Help me catch a fish!
February 12, 2010 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Help me catch a fish!

So I've been out to the local lake which is allegedly stocked with Rainbow Trout three times now and haven't caught so much as a soggy shoe. Suffice to say this hasn't exactly impressed my six year old who thought it would be like Little Bear where the fish bite as soon as bait hits the water...

So what can I do?

I'm a complete noob so have been using this technique - powerbait on a gang hook, light line and we are fishing at Lake Temescal

m.o has been to hop onto one of the fishing platforms and just cast out, wait an hour or two and then go home fishless. We've been going at about 10:30 - 11:30am.

So where do the fish like to hang out?
How far out should we be casting?
How long should we wait before reeling it in and trying a new spot?
What time should we head out?
After we come home fishless what is the best way to clean the gunky powerbait off?
posted by zeoslap to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You need to go fishing earlier in the morning, if I recall correctly from fishing trips with my own dad. Like, 7 am. the fish are more active then, or something?
posted by leesh at 7:24 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Most freshwater trout and salmon retire to cooler deeper waters during the day. Often, this means that they limit the time that the spend feeding in upper waters mostly to the early morning, like crack of dawn until just before 9ish, depending on temperature (water, not air).
posted by kuujjuarapik at 7:29 AM on February 12, 2010

Where are you? It's the middle of winter, and trout are usually stocked during the spring, so there might not be any fish to catch. Incidentally, I've had some very successful trout fishing trips where we used live crickets as bait. They seem to love those.
posted by dortmunder at 7:33 AM on February 12, 2010

Nevermind. I see you're in California. Disregard the question. Still, stocked trout often don't survive the winter. You may want to call the park and see when they start stocking fish. Then go fishing soon afterwards.
posted by dortmunder at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2010

Response by poster: We are in California - Lake Temescal and the lake was recently stocked (or so they claim...)
posted by zeoslap at 7:35 AM on February 12, 2010

I am also a terrible fisherman but I agree with above that you need to go much earlier, like, sunrise.
posted by ghharr at 7:38 AM on February 12, 2010

Response by poster: Okay - we'll go first thing tomorrow (if it's not raining) now regards technique - how long should we just leave it be? Should we cast close to the shore or a ways away?
posted by zeoslap at 7:45 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: It looks like it's only getting up to the sixties during the warmest part of the day in your area, which is cool enough for the trout to stay active. The water probably isn't getting warm enough for them to need to go deep. Still, early morning or around dusk are probably the best times to try.

To increase your chances, try several different baits. In addition to the power bait, try worms or salmon eggs. Hatchery trout will also sometimes bite on a few kernels of corn threaded onto the hook. Make sure your hooks are small, because stocked trout usually aren't very big, and you want to make it easy for them to hook themselves.

Also try a few different depths (from just a couple feet under the surface down to the bottom). If you start to get any bites, keep fishing that bait at that depth, and adjust any other lines you have out to be in the same general area.

If you don't get any bites after twenty minutes or so, move. Or try casting in a different direction, at least. If you see shady areas and/or rocks and trees sticking out of the water, try casting nearby. This increases your risk of snags, of course, but fish tend to like cover.

Another option is to use a small inline spinner. (Like this.) Cast it out, let it sink for a couple of seconds, and then slowly retrieve it. You can let it sink for shorter/longer times to fish different depths, and you can adjust how quickly you retrieve it to try to convince a fish to strike. Note that your six-year-old will almost certainly get some line tangled up at some point while using this technique. On the other hand, it's less boring than just casting a line out and waiting, so it might make the experience more enjoyable even if he doesn't catch anything. And artificial lures will sometimes work when other baits won't.

I've caught trout just a couple of feet from the shore and way out in open water. It really depends on the day. The key is to keep trying different things until you find something that works. You need to leave your bait in one area long enough for the fish to find it, of course, but if you're not getting any action after fifteen to twenty minutes, you should try something new.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 7:53 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The best thing to do would be to swing by the nearest bait shop and chat up whoever is working. They can tell you what the fish are biting (if they are biting) and answer questions about how far out to cast, what depth to have the bait at, etc.. If they try to sell you anything fancy they've probably pegged you for a noob. But if they say definitely go with a little jig tipped with maggots or that they're hitting spawn sac, take their advice. I've had luck catching stock trout out here in the east with powerbait, but almost always go for maggots or spawn sac if its available.

