So the keys were fairly simple. Concentrate on the edge of the lake. Look for rocks; the bigger the rocks, the better. And concentrate on cold water; the colder, the better. And set the hook whenever the lure didn’t feel like it was working right. Hard.
I’m preparing to head to PK Resort for my annual fly-in trip as I write this. I will fly into a brook trout lake or two while there. And because of all I learned from my northern Ontario adventure, I’m sure I will whack them this year. I’ll tell you about it down the road. Few fishing trips are any more fun than catching trophy brook trout. You can’t help but tell people about it.