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Thread: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

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    Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    ...Coregonids

    Translation: Should I run my Jakes shallower at night than in the day? I'll be doing some trolling on trout water in 3 weeks and would like some pointers.

    Thanks in advance,
    "Jackpot" John Schroeder :-)

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    We found that on the trout water lake we fish there is pretty much a magic depth over deeper water which changes each year. The muskies will actively feed at that depth at certain times of the day. You would think that as the baitfish rise and fall in the water column the muskies would continue to pursue them and actively feed on them but it isn't the case. They just wait at that magic depth for the baitfish to enter or leave and destroy them when they pass through.

    The depth seems to be related to the thermocline, but isn't the actual thermocline. This year, with the early summer and hot nights, I'd speculate the thermocline is deeper than normal, so the magic depth would be too. On a typical year I'd expect to run lures like Jakes and Grandmas on 100 feet of line as a starting point. The Jakes would be slightly shallower than the newer Grandmas running 12-14 feet on 80# line. This year I'd probably use deeper stuff like Swim Whizzes and Believers running 14-24 feet, or run the Jakes longer or with a small trolling sinker in between the snap and trolling leader. Either way, when cranks are the ticket, you want something with a looser wobble usually, not a super tight wiggle like a jointed lure from what we've seen.

    Find the big schools of bait with the big hooks around them and keep pounding on them at different times of day until you connect. Then if the weather stays pretty much constant you can return to that spot at the same time of day and pound on them instead of wasting time trying the wrong times of the day. This often has no bearing whatsoever on any solunar time. We have had the time around 10:00AM work on more years than any other time for some reason.

    Good luck and give us a report when you get back.



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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    Thanks for the response, JEM. So if I'm reading you correctly, on Trout water you're saying that the muskies just stay put at whatever depth zone they happen to be at, and they stay there all day long. So, for example, if the Ciscoes are 24 feet down during the day and only 12 feet down at night (11pm to 1 am), and you decided to do some night trolling, you would continue to run baits closer to 24 feet down, correct? You would base this strategy on the theory that the muskies have refused the option to follow upward. Is that about right? Have you noticed this same pattern (muskies refusing to move upward) at night as well as during the day? Or do you primarily fish during the day only?

    Thanks!
    "Jackpot" John Schroeder

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    From what we've seen, yes the muskies pretty much tend to feed at one depth level, but the time of day is critical. You need to be there when the bait is either going up through their zone when it is getting darker, or down through the zone as it is getting lighter. Trolling even when you see the big hooks is usually a bust unless you get there at the right time. Don't ask me why, it's just the way it is. We trolled the heck out of those fish, high, low inbetween, early, late, mid day, on changes and whenever you can think of. It is not a pattern you can make work other than those few select times when the muskies want to feed. I've been trying to beat this for over 25 years and I can't. That's why when you start you need to try different lures at different depths at different times of day. It isn't easy to home in on this pattern.

    What I try to do is this, find out the time that they want to feed out in the open stuff, and plan around that. Cast good spots at other times or troll structure between spots, but let the open water stuff go until the time is right. You'll go nuts seeing all those big fish suspended and wear out leaders changing lures trying to make them bite when they don't want to. They have more food out there than they know what to do with and they have feeding down to a science, so trying to make them bite a lure when they are off is really really tough. There is no correlation from what we've seen when the open water fish feed and when the structure fish feed. The structure fish seem to play more by the "rules" and you can have a lot of fun working on these fish. You need to be able to target both groups of fish to maximize your chances. Plus you can stay sharp and keep at it longer if you mix up some casting with some trolling.

    I'm just telling you what I've seen on the lake I fish, it probably is true to some extent on other trout waters also. The time of year you are going is the time I'm usually there and you will find lakers coming up "shallower" too sometimes and that can be confusing as they mark like muskies and pike. We caught lakers on big rapalas down 25 over 50 feet and had them hit deep divers casting too in late August. And, if you are banging pike, fish up higher.