Is there any one else fishing the lake when you are there? The funny thing about fishing- it can be both social and solitary. There seems to be an unwritten rule that it is ok to ask other fishermen how they're doing and what they're using under casual circumstances, as long as you move along and keep things short.

When you do get a bite, remember that trout have small mouths so you've got to let them take it a bit before you set the hook. Its not necessarily a strong hit like catching a bass. Good luck!
posted by nowoutside at 8:06 AM on February 12, 2010

You're sad tale of fishing woe is but a sorry tagline to my Ribman's tale...

He hasn't caught a fish in years. He doesn't try much anymore, there is no point, but last fall we visited Alex. Alex has no problems catching fish. Alex work for a state Fish and Wildlife program. Alex collects fish for mercury sampling, and water samples too. Alex uses electroshock- a whole boat with two giant wands on the front to stun the slippery little things and make them float to the top. Alex would take us fishing.

Alex catches fish by the dozen.

Yeah, right. Not with Ribman along. We drove 2 hours to the designated lake of the day and found out that the whole thing was gone. Water, weeds, and fish. Gone. Evaporated. Dessicated. Not yet updated on any map, except maybe the Realtor who was having a firesale on his 'lakefront' property.

Go. Go, catch your little fish in the early morning on the beautiful lake. Ribman will be at home, wishing you well.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:08 AM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]

Trout are kind of hard to catch, generally speaking. I've always had more luck fishing with kids going after panfish such as sunfish / brim / perch, whatever they are called in CA. Use a tiny hook with a piece of worm on it and drop it straight down off the dock. It's usually a nearly foolproof way to help a kid get something on his line.
posted by COD at 8:13 AM on February 12, 2010

You could take him to a stocked pond if you want to give him that experience of actually catching something but explain that fishing does take time in the real world. I would second going really early, that is something I remember with my dad.
posted by boomcha76 at 8:15 AM on February 12, 2010

Seconding the advice to ask other fisherpeople or whoever is working at the bait shop. Especially if you have a kid with you, they'll probably be more than happy to help.
posted by Hypocrite_Lecteur at 8:17 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: By and large, fisheries only populated with stocked trout are generally devoid of fish within about 2-3 days of the last stocking. There are, unfortunately, people who follow the hatchery trucks to the fishery and throw on the fish literally as they're being dumped in the water.

I would really, really recommend that you find another fishery besides a trout lake, if for no other reason than that trout are difficult to catch at best.

Find a place full of bluegill/perch/shellcrackers/etc and get a box of worms/corn/cheese bits and spend the day catching hundreds. I'm not familiar w/ your ecosystem out there, our spawn is still several months away---but if you're seeing 60 degree days, you should be catching fish.

Also, unless you're catching bottom feeding species, and especially with trout, sit-and-wait isn't an effective strategy at all. Trout are spooky, easily flummoxed, easily scared fish. They have to believe that something is alive and wrigglin', not chillin on the bottom for an hour. You need to be recasting w/i 10 minutes, and really you should (probably) be using something like gold (murky water) or silver (clear water) spinner baits, or earthworms, bumped slowly along the bottom, in the slack water behind rocks in flowing water, along the edges of shadows, etc. Also, with trout, if you're casting a shadow on the water or being loud, they're gone.

I ramble too much, but I also fish too much. Feel free to memail me about fishing any time. :)
posted by TomMelee at 8:28 AM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yeah, if you can find a lake with sunfish you've got it made. The sunfish in the lake my parents live on [Spectacle Lake in central MN] will honestly bite on a bare hook and can actually put up a bit of a fight.
posted by chazlarson at 8:46 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: Some very good suggestions upthread, especially about talking to the local bait shops. Bay Area lakes receive a lot -- A LOT! of pressure from the locals. I love to fish, mostly for bass, but I rarely hit any of the lakes within the Bay Area proper, as it is just too frustrating.

A few thoughts:

1) 10:30a - 4:30p is the dead time. Best fishing is always before 10:30a and at dusk.

2) As has been mentioned, warm water species like bass, blue gill (aka bream), and sunfish are much easier to catch.

3) You will do better from a boat than a dock in most cases.

