Time to Get Down!

Lake Superior salmon and trout... rugged

“Lake Superior salmon and trout… rugged!”

That’s right… it’s time to get down, down deep. Down to where the lake trout are! I hope, I mean I REALLY hope that when I said “time to get down,” you weren’t picturing me dressed in a John Travolta disco outfit from the 70s on the dance floor “getting down,” because I don’t do that kind of thing.


One time when I do “get down,” is from my treestand a few minutes after I’ve drilled a deer through the lunges with my bow. That’s one form of getting down I can relate to.


Downrigger fishing is an excellent way to control the depth you’re fishing at. Lake trout (which is what I’m mainly talking about in this piece) relate to deeper water and just above the thermocline (a section of water that separates warmer and cooler water) and for most of your summertime trout fishing, that’s where you’ll want to be. Trolling is a good way to stay on target, if you have a sonar unit, of course. Most of the modern units these days have an indicator showing you where the thermocline is. It’ll probably be marked by a shaded area.

Come on, for Christ sake... bite

“Come on, for Christ sake… bite!”

If you haven’t yet tried a downrigger, I think you should give it a try. One may look a little complicated at first, but like anything, once you get the hang of it, they work very well. Basically, a very thin steel line (cable) has a large weight (typically up to 4 – 10 pounds) attached to it (often called a “cannonball”) and from there you attach your lure on a leader of anywhere from five or six feet up to 20 to 30 more. In theory, if your lure is too close to the cannonball, you will get fewer strikes because the ball will scare off the fish. I don’t really think is something to worry about because I have caught a lot of fish with my lure very close to cannonball, which is close to vertical beneath your boat.

Lake Superior salmon and trout... rugged

“Captain Brian Hudson from Thunder Bay.”

There is a lot more to “how to” use a downrigger, obviously, but my point to this is that if you would like to fish at controlled depths, a downrigger is the way to go. There will be a depth counter (in feet) on the rig, so you’ll know very close to what depth your bait is at. When you get a strike, you simply start to fight the fish. When the fish hits, it will “pop the release” and you and the fish will separate from the rigger. If you have an electric unit, you can hit the switch and the ball will raise back the boat on its own. If you have a manual one, you will have to raise it yourself. This can be tricky if you’re on your own, because you’ll be fishing your trout… the concern is that if you leave the cannon ball down deep, the fish could tangle in the cable. Get your fishing partner to raise the ball. If you fish solo, well… you figure it out. To be honest, most times the fish doesn’t get tangled, only the big ones do.


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