I live in Wasaga Beach on Georgian Bay – part of Lake Huron of the Great Lakes in Canada. The Beach’s main claim to fame is that it is the largest freshwater beach in the world…over 25 miles of sandy shores.
There is some amazing salmon fishing off Wasaga Beach and Collingwood, which is just 15 miles away.
And if the salmon just aren’t taking your bait, and you are just dragging iron around, you can often go shallower and pick up a steelhead (rainbow) and/or a brown trout.
There are pretty good docking facilities at Collingwood. I prefer to launch my boat there, because they are seldom busy, so I can get my boat launched and get on the water fairly quickly. Also, the mouth of the Nottawasaga at Wasaga Beach is often quite shallow due to the silt build-up there.
I have an 18 foot cheap old fibreglass boat called ‘Patches’. The name will seem obvious when you see the boat. But I didn’t skimp on the motor. It is a very reliable, fairly new 60 HP Evinrude.
I run out of Collingwood Harbour (where they used to build minesweepers during the war and big Lakers after the war. It’s now shut down.), past the deserted grain elevators, and out onto Georgian Bay. I don’t fish if the water is any more than a chop. I’ve been out on the bay when the winds suddenly blew down from the Blue Mountains, and know that 2-3 foot (and higher) waves can happen in the blink of an eye. Get distracted landing a big fish for just a few minutes, and you can be in trouble.
I use a fishfinder/depthfinder permanently wired into the boat with the transponder permanently attached to the transom. This lets me know when I have run out to the 85 foot depth. I let the motor idle and get the gear ready.
My 6 foot rods are equipped with heavy duty Penn baitcast reels and 50 lb braided line. Braided line is very hard to cut, and won’t stretch, so you get more feel from the line than with conventional monofilament line.
But first, I prepare the downriggers. I can manage 2 of them easily, because they are electric. I use a 5 lb lead ‘cannonball’ on the end of 150 feet braided steel cable on each. I test each to make sure that the up/down switches work in both directions.
Usually I will put on a larger bluish spoon on one of the downriggers, and a silverish color plug on the other. I’ll use these for about ½ hour before changing up if I don’t get any hits. Then I’ll go to a dark (black, dark green, etc) on one, and something garish (red, orange, spotted) on the other. Another 1/2 hour of no action, and I’ll change lures again. Once I find what is working that day, I put that color, or as close as I can get, on both lines.
Then I put the boat in gear and idle around 3 MPH. When I let the line out, I run one line 6-10 feet behind the cannonball, and the other 15-20 feet behind. Then I clip the line to the cannonball’s clip, and let the line down when I lower the cannonball so that one cannonball is close to the bottom (about 5 feet above), and the other is about 15 feet above. Keep an eye on the fishfinder to see where the fish are staging, and try to be both just above and just below that level.
I also like to use ‘stingers’. This is a 6-8 foot length of line with a snap swivel on each end. After the downriggers are lowered, snap the one end to the line going down to the cannonball, and snap a smaller spoon to the other end. I try to use silver or blue on the stingers. The stingers will slide down the line, but stop at the ‘belly’, often picking up shallow cruising salmon, usually the younger ones (sweeter eating), or steelhead.
I slowly idle deeper and deeper out to around 125 feet depth, then shallower to 85 feet, then back out etc. in a zigzag fashion. I adjust the cannonball depth accordingly. Of course, once I hit salmon, I stay near that depth, where the fish are.
If the salmon just aren’t feeding at that time, I’ll run back to about 30-40 feet and downrig for steelhead or brown trout instead. The fishfinder will help me to find the schools of baitfish and the trout feeding off them. Use baitfish looking lures like Rapalas, small spoons, flies, etc.
The salmon fishing is best at 3 times…at sunrise, at high noon, and just after sunset. So don’t quit too early. I find it is best to go golfing in the afternoon, and come back to the salmon at night.
If your better half will let you.