4) If you MUST fish within the Bay Area proper, there are better options. Lafayette Reservoir in Moraga has row boat rentals and is very "fishy". I've fished there a bit and have good luck with bass and a few trout, one to 5 lbs or so, a real lunker. This was on artificial bait, as I don't use live bait for freshwater fishing.

Another excellent option is San Pablo Reservoir, which opens its season next Friday, Feb. 19th.

5) If you are willing to drive a little, I really like Camanche Lake, an hour or so east of Stockton. Camanche is actually a huge lake, but it also has a well stocked trout pond and several small bass ponds, camping, motor boat rentals, etc.. If you strike out on the main lake 9r just want to fish smaller water, the trout pond and bass ponds are always productive.

6) -- read it, join the warm water species and/or trout forums, and ask people to PM you some recommendations. Most folks won't share their favorite "honey holes" (not my nick name, just what they go by), but they may PM you a secret spot if they know you are taking your son.

Anyway, those are off the top of my head. I mostly fish south of the Bay Area and east of the Bay Area, so I can make more recommendations in those regions if you plan to head out that way. The best fishing is usually off the beaten path.
posted by mosk at 9:13 AM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]

I'm NOT a fisherman but I noticed a couple of things on the page you linked to re: stocking

It has the first stocking listed as 2/15/10, which is Monday. Are you sure it has been recently stocked?

Also, there are "No reports received" of a catch at Lake Temescal.

Have you asked other people who are fishing if they've caught anything? I often see folks fishing there but never seen anyone catch anything.
posted by quarterframer at 9:20 AM on February 12, 2010

Best answer: Ugh had a long post and lost it. Short version:

I've caught trout just a couple of feet from the shore and way out in open water. It really depends on the day. The key is to keep trying different things until you find something that works. You need to leave your bait in one area long enough for the fish to find it, of course, but if you're not getting any action after fifteen to twenty minutes, you should try something new.

This is good advice, so is TomMelee's.

The rig you linked to is a little more complicated than you need, and I've never been a fan of multiple hooks (which in some places is illegal btw).

Simple rig:
Get the smallest treble hook you can find - the brass ones that are super sharp. Tie that onto the end of the line, and then place a couple of split shot about 1.5 to 2 feet above that. If you want to use a bobber (which can be a LOT of fun for a kid becuase they see something happening, but the fish have to be feeding shallow) place it on the line at least 3-4 feet above the split shot. Bobbers also get you away from the snagging problem.

As far as bait, powerbait is great stuff, but only for trout. My old standbys are always orange or rainbow with glitter. A sure way to catch anything is with nightcrawlers. With a tiny hook you only need half of one, but make some at least an inch or two of the wriggling part is hanging off so that it moves around underwater.

If you are going just to catch something, use the nightcrawlers. Certainly there are small perch in that lake.

Good on you for trying. I can't wait to teach my little one to fish!
posted by Big_B at 9:23 AM on February 12, 2010

On preview, I used to live in the Bay, and mosk gave you a lot of fantastic information.
posted by Big_B at 9:27 AM on February 12, 2010

Trout aren't that hard to catch. If Powerbait isn't working use a Kastmaster.

Seriously. I hated fake bait and thought it was lame for 30 years until I tried a Kastmaster for trout in CA. I would also recommend a Palomar knot.
posted by pelham at 9:34 AM on February 12, 2010

I'd try Lake Chabot, if I were you - it sounds as if there's pretty decent fishing there from the shore, and it's conveniently located. I've had decent luck at the San Pablo Reservoir myself, and it opens next Friday. I've never heard of anyone doing any serious fishing in Lake Temescal - it's pretty darn shallow.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 10:32 AM on February 12, 2010

As others said, 10:30 is the end of the fishing day. If you're like me and hate getting up, go an hour before sunset and stay until it's dark.

But, y'know, some places really just suck for fishing. Listen to TomMelee, he knows what he's talking about. Trout are a tough nut to crack. That's one of the reasons hardcore fishermen love them. They love them so much that they usually do catch-and-release fishing out of respect for the damn fish. When they're eating one type of bug, that's all they're eating. Once you spook them, you need to move along because they won't be eating again while you're around. Sometimes they're feeding at the top. Sometimes at the bottom. Sometimes they just aren't eating.

