Lake Michigan Trolling Tips, Part 4: Spring Coho Salmon

Catch more salmon and trout this summer. Part 4, Spring Coho, keep it simple!

Captain Andy Derwinski

JEDI Sportfishing Charters

Kenosha, WI

Only a few weeks to go before the boat gets wet for the season. The JEDI will cash in a on a few weeks of brown trout fishing near shore. Then, the fun really starts. Coho are already being caught throughout March in the far southern end of Lake Michigan. As April warms the lake, the schools move north. Eventually they settle into our area between the state line and Racine. This annual migration gives us 4 to 6 weeks of incredible fishing. The kind of fishing that makes everyone a hero.

This can be, and usually is, the best fishing of the year. The trick is to keep it simple. Now is not the time for lead cores, fancy downrigger setups, or experimenting. These fish are doing everything they can to eat as much as they can.

These schools do move with currents, water temperatures, and most of all, bait. For those of us lucky enough to be out on the water every day, following is fairly simple. But, if you are hitting the water for the first time this year, it can be a puzzle. Try starting with online reports and baitshops. Check with local captains for up to date information. If none of this is available, find the warmest water you can.

Lure selection is important. The important part is to keep it simple. I run between 8 and 15 rods in May. Usually all but one or two have the same bait. The small, size 00, Luhr Jensen dodger in orange or red with a small fly 6 to 9 inches back is the standard bait in spring. This is measured from the eye of the hook to the end of the loop that connects to the dodger. I may go to 12 inches occasionally, but the shorter lead is the key. Smaller flies like peanuts in green, blue, black, purple, and firecracker all work. The last few seasons I have switched over to large 2/0 single hooks. I find I get a much better hook set. Plus, it’s much easier to get them out of the net after they’ve rolled around a bit. It also helps when they take the fly and roll around in the water. With a treble hook the line has a tendency to get caught between the 3 hooks where it can get cut or frayed.

The main setup is planer boards. I usually run 3 per side, occasionally 4. I still use yellow birds, but the releases are replaced with Scotty offshore releases. For coho I prefer 30# for the leader. These fish are so active, regular mono is fine. You can save the fluorocarbon for later in the season. I run the baits 25 to 40 feet behind the boards. A barrel swivel acts as a stopper for a ¼, 3/8, ½ ounce egg sinker. One or two rods will just get a stopper bead and no weight. Attached to the barrel is 5 feet of mono and a quality ball bearing swivel. The dodger/fly combo attaches to the swivel. On slower days I will change the lead lengths on flies, lengths behind the board, and weights until a winning combination is found. On busy days, it really doesn’t matter, they all work.

I will run 2 to 4 riggers this time of year, depending on my depth. We really are targeting the top 25 feet of the water column. Once we get deeper, the 2 center riggers will get spoons. These are run deeper to catch the roaming Chinook. The 2 outside riggers typically get the same dodger/ fly combo and remain above 25 feet..

Dipseys also are great this time of year. I usually run 4, sometimes just 2 when things are lock and load. The same dodger/ fly setup works great. I start them just deep enough to where they almost disappear and slowly work them deeper as needed.

Speed this time of year is rarely an issue. When these fish are active, you really can’t go wrong. The most important thing is still finding them.

A couple of last tips. Use a smaller net with a rubber or snag proof bag. If it gets busy, cut back on the rods. Some days we don’t get more than 8 set. That earlier note about running the center riggers deep with spoons once the fish move offshore, it really works. Lastly, if all the local reports say the fishing has been great for cohos, but you don’t seem to be getting bit much, MOVE.

Feel free to contact me for local reports for the Kenosha area. I don’t normally respond to text messages, a call is always better. For more info on the lake and what it has to offer, check the website at

So... what do you think? Please leave me a comment.

Add Your Own Comment:

By clicking 'Submit' you agree to the Site Terms
By entering this site you declare you read and agreed to its Terms, Rules & Privacy and you understand that your use of the site's content is made at your own risk and responsibility. Copyright © 2006 - 2018 Fishing Talks