    I doubt whether you will get muskies to hit on lures running down much deeper than 20 feet in open water. They like to feed up, and fish down 35 feet will still have no problem seeing your lures at 20. If you make a mistake on lure depth, do it on the shallow side. We've caught really nice fish just trolling bucktails with no weight over 40 to 50 feet of water some years, and they can't have been down more than 5 feet, probably less.

    One last thing, you want to be over soft bottom. The stuff the little fish eat does not like rock, so if you can, find some soft bottom basins in the 40 to 70 foot range and then you're in business. Baitfish suspended 90 feet down over 140 feet is not what you are looking for. You want the baitfish suspending down 40 to 50 feet max during the off times as they seem to be the ones that will make the light triggered vertical migrations through the musky feeding zone.

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    AWESOME info JEM! Thanks for taking the time to be so specific. I'll be fishing the Pipestone / Clearwater Chain Aug 19-29. Will definitely use the info you've provided and report back at the end of the trip. Really appreciate the info regarding soft bottom vs hard.

    "Jackpot" John Schroeder

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    Jem you claim you haven't broken the pattern in 25 years outside of spefici times. However, it sounds like you are just trying the trolling deal. Have you guys tried casting the areas with the hooks, and working the baits erratically? I am not a troller, but when I have done it I have very little confidence in doing it for suspended fish. The reason being is I feel I can better trigger the fish by casting. pretty hard to get a crank to kick-out on a troll!

    Curious if you guys tried the casting deal.

    Travis Kopke

    "Let em go, Let em grow"

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    Wow, forgot all about this thread. Casting? Not as a primary method but when we shot blanks one day trolling at the correct time (at least according to my theory, the correct time) we tried some casting and had fish follow a slow straight bucktail presentation. The fish constantly followed one friends' lure so my other friend and I tried to get something they'd hit. Tried different lures with the same color, nope. Tried the same lure in different colors, nope. Tried the exact same lure just faster, nope. They would only follow that one lure at the slow speed. There seemed to be about six different fish from 36" to 46" that followed out of an area maybe 100 yards in diameter, but no matter what we couldn't get them to hit. We had been hitting them trolling for three days in a row, then that day happened, and after that we hit them again trolling but not quite as good.

    Now it's very possible I just don't have the skills to work some of the baits for triggering those open water fish. I'm the first to admit I'm not an expert and struggle with some lures others have great luck using. Could be casting could put those fish in the net, but I have some learning to do to get confidence in doing that.

    Did we ever get the report on the trip in question from above???

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    Thanks for the replies, JEM and Travis!

    I had somewhat forgotten about this thread, too, until 3 days ago. I am currently on vacation in Perrault Falls, and Cliff Lake is one of the lakes I'm fishing (will be trolling it later today and after dark as well).

    Back to the original fishing report.... We fished Pipestone last year, and the strategy that we ended up using was trolling crankbaits into the roughest, wind blown points and islands we could find. Never really dedicated as much time to the open water thing as we should have (probably a lack of confidence thing).

    However this year, on Cliff, while trolling for lake trout, (in addition to the large numbers of baitfish and trout within 10 to 15 feet of bottom in 100 feet, we also marked HUGE numbers of baitfish only 20 to 30 feet down, and also big marks at 20 feet down). Did not musky troll these the first day on cliff since we didn't have the musky gear along....

    ....However, we found a large bay or arm of the lake that had a max depth of about 75 feet. In the evening (about 90 minutes before dusk), we saw massive schools of baitfish breaking the surface in 26 to 75 feet of water. Immediately began trolling through the area with walleye crankbaits. Caught a walleye out of 40 feet, and another out of 72 feet (the bait was running probaby 22 to 27 feet down)...

