Great Lakes Brown Trout Rundown
Great Lakes Brown Trout Rundown
Great Lakes brown trout, depending on your perspective, are either the most frustrating, elusive of all salmonids, or the most exciting and challenging. Fishless days outnumber those when you do catch browns, but numbers aren't always the objective. It's a trophy fishery. Great Lakes browns are smashing records. And the next one is as likely to be broken by a shore angler with simple tackle, as it is by a boater with expensive downrigger and sonar gear. I think the world-record 40.4-pound (18.34 kg) brown, caught in 1992 from the Little Red River in Arkansas, is going to be topped by a Great Lakes fish. This year has seen a parade of big browns hit the scales. In May, Illinois angler Manny Paolinetti caught a 29.81 pounder (13.53 kg) on an alewife he cast into Lake Michigan from the Waukegan rocks.
Not to be outdone, Lake Ontario coughed up a 33.2-pound (15.07 kg) brown on June 10. It hit Tony Brown's Smithwick Rogue, trolled off Oswego County, New York.
Then, Lake Michigan took the Great Lakes title. A 36.72 pounder (16.67 kg) fell to Deva Vraneck's blue-green Arbogast crankbait trolled 5 miles (8 km) off Chicago's Burnham Harbour on June 22. According to the latest Great Lakes Sport Fishing Council (GLSFC) report, the massive brown was 40 1/4 inches (102 cm) long.
Although unconfirmed, Paolinetti and Vraneck's lunkers are probably the Seeforellen strain Wisconsin has been stocking since 1991, says the GLSFC. Both fish were only 6 years old -- an amazing growth rate. Estimates are that Seeforellens could reach 50 pounds (23 kg) in the Great Lakes.
Our provincial-record 34-pound 6.1-ounce (15.75 kg) brown fell to Mississauga angler Rick Matusiak in September, 1994. He was casting a 1/3-ounce Clown Little Cleo spoon into Lake Ontario from shore at Lakefront Promenade Park.
While there's always a chance of hooking into such massive browns, it's like winning a lottery. Browns I catch from shore average 4 to 15 pounds (1.8 to 6.8 kg). Several have nudged 20 pounds (9 kg), and on two occasions I've lost much larger fish -- one when the hook finally pulled out after a 20-minute battle, and another when a sailboat cut the line. I got a look at that last fish. It was in the 30-pound (13.6 kg) range. Thoughts of another that size are always on my mind with each cast. After all, someone eventually wins every lottery.
As summer winds down and slips into September, odds of catching browns increase. Near-shore waters are cooling again, and browns are feeding heavily, preparing for spawning in October and November. If you want to take up the big-brown challenge, here's a brief game plan.
Shore anglers should look for browns at stocking sites, especially morning and evening. Along Lake Ontario, top bets this year, based on past stocking, should be Port Dalhousie (30,269 browns stocked in 1995) and Millhaven Wharf (20,476 in 1995). Don't, however, discount, Scarborough's Bluffer's Park, Toronto's Ashbridges Bay, the mouth of the Humber River, Mississauga's Lakefront Promenade Park, off the Burlington Canal, Jordan Harbour, and 50 Point Conservation Area, which the MNR stocks with an average of 12,000 to 15,000 browns annually.
Along Lake Huron/Georgian Bay, angling clubs do most of the brown trout stocking. Best bets this year should be rivermouths at Owen Sound, Kincardine, Southampton, Goderich, Port Albert, plus Colpoy Bay (Wiarton) and Nottawasaga Bay at Collingwood.
Check out rivermouth piers and rocky points near deep water at lakefront landfill parks and harbour entrances for browns. Best bets to catch them in spring, summer, and early fall are 2- to 3-inch casting spoons or spinners, in silver, gold, blue, red, green, chartreuse, and orange combinations, cast on long steelhead-style rods with 6- to 10-pound lines. Other lures, such as crankbaits, take browns, but can't be tossed as far into a wind -- often a curse for shore anglers. Although I've never seen anyone use them here, U.S. anglers do well fishing dead smelt or alewife on single hooks. As browns stop active feeding by mid-fall, prior to spawning, fish snack-size spawn sacs off bottom slip-sinkers or steelhead floats. Boat anglers seeking browns should fish closer to shore than they do for summer and early-fall salmon, and also scale down tackle and line size. Browns prefer warmer water (about 60-62°F/15.5°C), where the thermocline (band of water with a rapid temperature change) intersects bottom. Troll small and medium spoons and plugs in the above finishes.
Each area has its own quirks for browns, with certain wind and wave conditions dictating daily locations. Take time to learn them, and your catch rate will increase. Then, I'll bet you start setting your sights on winning the big-brown lottery, too.
This article is written with permission by Fish Ontario. Visit their website, http://www.fishontario.com, for more Ontario fishing information.
Brown Trout Contacts
Western Lake Ontario
Eastern Lake Ontario
Tightline Bait and Tackle
Twin River Tackle
Owen Sound, Ont.