September 25, 2022

Bottom Fishing for Winter Trout

A continuation of “Back To The Future For Great Lakes Tributary Fishing,” here are some specific tactics for bottom fishing for winter trout.

What are some bottom baits for trout and how do you rig them?

Roe! If you do a little research about the water you will be fishing, you can find out what the most common spawning fish are and when they are spawning. To me, it boils down to either salmon eggs or trout eggs. I can’t say I prefer one over the other because one might catch more fish in one body of water than another.

  • Floating egg sacs: FishUSA offers several different colors of egg sac netting and egg sac floats. My personal favorites in order are; chartreuse, white, pink and orange. Placing 3 to 4 egg sac floats in the egg sac will put your bait up off the bottom. Floaters work best in deeper swims and in dirtier water.
  • Non-floating egg sacs: Non-floaters in above-mentioned colors work great in low and clear water.

Minnows! Check your regulations before purchasing minnows as to not introduce an invasive species.

  • Salted minnows laying dead on the bottom or swaying gently in a current is an opportunistic meal for a winter trout. Think about it! It’s food. It’s salty. The trout expends little to no energy in getting its meal. Salted minnows are also easily packed in a pocket for that long hike down to the river!
  • Live minnows have always been, and always will be, deadly to catch trout.
  • Dying your minnows. Check out Pautzke’s bait dyes and their how-to videos on Youtube to make your minnows green, or blue, …TRUST ME – This works!

Corn! Yes, I said it. Corn! Trout love it. It’s easy to put on the hook and it is cheap! Spend the extra 15 cents and buy Jolly Green Giant Niblets.

  • Anise-scented corn is awesome. Don’t skimp on the cheap stuff and buy some quality anise oil and soak the corn in it.
  • Flavored vodka soaked corn is deadly. When the temperature dips below freezing and our oiled baits are not milking into the water, try soaking your corn in flavored vodka. Vodka dissipates into the frigid winter water with ease. Experiment with different flavors – just don’t try pineapple because that flavor never works for Lake Ontario steelhead. NEVER.
  • Pautzke bait cured corn. No big science experiment here. Follow the easy instructions on the bottle. “The Power of Krill” and Pautzke’s colors make for a hearty and tough corn bait!

What is the setup for bottom fishing trout?

For simplicity purposes, let’s say we are focusing on Great Lakes trout. A mainline of 8 to 10 lb test is sufficient for most bottom fishing. Next, you will need to thread on an egg sinker that is heavy enough to sink to the bottom and stay there. You don’t want a sinker that will bounce around a little. This is only a recipe for snagging. After the egg sinker comes a small bead to protect the knot to a Blackbird Swivel. You may find cheaper swivels but Blackbirds are tiny, prevent line twist in torrent water and are super strong for their size. This swivel is tied to the end of the mainline, followed by a 1’ to 3’ section of a lighter Drennan leader. Drennan leader material is the best and comes in a larger spool. It’s a little pricey, but when you consider that you are getting 3 times the amount of fluorocarbon, it really is economical. Besides, Drennan is like iron.

  • Single Egg Hook- Check out the vast selection of hooks at FishUSA. I’ve used lots of hooks but this one works for me. You can’t go wrong with a size 6 for egg sacs and corn.
  • Salted minnows require a stealthy tandem hook set-up – check your state’s regulations for legality before you run this. Two size 12 Salmon Egg Hooks rigged in tandem is deadly with the salted minnow. The high hook goes in through the eyes of the minnow while the trailing hook goes into it’s back.
  • Plunking! This is really the proper term for “still” fishing in a river. This tactic is mostly identified through the use of a small Spin-N-Glo by Worden’s threaded onto the Drennan leader followed by a larger single hook with your choice of bait on it.

That’s about it! Keep it simple and bring bottom fishing for trout “Back To The Future!”

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Larry Hammond

Rochester, NY Larry Hammond is the captain of Bullseye Charters in Rochester, NY where he enjoys fishing for a variety of species in Lake Ontario. Facebook:

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