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Fishing The Zone For Rainbow Trout #4

    This article continues the series of Fishing The Zone For…  Please take the time to read Articles number 1, 2, and 3.  This will greatly enhance your understanding of this Rainbow Trout article.  Let me explain how to be more productive by following some basic rules and using some old and new tools. Activity and habits of fish are dictated by many variables. A rather basic approach will put you on fish and keep you there. I will cover how to find the most productive zones by species.  Article number one, two and three covered Chinook, Brown Trout and Coho.  Now let’s look at Rainbows as it applies to Lake Michigan and other ecosystems.

Zones By Species
     Last year was an above average year for Rainbows on Lake Michigan Milwaukee.  Our port holds the state record of over 26 pounds for this species.  We boated many between fifteen and twenty pounds.  This fish can be elusive to some anglers; however, armed with the information in this article you will be on your way to many great outings of this tail-walking acrobat.  Allow me to offer environmental preferences for this fish.  Breaking each fish down by their preferences is the best way to find steady consistent action on any fish.

Rainbow Trout Zone By Temperature
   Rainbows offer great action.  Nothing matches the excitement of being on the rod with ten pounds plus of leaping muscle on the line.  Once again the answer to putting them in the box is temperature.  A thermal break is the way to find them.  Thermal break is a point where water changes temperature.  Look for them in temperatures between 43 and 58 degrees.  This is a wide range and offers some challenges.   My article will provide information on how to locate them as the water goes from 40 to 75 degrees through out the season.  The trick to success is mobility and presentation. 

Location And Forage
    The principal types of forage for most fish in Lake Michigan are the Alewife and Goby.  You will find at times the contents of their gut contain these bait fish.  My experience with rainbows may change your mind on bait and presentation.  The spring and early summer is the answer to easy pickings on the big pond.  The reason for easy rainbow fishing at this time is the abundance of insects.  Following the bugs may seem like a crazy way to catch any fish but it is key for rainbows.  Any warm spring day will provide an excellent hatch of the diet of all size Rainbow Trout.  The location on the water with the most bugs will have the best concentration of fish. 
    When I am on a rainbow hunt, off shore is the place to be.  It is smart to start trolling in about 50 feet of water and head out deeper.  As action picks up you should note GPS, depth and temp info.  This info will be your key to staying on fish.  With the water in the forties don’t be surprised to find some huge fish in this cold water.  When the bite slows troll back to your best GPS numbers.  I have found that in deeper water fishing the surface is always better for monster bows all season long.  The best months are April, May and June.  Work the temp breaks and bugs for hot action. 
    The top 25 feet where warm water has accumulated is the answer to your best numbers.  Early May run your baits in the top twenty-five feet and progress to deeper in the water column as the water warms up.  Anytime of day is a good time for them.  I call them fish with banker’s hours 9 to 5 is the time to get them.

What baits are best?
    Water temperature will dictate your best bait.  I will break this down by temperature.  All season long use crankbaits; minnow type lures and small spoons like the regular size Vulcan in silver or bright colors sold by Badger Tackle.  Eight-inch flashers and dodgers with flies or squids are a staple as the water warms up to 60 and above. The distance between the attractor and the fly or squid will vary with the temp of the water.  Try two to three times the length of the flasher or about sixteen up to twenty-four inches.  Longer lead on the fly seems to work better in colder water.  You may catch some fish on downriggers but they are not my first choice for presentation.  Church Tackle Walleye Boards and leadcore are the way to go.  I run three or more on each side of the boat working an area over three hundred feet wide.  You should set up for rainbows with a 1,2,3,4,5 color leadcore. This will give you coverage from 5 to 25 feet.  The Church Planer Board will run well off to the side of the boat out of your travel path.   

Hot Lures Define The Day
    Let’s wrap this up with my favorite lures.  For spring crankbaits, minnow type lures and small spoons like the regular size Vulcan or 8-inch flashers and dodgers with flies or squids.  My best spoon color is chartreuse/silver/green.  Magnum Reaper spoons did very well for us in July and August on Bows in recent years.  Baitfish size should be considered when selecting your spoon size.  Vulcan and Reaper spoons are both sold by  I will continue with Zones for Lake Trout in the next article.  Good Luck!  Jim charters out of Milwaukee, WI. with Blue Max Charters. He can be reached at 414-828-1094 or visit his web site at Copyright© 2009, James J. Hirt, All Rights Reserved

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