Back To The Future For Great Lakes Tributary Fishing

February 12, 2018

I’ve seen “the look” a million times - after I cast and I prop my steelhead spinning gear up against a rock or my backpack on the river bank. No, I’m not drifting a float with centerpin gear like almost everyone else on the bank. No, I’m not carp fishing (although this old-school tactic was discovered by accident while attempting to catch a carp in January). I’m simply doing something different - something I grew up doing. I’m still fishing for winter trout.

With the advent of float fishing and centerpinning becoming the most popular fishing on Great Lakes tributaries it’s worth looking into some of our older tactics. As a kid growing up fishing Lake Ontario and its tributaries, I enjoyed experimenting with different kinds of baits. Now, many years later, many of these forgotten baits and simple bottom rigs still put fish on the bank. It’s my hope that this article helps you catch a few fish.

When is “still” fishing the bottom effective for trout?

The first time I will begin dedicating a rod to bottom fishing for trout is the post spawn of brown trout. The time frame varies due to mother nature but think late November and early December when these fish have finished their spawning and dropping back toward open water or settling into deeper runs for winter.

When everyone else seems to be float fishing, drifting or jigging, NOW is the time to still fish. Simply put, anglers tend to follow each other in both location and tactics. Be different from the crowd. Set yourself apart and the fish will find your bait. I’ll never forget watching an older gentleman catch one steelhead after the other at the Salmon River in Pulaski, NY. I had tied up 3 dozen blue egg sacs because that’s what all the reports said. I finally asked him what he was doing and he smiled and replied that whenever he goes to a new river, the first thing he does is go to the local tackle shop. He told me he’s not looking for something he needs. Rather, he’s looking for what the tackle shop does NOT have. This seasoned angler then watches to see what the anglers are buying. In Pulaski, at this shop, blue was everywhere so he tied pink and chartreuse egg sacs to set himself apart from everyone else.

Where, in particular, is bottom fishing for trout effective?

Drop-back trout can be found in deep swims at or near the mouth of the tributary. My absolute favorite swim for bottom fishing post-spawn brown trout is where a tributary dumps into a bay. On the south shore of Lake Ontario, we have a few large bays with channels leading into Lake Ontario. All of these bays have feeder tributaries that our trout and salmon run during spawns. These intersections offer unique structure, habitat, temperature and food that keep the fish relatively stationary. The cattails and tree remnants from high water events will show you where to cast as they both provide sanctuary for the trout’s prey.

When winter sets in and the brown trout tributary/bay intersection has frozen over, it is now time to fish the bigger rivers. You will want to look for inside bends of the river where current slacks off and may even cause an eddy or whirlpool. Sooner or later, steelhead will enter this slack water to rest and your bottom bait will be there waiting. You’d be surprised how many float anglers ignore these inside bends just because the drift is quirky or the line is difficult to mend due to the whirlpool. The most common spot to bottom fish a river are the deep pools. A good plan is to start your bottom fishing at the head of the pool - this brings up a critical point. How long should I leave my bait before checking it? Rivers are snaggy and turbulent. A rule of thumb for bottom fishing a river is to check your setup every 10 minutes. When you do recast, move down river incrementally until you end up at the tail-out. Just like back bouncing a plug through a hole, incremental casts can corner your fish into lashing out at your bait at the tail-out.