    So we returned to Cliff 2 days later with blue / cisco colored Jakes, Slammers, depth raiders and trolled through this same area. No muskies were caught, but also no baitfish were observed breaking the surface (which is odd, since 2 days earlier, they were literally EVERYWHERE on the surface, in an area about the size of 10 football fields). But we still marked TONS of baitfish in this area (25 to 40 feet down), and so continued to troll the musky baits through it.

    Still very new at this, but heading back to Cliff this afternoon for lake trout / walleye trolling, followed by evening trolling for muskies. Based on what I've observed with the walleyes, I believe the vast majority of ALL quality fish (including muskies), are open water suspenders.

    But here's the question (mostly for you JEM)... Should we be concentrating our musky efforts in the 26 to 75 foot depths where we saw the surface busting baitfish, (and caught 2 suspended walleyes), or do we have a chance at muskies suspended over the 100 foot depths (where we are also marking lots of big hooks 20 to 30 feet down)? I would assume the big arcs 20 to 30 feet down couldn't be lakers (water too warm I'm assuming), so they must be either walleyes or muskies. I may get crazy today and troll one of the flutter spoons only 20 feet down and see what happens...

    I'll keep you all posted,
    "Jackpot" John Schroeder

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    Just stay with the baitfish and hooks, prefferably on the shallower side of the school at first. I'm not partial to depths over 60 feet. I've caught many more fish in that 30-50 foot range. I still think the muskies sit at a preffered feeding level and destroy the baitfish as they pass through. You need to find that level. Fish bucktails 50 to 250 feet back flat out at 5mph+ and work down gradually to Believers up to 150 feet from the boat around 3mph. You have to cover all the bases.

    We've caught lakers 25 feet down in 50 feet in August on Rapalas, and lakers on figure eights with Dpeth riaders in August casting saddles in 25 feet. Temps don't stop lakers from feeding where the pickin's are easy. No, all the lakers don't do that, but some do. If you start banging nice pike, get your lures up higher!

    Change times of day, change lure sizes (very important as oftentimes muskies will smoke smaller bucktails and ignore larger ones, same for 10" Believers vs. 8" Swimm Whizzes) change lure colors, change speeds and change lures every pass till you find a depth, a size lure, and a color that works at a certain time of day. Yeah, I know it's alot of work, but when you dial it in, you will be smilin'!

    Fish an hour on those suspendos and then hit some structure. Come back later and try again. Just keep checking different times of day and sooner or later you'll hit the formula and then you can just come back on other days and have a great chance to pound on them.

    The challenge is half the fun! Good luck and post some pictures when you figure it out. Remember this is not somethng many people do, so you are breaking ground as you go. You will find out the ins and outs of this type of fishing and then others will be asking you for advice. You are the cutting edge! Enjoy it!

    OH, almost forgot! If you find some reefs topping out around 20-30 feet deep with deep water around them, troll the snot out of them (over and around) if they are in reasonable proximity to other shoreline attached structures, like bars and points or in saddle areas. They usually aren't worth the effort to fish if they come out of deep water in the middle of nowhere, they need that association with other structures, say within 1/4 mile or so to be really good from what I've seen. We've had 30# fish almost rip the rods out of our hands trolling buckltails flat over the tops of spots like these in midday hours, and had fish hit Believers working the edges too.

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    RE: Diel Vertical Migration of Planktivorous Pelagic ...

    JEM,

    Thanks so much for all your help with this! I really appreciate you taking the time to put so much detail into your responses. This might make me think differently about a few 20 footer we marked last night. We did get a 43 incher on Cliff last night (I'll attempt to post a pic). However, this one was related to a wind blown rock point.

    We spent the hour prior to sunset trolling 30 to 75 foot water looking for the suspenders, but maybe should have been running 1 of our baits a bit shallower too. Have not connected so far on a true suspender, but I think it's just a matter of time before the first one, and the related confidence boost. But based on what I've seen with the walleyes so far on Cliff, I'm a big believer that a huge percentage of the population is suspended all the time.

    Thanks again for providing such detailed info!

    "Jackpot" John Schroeder

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