Every fall I look forward to sight fishing with micro baits for brown trout and steelhead. It’s an often overlooked technique that is extremely effective. Double digit mornings with fish between four and fifteen pounds are very common. These fish school up in the backs of harbors and marinas that are off limits to shore fishermen making them the perfect targets for kayaks.
Brown trout spawn in the fall and can be found in the shallow areas of Lake Michigan harbors from September throughout the winter. They will school up in back corners of marinas and other areas with gravel bottoms where they can lay eggs. I target depths between four and eight feet of water and look for fish surfacing, or other abnormalities on the water’s surface that might clue me into where the fish are.
Then I will quietly sneak up on them careful not to make any noises or get too close. Sometimes the fish movie quickly and I need to chase them down while casting at the same time. The fish I see rarely bite but there are normally fish around them just deep enough to escape my vision. Those fish are the ones waiting for a meal. Often, they are waiting for another fish to start dropping eggs. The key to catching these fish is in the presentation.
I use a nine and a half foot medium light spinning rod spooled up with eight-pound braid and a four- to six-pound fluorocarbon leader. I like the braid because it floats which helps with setting the hook because the line does not need to be pulled out of the water. The long rod helps cast the very light baits and keeps stress off the light leader while fighting fish. Any small hair or plastic jigs will work but my favorites are one and a half inch white or pearl tubes. The jig head weight can very between 1/64th and 1/8th of an ounce. I use a small balsa or cork bobber to control my depth and help cast the micro just a little further. Usually the bobber is set for two to five feet deep.
I cast to the outer edges of where the fish are to avoid spooking them with the splash of my bobber. Then slowly retrieve the bait with a drag and pause motion. The bait falls during the pause and that is when most bites occur. The cadence of the pause and retrieve is very important so experimenting is important to figuring out what the fish prefer.
Every year I can count on this technique to give me my best days on the water. Once the presentation is fine-tuned, I can catch big numbers of brown trout and steelhead when nothing else works. It’s a fun way to downsize from the trolling gear we use all summer and really take advantage of the Hobie’s stealth.
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