Ali catches some cutthroat trout on Lake Washington using his fly rod and kayak.
Ali catches some cutthroat trout on Lake Washington using his fly rod and kayak.
Saturday my friend Todd and I did some kayak fishing on the Snoqualmie River from Plum access near Tokul Creek to about a mile and a half below Fall City. We were looking to hook up to some steelhead on this trip. The conditions were a little bit muddy water in some places and a light flow on the river. There were many sections of shallow areas and a Hobie Mirage drive would not be a choice. With two or three sections of rougher water in what Todd described as class 2 minus it made it a good first river float for me. I used my Ocean Kayak Trident and it did well but when the water gets rougher I could see myself wanting a sit-in kayak.
We hit many eddies and pools along the way and about halfway to Fall City I hooked into the first fish which was a Coho buck of about 5-6 lbs. We drifted down below the bridge near Fall City passing many bank fishermen and a few drift boats. I picked up a small cutthroat trout which I released and the fishing was mostly uneventful for us after that. The lure of the day was the Mad River steelhead worm with 1/4 oz jig head. During this trip I used my St Croix Bass Mojo 6’9″ rod paired with a Pflueger Supreme 2500 reel and spooled with 10lb monofilament. This setup allows for casting in tight conditions where tree branches and bushes get into the way of the rod at times.
Some more video of kayak fishing Lake Sammamish trout.
Here are some basic tips for those new to kayak fishing and who are trolling for trout. I’ll be a little specific on lures that work in my region so you’ll have to take that into consideration and figure out what works in your area. I am normally targeting cutthroat trout in the Seattle area at Lake Washington or Lake Sammamish.
Most cutthroat trout around here seem to prefer a lure in the 2-3″ size. If you know a specific bait the trout are feeding on, try to find something that mimics the size, color and action. It’s fairly well known that in the two lakes mentioned we have stickleback, longfin smelt and salmon smolts as some of the baitfish. Sometimes I tip a hook with bits of worm or smear a natural attractant such as Pro Cure Sardine gel onto the lure for a scent trace.
Recommendations on trout lures (some of the recommendations are provided by word of mouth/friends)
- Luhr Jensen Needlefish in fire tiger, brass and white colors including brass bikini and rainbow trout
- Rapala X-Rap Countdown size 5 – 7 in Glass Ghost or Olive Green
- Luhr Jensen Krocodile spoons (same colors as Needlefish)
- Inline spinners in brass and silver colors 1/8 oz. or 1/4 oz.
- Cut plug herring bought locally and self cut. Check YouTube for examples..
- Apex Trout Killers
The rod and reel setup can really vary based upon a fisherman’s preference, experience and average size of the local trout populations. When fishing trout from the kayak I prefer something 8’6″ long so that the fishing line stays far enough away from the paddle stroke as I troll. Most trout could be caught on light setups but if you get a large fish on, you may want a medium or medium-heavy setup. I use a medium-heavy salmon rod called the Ugly Stik Lite by Shakespeare that is 8’6″. Although this rod might be overkill for most trout it will be adequate for the larger specimens and also doubles as a walleye, bass and salmon rod. At the price point it’s a decent deal and it’s a strong pole that is hard to break. The longer length also allows the rod to do some of the work when it comes to fighting the fish. The reel which I prefer most is an Okuma Cold Water 20 DLX linecounter with leadcore line. Sometimes I also use an Abu Garcia 5500 C3 with braided line in 20-30lb test to which I attach a 1-2 oz lead banana sinker in front of a 6 foot leader of 10lb fluorocarbon. I recommend a reel that can put out at least 12lbs of drag and which has a loud clicker so that when it is windy you can hear the fish taking line. The Okuma levelwind I use holds 100 yards of Sufix leadcore in 12lb test backed with braid of about 30lb test. Using the leadcore setup I usually fish with 60-120 feet of line out to get the lures down in the water column. With the leadcore setup I also like to use a topshot of anywhere between 15 and 25 feet of fluorocarbon in 10lb test. I attach the leadcore to the fluorocarbon by way of a small 40lb test swivel with improved clinch knots in order to reduce the line twist. The swivel will brush against the eyes of the rod and pass through the levelwind without issue. If you get a large fish on just don’t set the drag too tight or the fish could be broken off with these setups.
Try not to underestimate the usefulness of a net when landing fish. Using a net will reduce stress on the fish and allow easier release when you decide not to keep one. Simply put, trout and most fish are slippery and the bigger the fish is, the harder it will be to handle. Using a net also reduces the chances of a fish getting away right at the side of the kayak. I’ve lost a number of fish right next to the kayak before and it was because I didn’t have a net with me. Just this year I brought in a decent sized king salmon and had a very difficult time dealing with unhooking it and release because I didn’t have a net with me. Forgetting the net that day was a mistake on my part. This incident resulted in the hook stabbing me several times and even puncturing my dry suit. I have a medium sized Ego S2 Slider net which is quite expensive but it floats, the handle extends out allowing for greater reach and it has a net without knots that is easy on the fish. I would recommend a net which has a hoop which is similar in size to the Ego S2 Slider. The medium Ego S2 Slider has a 17″x19″ hoop, a bag depth of 15″ and also has rubber or pvc coated netting.
A fishfinder/sonar is also a useful tool for locating fish, their prey, identifying structure that fish are attracted to and determining your trolling speed. I recommend a fish finder which has a GPS system that can tell you the speed at which you are traveling and which can help you navigate back to shore in case of extremely foggy conditions. Right now I have a Humminbird 386ci and it is all I need for salt and fresh water adventures.
