Trout/Salmon – Lakes

Trout/Salmon – Lakes

Trout/Salmon – Lakes


  • Salmon and trout in lakes behave similarly. The fishing techniques for both are essentially the same using lures and bait.
  • For trout, you will want to look for water in the 55º to 60ºF range, whereas salmon prefer about 55ºF water, which means the salmon tend to be deeper.
  • Trout like structures like overhanging trees, cliffs, underwater islands, and coves for shelter from predators and direct sunlight, so these would be good areas to start out with.
  • Also look for good trout feeding areas like inlets to the lake or windward shorelines since drifting food tends to concentrate here.
  • Electronic fish finders can be helpful in locating structures, the right temperature depth, and the schools of fish themselves.

Here are some of the key fishing methods is given below.


  • This is probably the most productive method for lake fishing. This invloves pulling a lure or bait through the water using boat movement.
  • Troll slowly whether you are using a canoe, rowboat, or inboard/outboard engine-powered boat.
  • Change trolling speed often to provide some up and down action to the flasher and lure.
  • Change depth if you are unsure of the actual depth you are trolling at, then if you get a strike, stay at this depth.
  • Troll in a zig-zag pattern. This allows you to cover more territory than straight line trolling and provides more interesting movement and vibrations in the flasher and lure to attract the fish.
Tackle & Equipment

For shallower trolling (e.g. when trout are feeding nearer to the surface in cooler climate), use light tackle such as a light spinning or spin casting rod and reel combination. Conventional bait casting tackle can also be used. Use 6 to 10 pound monofilament line, depending on targeted trout size.


A typical trolling rig comprises:

  • Rudder: A blade to prevent the line from twisting.
  • Flasher: A highly visible and vibration-inducing items that imitate schools of bait fish.
  • Swivel: Also to prevent line twist.
  • Snubber: A rubber tube assembly that provides some give to prevent the hook from pulling out of the fish’s mouth in a strike.
  • Leader: About 18 inches of light, 4-8 pound monofilament.
  • Offering: Sppons, plugs, spinners, or baited hooks can be used.



Use larger flasher/rudder units for murky water or deep trolling. If line twist is not a problem, you can omit the swivels and/or rudder.

Deep Trolling

Especially in warmer climate conditions, you will need to troll deeper. Use one of the following methods:

Use leadcore trolling line on a good-sized conventional reel such as a medium Penn freshwater reel with level wind. A leadcore line sinks at about a 45º angle (so a 50 foot line, for example, will provide a 25 foot trolling depth). You can use the full trolling rig shown above with the leadcore attached to the bottom hole of the rudder.

Use a downrigger, especially if you need to go to depths of 30 feet or more. Attach the fishing line to the downrigger weight. Release enough fishing line to put the rig about 50-200 feet from the rear of the boat. Let the downrigger take your trolling rig down to the desired depth (they are equipped with depth counters). When the fish strikes, the line releases from the downrigger and allows you to play and then land the fish.

Use a diving plane. With your boat moving at 2-4 knots (2-5 miles per hour), lower the terminal tackle into the water, check for lure action, then let out about 50-100 feet of line (about 25-40 pulls of line). This puts the hook at about 15-20 feet deep. Turn on the reel clicker and set the drag just tight enough to hold the line. Place the rod in a holder. The singing drag will signal a bite and the pull of the fish will   open the diving plane, allowing the fish to rise up and fight. Maintain the boat’s trolling speed to avoid line slack and unhooking your catch. Place your landing net from the front, forward and under your fish.

Trolling a Fly

If you see trout rising up in the lake to feed on insects, you might want to consider trolling a fly. Tell-tale signs might be water drop rings on the surface of the lake near the shore, especially in the evenings during summer.

Tie a fly to the end of a 4 to 6 pound monofilament line rigged on a spinning rod and reel. Let out about 100 feet of line and slow troll through the fedding area.

Bait Fishing

  • Bait fishing can be done from the shore or from a boat anchored in the coves and inlets.
  • Cast out the baited rig to the targeted spot, let it sink all the way to the bottom, and then slowly reel in any slack. Sit or settle down into your holding position and open the bail on your spinning reel.
  • Watch for the slightest tug on your bait. When the trout picks up the bait, let out a little line from your spool so the fish feels no resistance. After a short pause, your line may begin to move out again, indicating that the trout has swallowed the bait. At this point, close the bail on your reel and set the hook.
Tackle & Equipment

Use light tackle such as a light spinning or spin casting rod and reel combination.

Bait & Rigging

The most popular is the sliding sinker rig.



A sliding sinker is preferred over a fixed sinker since, when the trout picks up the bait, the bait must move freely otherwise the trout senses the drag and drops the bait.

A wide variety of bait can be used:

  •     Salmon eggs
  •     Cheese
  •     Minnows
  •     Shad
  •     Worms
  •     Commercial baits (like PowerBait)
  •     Marshmellow/salmon egg/nightcrawler combinations



This is a popular option for fishing from the shore.

Use a small snap swivel at the end of your main line to attach a casting spoon or spinner.

Cast up the lure as far as you can and let it settle to the desired retrieve depth, then retrieve slowly. Also vary the pace of your retrieve to imitate real baitfish.


The best spoons imitate small bait fish. Silver and gold colored lures in the 1/16 to 1/4 ounce range are good. Popular brands include Kastmasters, Roostertails, Phoebes, and Mepps Spinners.

Tackle & Equipment

Use a light spinning or spin casting rod with two-hand grip and sensitive tip. Spinning reels or bait casting reels should hold about 200 yards of 4-6 lb monofilament line.

Other Equipment
  •     Big landing net (for boat fishing)
  •     Needle-nose plier (for hook removal)

Best Bets

For a quick and easy trout fishing outing, you can pop over to San Francisco’s Lake Merced. Both the North and South Lakes are planted at least once a month, with the North Lake planted as often as weekly. You can employ trolling, bait fishing or casting here. State fishing licenses and park daily fishing permits are required.

You can fish for trout all year round at Lake Berryessa. During summer and early fall, you can fish using downrigger trolling, and the rest of the year, surface trolling, bait fishing and casting work well. You can also fish from shore from mid-November to early spring around Cappell Cove through to Pope Creek on the western shore.

Nearby Lake Chabot just east of San Leandro is reasonably well stocked with rainbow trout for shore fishing or trolling. Private boats are not permitted, but rentals are available. Del Valle Lake near Livermore is also restocked regularly and good for shore fishing or trolling. For information on either lake, you can call the East Bay Regional Park District at (510) 881-1833.

Venturing further out of the San Francisco Bay Area, other good trout fishing lakes include:

  • Ruth Lake by Mad River near Eureka
  • Lake Siskiyou, Trinity Lake, Lake Shasta, Eagle Lake, and Lake Shastina in the Trinity/Shasta region up north
  • Lake Almanor and Donner Lake in the northcentral region
  • Folsom Lake, Lakes McClure/McSwain, Pardee Lake and Lake Tahoe in the eastcentral region

Lake Shasta, Lake Almanor, Lake Don Pedro, and Folsom Lake are also popular for king salmon trolling.