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Am I fishing to cold?


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Just getting back into GL salmon/trout fishing. I've been targeting the water below the thermalcline and or in the 42 to 50 degree range because that is the tempurature I read in Keatings book where kings and lakers are most active. I pick up a few but not like the reports I've been reading, most of the reports I read seem to be having better luck above the thermalcline in the mid 50's and above. So I'm going to start targeting those temperatures instead. When and why should you target the lower temps?

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From what I have observed, read and have discussed with Dan & others, the thought is that inactive/resting salmon go into the colder, deeper water -- 42 to 46*. When actively feeding they will basically follow the food -- alewife if possible. Most of the time this will be in the 47 to 52* temps -- which happens to be the alewife's preferred comfort range too. But if the food goes into warmer water, especially in low light conditions, the salmon will follow. The prefered temp for lake trout is in the 42 to 48* range but when actively feeding they too will follow the bait into warmer water.

If you can find a thermocline -- which I doubt there are any really setup yet this year since in general the lake has not warmed enough to have any -- you can often find active feeding fish but not always. For active fish, bait is more important. For inactive fish they may orient to the thermocline, but both lake trout and bigger kings will also orient tight to bottom. In a thermocline the rapid temperature change (2-4 degree change in less than 10' of depth change) also has density changes which will both bait and predators will orient to. They can be feeding above or below it. Same thing for surface temperature breaks (horizontal thermoclines) where the water density difference caused by the temperature difference will accumulate "stuff" including insects to make a scum line and the insects attract both bait and predators. In many ways the water temperature changes are the structure that fish orient to -- especially in southern Michigan waters of Lake Michigan where there really isn't much structure compared to other parts of the lake.

Edited by SeaCatMich
fixed spelling typo
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When the Thermocline develops, the bait hangs just above that level, the Predators will be most active early and late, and during Full moon phase during the late morning, try splitting between the colder deep water, and the warmer water right at or slightly above the Thermocline. Kings like it cold, Coho and Steelhead tolerate warmer water, and when you have the conditions we currently have surface temps below 60 degrees try the top 20 feet with spoons and body baits troll around 3.5 to 4 mph and you can really do with the Steelhead. You will hook a lot and lose at least 30%.

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Thanks guys great info. I've been fishing way to cold. Talking about a surface temp breaks do you check out the temp charts on this site before going out to get an idea were to head out to, and do they read like a topo map, the closer the lines the more rapid the rate of change? Are you running your shallower lures out away from the boat on planers then your deeper ones in closer to the boat? Sorry about all the questions but this really helps.

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Thanks guys great info. I've been fishing way to cold. Talking about a surface temp breaks do you check out the temp charts on this site before going out to get an idea were to head out to, and do they read like a topo map, the closer the lines the more rapid the rate of change? Are you running your shallower lures out away from the boat on planers then your deeper ones in closer to the boat? Sorry about all the questions but this really helps.

Yes, the CoastWatch satellite temp charts are very useful. If it is in the "probably cloudy" shaded area the temps can be unreliable, but in the white areas the data is good. Yes too on the reading it like a topographical map - each line is a 1 degree change in temp so lots of them close together is a rapid change.

Typically I run lines with the shallowest presentations out farthest from the boat and then progressively deeper as you get closer. So for example it would go wire diver on 1, high diver on 3, 300 copper, fullcore, half-core, 3 color. Same can apply to downriggers but I often run them higher than other lines since the leads off the rigger are not usually as long.

By setting things up with the V pattern (deep inside, shallow outside) it lets you put any line back into the spread. If you had them random or with deep on the outside of shallow then when redeploying a deep line it would hit the shallow ones on the outside. Same thing when you get a hit -- the fish will tend to move toward the center of the boat (down the chute) and with an outside line shallower than the one inside it, the fish will usually go over the shallower one.

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When you guys talk thermocline what are you looking for for temperature to divide thermo the cold and warmer water.

Generally for salmon/trout the thermocline you want is a rapid change in temps in the 45 to 55 degree range. By rapid it is when the temp changes 2-4 degrees in less than ~5' of depth.

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Holland has been a good port the last few years. Getting to the ramp is a little bit of a trek with having to go through so much town to get there, but it is a real nice ramp and a great fish cleaning station. Most years by now I would say start deeper but with the water temps so weird this year (maybe we will still get some real summer) it is as good as anywhere. Watch the wind. An east wind moves what warmed water there was/is out from shore and colder water from deeper offshore will flow in to replace it - putting cold water on the beach. In normal years this is great because it is 70+ water being replaced by 50 something water and the fish follow the colder water into the shallower areas. A north or northwest wind will do similar, but it is moving cold surface water in from offshore or "up north".

While temps are important and can help identify active fish, when I first head out I use my graph to look around until I find fish. Mine can mark fish when I'm on plane up to about 27 mph so when I see a mark or two I then slow down and run at 5-8 mph looking for concentrations of fish. It does take some time working with the graph to ID fish at higher speeds -- they aren't the nice arches you get at trolling speed. Once I find fish then I put out the lures and start looking at temps. Mainly the temps are used to help narrow down what fish are most likely to be active, but I am more likely to fish marks not temps. If I get both coinciding... bonus! Getting the speed right with underwater currents can have as much or more to do with catching fish as temps. That is when the downspeed part of my FishHawk really gets important. When you get a hit note the speed and the direction you were going. Also note if you were turning as that affects speed on the inside and outside lines.

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Thanks Ryan, will pay closer attention to weather and winds prior to going out from now on. Kind of like scouting for bow hunting. My graph works great at trolling speed but gets pretty noisy on plane. I mounted it on the cleanest water area I could find on the boat. Working out temps and speeds and lures as I go. This site has been great for getting ideas and putting stuff together, just need to get out as much as I can and put it into practice.

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If your graph has multiple frequencies try using the higher one when on plane or view it in dual frequency mode. On mine, the 50 kHz is a wider beam but once the boat is above 7 mph too much clutter/static to see fish. The 200 Khz is a much narrower beam but is good up to my cruising speed. Most of the time at the high speed the fish mark more as spots or vertical bars rather than arches since they are not in the beam long enough to form the arch.

Edited by SeaCatMich
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Thanks Ryan, forgot about switching to the higher frequency at higher speeds that's probably what's going on with mine, so much stuff to keep track of. I made a cheat book that I use with laminated pages from Keatings books and others that had tips I thought were important, and a fishing log I got from here. I call it my salmon for dumbies book. Thanks again for the freq. tip that should help allot just being able to scout on the way out.

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