Now that I have covered some basic recommendations on gear let’s get to the fishing… I usually like to fish in the fall, winter and spring within 20-30 feet of the surface. You may have to do some checking around to obtain local knowledge or pay attention to your sonar in order to determine a good target depth for trolling. Trout will move around the water column based upon the water temperature and the location of food sources. Trolling speed will depend on the lure being used but the general range of speeds which I find to be most successful are between 1.5 and 2.5 miles per hour. When I troll something like a Rapala X-Rap I found that moving between 2.3 and 2.5 miles per hour imparts the best action on the lure and gets the fish to strike. However when I use a spoon or an inline spinner I tend to troll between 1.5 and 2.2 miles per hour. If you happen to have a fishing rod which has a sensitive tip and use inline spinners or crank baits you can often tell when your lure is running true. Knowing when your lure is running true can help you notice when you have inadvertently picked up debris such as grass, twigs, etc. When fishing with leadcore line I have to point the rod behind me with one hand or some other method and paddle in order to get the line to leave the reel. Leadcore is also somewhat finicky during retrieve in that you should avoid reeling it in fast because the line can bunch up on the spool resulting in a mess. When I troll for trout I like to have the rod with the clicker on placed into a rod holder in front of me so that I can see when a fish is taking the lure. Another thing which I do is set the drag setting fairly low so that the fish can take the lure and the clicker activates. I usually set it so low that when the fish hits I can barely make progress on the fish when reeling it in. At the time the fish takes the bait I can paddle harder to help set the hook or retrieve my fishing pole and set the hook if necessary. Once you have hooked a fish you’ll want to increase the drag so that you can bring the fish in but be careful not to set it so tight your line breaks. Once you bring the trout in you should be able to figure out how to net the fish on your own.
Best of luck on the water!
We had more cutthroat trout kayak fishing action in Lake Sammamish yesterday. The lake seemed to be most active around 10am until noon. My new white Rapala X-Rap caught all four of my cutthroat trout. I used lead core line to get down about 15-20 feet. After the recent wind activity the day before the fish seemed to spread out a bit. That Ego S2 Slider net is a treat too. I just picked that up.
I’ve been out kayak fishing in Lake Sammamish and Lake Washington the past few weeks for fall cutthroat trout among friends. These lakes are very close to Seattle. For lures during this time I have been trying the usual Needlefish in 2-2.5 inches using Fire Tiger with notable success. I’ve also been mixing things up with a Rapala X-Rap Countdown in size 7. Another lure which landed the biggest fish to date out of Lake Washington for me was the Luhr Jensen Krocodile Spoon in the rainbow trout pattern.
Taking the advice of my friends Todd and Brad I have also spooled up 100 yards of 12 lb. lead core line onto my reel (backed with 20lb braid) in order to get the baits down deep where the fish are holding. This is much more user friendly on a kayak than a jet diver or downrigger. In fact I don’t think I have any interest putting a downrigger on my kayak. The only real advantage to the downrigger over lead core line is that you can keep the lure/bait right underneath the kayak and track it on the depth finder. Simplicity rules in my world and the lead core line is very successful. No excessive drag on the kayak, it’s easier to see when the lure is running true or tangled and it’s much easier for me to manage. Getting the lead core line off the spool of the real usually requires that I point the pole behind me as I paddle forward. It doesn’t just leave the spool easily like monofilament or braid. Another thing which you have to watch out for is reeling in the line at rocket speed. I recommend that you pay attention to how fast you are bringing in the line because sometimes the lead core line will bunch up and create a mess on the spool. If you exercise a little patience things work out just fine. I have been using fluorocarbon leader in 10 lb. test exclusively this fall on the cutthroat trout. Sometimes these fish can be leader shy and I like a top shot of about 8-16 feet. This setup has been very successful for me.
Another piece of equipment which I have been using just for this type of trolling is the Okuma Cold Water 203 DLX reel. This is the left hand model with the line counter. It’s just perfect for these trout and has not failed me yet. I like the large handle and loud clicker for those days when water and wind are a factor. My 8 foot 6 inch Ugly Stik Lite Salmon Rod is my main rod for fresh water action. I now have two of these because they are so reliable and inexpensive. They double as downrigger rods in the salt water too.
It’s been a good year for learning new techniques on the kayak for fishing. Here’s a short video on Lake Sammamish below and a photo of my largest cutthroat trout from Lake Washington to date.
The bite has picked up in Lake Washington for cutthroat trout. Kayak fishing was good yesterday after I figured out what they liked. Two in a row hit a Rapala X-Rap Countdown size 7. I was trolling lead core Sufix at 12 lb test and had a top shot of Sufix fluorocarbon leader about 15-20 feet long. The fish were hitting fairly close to shore. One cutthroat trout went in around 21″ in length.
I’ve been using my new Humminbird 386ci and it has a transducer that goes into the scupper hole in the kayak. This color screen and clear return on the transducer allowed me to pick up at least one of the fish. I located a couple of fish on a drop off near a stream of water going into the lake. I ran across this drop off twice and picked up the small fish on the second pass in about 30 feet of water.
After running out to Mukilteo and fishing in the morning for Pink Salmon where there were no salmon biting, I headed out to Lake Washington for kayak bass fishing. This lake is right next to Seattle.
From Denny Park I launched and paddled north but the water was choppy so it was difficult fishing for the first hour or two. I hit a few perch on the Chuck Booker Inline Spinner. About the time I reached Saint Edward Park (just south of it) the wind died down and I was able to see into the water and cast better. I moved to where I was casting between docks and buildings. I made a cast in less than two feet of water and bam it was big bass on. I had my drag setting high on the reel and there was no leader material. Using 30lb braid I knew the chances of this fish getting away were not that good. Still, I played the fish a bit and finally brought it aboard the kayak.
After nailing that one largemouth bass I headed to the west side of the lake. I drifted with the wind south and came up with a decent smallmouth bass.