Screw trout unless you really want to try to get into their heads, talk with other local fishermen, examine bugs under rocks and so forth. _Lots_ of other fish are more opportunistic and will eat whatever the hell floats in front of them (hot dogs, twinkies, etc).
posted by paanta at 11:01 AM on February 12, 2010

Howdy! I'm a bit late to the game here, but I fish Temescal myself after having learned mostly through trial and error, and I can offer some concrete tips which I wish someone had told me when I started.

As far as best times to fish, I'm gonna say "who knows". I've caught fish at dusk, and I've caught fish midday. I've been up there at 6AM with no luck at all. I'm sure there's merit to the idea that earlier is better, but at this little lake, it seems almost random. I would say go when's convenient, and try to enjoy yourself being out, rather than hoping for a fish, as I've come home empty handed far more often than not.

That said, catching stocked trout isn't nearly as hard as everyone makes it seem. You'll need a bit of equipment and a bit of luck, but it can be done. I would come armed with at least two rigs, a 1/8 oz gold kastmaster on a bare 4 pound test line, and a sliding sinker rig(called slip sinker on this page) with power bait, also on 4 pound test (the amount of force required to break the line, although they'll actually take a bigger fish than that if you have decent flex in your pole and your drag set correctly). I'm not sure how heavy my weight is, but it's smaller than a marble, so not very big.

First, let's lay out a map. Lake temescal has two 'sides', effectively. The beach side, and the 'mountain' side. From the beach side, the wooden dock is a good place to fish from. It seems to give you the most coverage. On the mountain side, you have the wooden handicap dock, an aluminum dock at the deep bend in the trail, and 'the rock' just to the right of that. Facing the lake from the aluminum dock, there's a small rock maybe 15 feet to the right that you can stand on that gives you good coverage, should the dock be occupied. Really, any part of that bend will be decent.

For technique, let's start with the kastmaster. Step 1: tie it onto your line. Step 2: cast out your line. Step 3: retrieve your line at a slow to medium speed. Step 4: Repeat until there is a fish. I would do this from the aluminum dock, as the rail on the others sort of impedes the retrieval. You want the lure to stay in the water as long as possible, and you do this by pointing your rod at the water. Cast towards the buoy, the beach, the other dock. Just kind of toss it all around. Vary your retrieval speed. Maybe give it a little time to sink after it hits the water before retrieving by waiting a few seconds. I'm sure there's a more nuanced way of doing this, but I caught 2 1.5 pounders within 10 minutes of each other doing this. The kastmaster has a distinctive side-to-side wiggle motion when you're retrieving it fast enough and is apparently enticing to trout. Just watch for it as you pull it in. At some point, you will feel the lure snag on something, at which point you yank up hard to set the hook, and then reel the fish in. Keep a net nearby to pull it out of the water. If you pull it out by the line, there's a chance it'll snap if the fish is big enough.

With the sinker rig, it's a little more difficult, and a little easier at the same time. The idea is to cast out some distance into the lake, tighten your line, and wait. When you see your rod bending, something's got your hook. Yank up hard on it to set, reel it in like before. Trout spook easily, and the sliding sinker lets the fish pull on your hook for a while without feeling the resistance directly above from the rod, giving you a better chance of hooking it, all the while keeping the bait off the bottom. Bait your hook with something that floats. I tend to use enough powerbait to cover the hook up to the eye. Dip the hook in the water before casting to make sure you have enough. Toss out towards the middle, then reel it in slowly until you run out of slack in your line. If you're on the wooden dock on the beach side, you can set your rod in the little notches that people have carved into the railing. Make sure the line is tight when you set it down. Then, you wait. And that's pretty much it. If you have nothing after 10 minutes, try throwing somewhere slightly different. Patience is the key here. The difficulty is that it's sometimes hard to see if you've got something poking at your hook, so you may miss a fish that way. Just watch your rod for motion.

Failing all this, you may wait till it gets warmer. If there are still bluegill in the lake, they apparently will bite on bare hooks during spawning season, although I don't know when that is and I've never seen them personally.

Hope this helps you some. I know it's a bit scattered, but I only just learned this stuff myself. I'd be happy to show you anything if you happen to catch me up at the lake. I wear a bright orange raincoat and have my gear in an orange and black messenger bag when I'm up there.
posted by chriszf13 at 12:17 AM on March 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

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