Related Products

13 Fishing Creed K Spinning Reel
13 Fishing Creed K Spinning Reel
4 Models available
13 Fishing Creed K Spinning Reels are built with precision components and innovative features. Offering Evolve soft touch knobs for comfort and better grip, a composite frame and rotor, and a two-tone aluminum spool, this reel is lightweight and easy to hold. The Strong Arm one-piece aluminum handle is durable and helps eliminate unwanted wiggle. The six disk drag system provides consistent, smooth drag. If you want strength and precision in a lightweight design, give 13 Fishing Creed K Spinning...
$50.00
Blackbird Spawn Sac Floaters
Blackbird Spawn Sac Floaters
(6)
Redwing Tackle's super fluorescent Spawn Sac Floaters makes baits highly visible and keep the bait just off the bottom where the fish feed. These floaters are typically added in with the bait when making spawn sacs. These floaters come in a package containing 6 cubic inches. Spawn Sac Floaters are made in Canada by Redwing Tackle, and are preferred by steelhead anglers!
$2.79
Creek Candy Bead Company Sinkz Beads
Creek Candy Bead Company Sinkz Beads
33 Colors available
Change the way you river fish for steelhead and salmon with Creek Candy Bead Company Sinkz Beads! These Sinkz Beads help you get into the strike zone fast and stay there! Customize all of your flies, jigs, or spinners with realistic colors, sizes, and weights of these fantastic beads. Catch your next monster fish with Creek Candy Bead Company Sinkz Beads!
$4.99
DAM Tectan Superior Monofilament Line - 300m
DAM Tectan Superior Monofilament Li...
Lo-Vis Green
(189)
DAM Tectan Superior Monofilament Line offers a higher breaking strength, less memory, and splendid abrasion resistance. D.A.M. Tectan Superior line features a near zero stretch and a super smooth surface with a proven special UV protective treatment. DAM used the same low visibility yellow-green color that is so characteristic for Tectan in this new Damyl Tectan Superior Line. DAM Tectan Superior Monofilament Line is available in 300 meter spools.
$12.99 - $20.99
Drennan Crystal Piker Float
Drennan Crystal Piker Float
(67)
The Drennan Crystal Piker Float may be just the edge you need to be successful during a trip for steelhead and salmon. This float is made of clear plastic with its shape allowing a clean strike with minimal disturbance at the surface of the water. This heavy-duty float is great for large, deep rivers. There are three main ways to use the Piker float, which are described in detail on each individually wrapped Piker.
$5.99
Drennan Float Caps
Drennan Float Caps
(8)
The Drennan Float Caps are pieces of rubber tubing used to secure the float to the fishing line. By placing a piece of tubing on either side of the float, this allows the fisherman to quickly change floats without changing the entire setup.
$2.99
FishUSA Estaz Egg - 2 Pack
FishUSA Estaz Egg - 2 Pack
4 Colors available
(6)
The Estaz Egg is a popular egg pattern made of Estaz chenille used for salmon, steelhead and trout.
$2.49
$1.29
FishUSA Glo Bugs - 2 Pack
FishUSA Glo Bugs - 2 Pack
(5)
The Glo Bug is a very popular fly pattern for steelhead, salmon and trout. The Glo Bug is the classic "egg pattern" resembling a natural salmon egg. Our Glo Bugs are tied locally on premium, chemically-sharpened heavy scud hooks. 2 flies per package.
$2.49
$1.29
FishUSA Premium Beads
FishUSA Premium Beads
FishUSA Premium Beads are perfect for catching trout, salmon, and steelhead when fished with fly, float or spinning gear. Popular for use around the Great Lakes, these beads can be used in any situation where you would need egg imitations, single eggs or spawn sacks. FishUSA Premium Beads are manufactured from hard plastic, with a hole drilled through the center for the line. Available in regular, pearl and metallic finishes, these beads are sure to please!
$1.99 - $4.99
$0.49 - $1.29
FishUSA Scrambled Egg - 2 Pack
FishUSA Scrambled Egg - 2 Pack
(11)
The Scrambled Egg is a variation of the sucker spawn fly, but tied much tighter to the hook. This particular pattern is tied with two different colors of glo bug material for a one of a kind look.
$2.99
$1.49
Hawken Aero-Float
Hawken Aero-Float
(2)
The Hawken Aero Floats are designed and have been tested to produce a float unlike any other. The Hawken Aero Floats are carved on a lathe similar to the method used in shaping balsa or cork floats then hand painted by master craftsmen with the highest quality paints. Unlike injection molding, this produces a perfectly uniform body that floats true regardless of water conditions. Hawken Aero Floats include two coats of non-reflective matte black to ensure a glare free natural presentation in th...
$3.99 - $6.49
Hawken Beau-Mac Marabou Steelhead Jig
Hawken Beau-Mac Marabou Steelhead Jig
12 Colors available
The Hawken Beau Mac Jig features extra-strong, chemically-sharpened black nickel hooks and premium feathers. Boasted as a top producer in the northwest, this jig is finished with custom formulated beads and UV fluorescent dyed feathers.
$2.79
Hevi-Beads
Hevi-Beads
19 Colors available
Hevi-Beads are fine-tuned to create more attractive presentations and catch more fish. Combine Hevi-Beads with a variety of other components to create personalized flies, jigs or spinners. These beads not only add realistic colors to your lures, but they add weight so they'll sink quicker. Hevi-Beads are in a league of their own!
$3.99 - $5.29
$3.49 - $4.49
Kingpin Imperial Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Imperial Centerpin Reel
6 Colors available
(1)
The Kingpin Imperial Centerpin Reel has a sleek design with exceptional details and performance. This 475 Imperial reel is a newer version of the highly popular Imperial previously offered by Kingpin. It is engineered from high-grade aluminum with a durable, scratch-resistant, anodized coating. Equipped with a rigid lever clicker, the Imperial allows anglers to hold steady when walking along the river. Casting with the Imperial reel is beyond amazing with one of the smoothest casts in existence....
$449.99
Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel
Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel
4 Colors available
(2)
The Kingpin Zeppelin Centerpin Reel provides the smoothest casts compared to others on the market today. It was designed through precision engineering, utilizing incredible details and performance. This reel is constructed of high-grade aluminum and finished with a durable, scratch-resistant, anodized coating. Due to its unique design, the spool is perfectly balanced in all planes and will feel strong and smooth in your hands. For the smoothest cast on a centerpin reel, pick up the Kingpin Zeppe...
$749.99
Comments