Santa Ana Rivers Lake (SARL) – Lake is Beginning to Warm

During the last weekend, Big D landed his first Lightning Trout and Cedric bagged a Nebraska Tailwalker Rainbow.   Santa Ana Rivers Lakes trout fishing season is just about over as the April temperatures are approaching the 90’s.  I went through historical fishing reports at SARL and by the early summer there is no mention of trout catches at all until October when the first trout plants begin depending on the temperature.

Why is that?  Well, the trout will become more lethargic as the temperatures rise and will seek the bottom in the coolest water until their mortality temperature of 75 is reached.  Then they become catfish food.

On the other hand, the catfish season is just beginning and their bite picks up as the water temperature increases into the 70’s and 80’s.   I don’t normally fish SARL in April as I’m thinking about the Eastern Sierra season opener.  I’ll hit up SARL once more with my friends for as Cedric says, “The Grand Finale”.   I think “Grand” is pushing it, but “Finale” is spot on.  We’ll see, but I’m planning on rigging one pole for catfish.

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Trout and WD-40 – Cedric Puts It To The Test

When a group of guys sit around all morning with no bites the conversation always takes on a weird path.   It began with me talking about how I read that fishermen were using WD-40 to catch trout.    Big D who was an Ichthyologist disbelievingly said, ‘No way’.   Cedric says, “Hey, I got a can of WD-40 let me go get it”.  Let the games begin!

Next, Big D showed me a trout dip he had in his truck that had a warning that it was flammable.  The main ingredient was acetone! We both were knowingly thinking perhaps using WD-40 wasn’t all that crazy after all.

Cedric had two identical rigs with green powerbait.  He sprayed one with WD-40 and the other was left plain jane.  Casted both baits out about 30 feet from shore with a six foot spread between them.

While we waited to see what would happen I went on to say how some folks believe that the original WD-40 had fish oil in it (myth according to their website).  Within 15 minutes the strike indicator flies up.  We are all sort of shocked as we silently realized it’s the pole with the WD-40 that got the solid bite.  Other pole nothing.  Cedric put new bait on with WD-40 and in another 15 minutes the same exact thing happened!  Other pole nothing – Technically all of our 5 other poles we were fishing without WD-40 had no bites during this experiment.  Incredible mad science.

That was good enough of a test for me and Cedric to say that WD-40 does work.  But it’s a bit out there.  Even for us.  I think we would rather be skunked than mix fishing and the smell of mineral spirits together.  But it was a cool experiment and satisfying to finally resolve the myth or reality question.  Hmm…. what about Preparation H?

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Can Trout Smell? Making sense out of scents

If you fart in the water can trout smell it?  How about your bait?  When you think about it, trout are a lot like us in the sense that they too have circulatory, nervous, respiratory, and sensory systems.  Along the same lines then they should have the sense of smell.  If you look above their mouth you’ll see what looks like nostrils called nares. They don’t breath through them but have sensory receptors that can pick up scent.  So, the answer is yes.  They can smell your fart.  So, the next thought is what smells do they like so I can put it at the end of my hook (probably isn’t your fart).

Throughout the years I have tried all the scents I could think of.  Fish, shrimp, hormones, appetite stimulants, garlic, and whatever I can find at the tackle shop and home.  What really blows me away is trout seem to like the smell of powerbait which smells totally rubberishly weird.

Scents into categories:

  • Should naturally like (fish, shrimp, etc.)
  • Should naturally dislike (gasoline, bleach, etc.)
  • Neutral (rock, gravel, pure water, etc.)

If you’re a nut case like me you’ve done experiments in clear lakes where you can see the reaction of trout swimming around you.  No matter how much fish oil, shrimp scent, etc. that I dumped overboard the fish never seemed to care.  They just swam right along the boat in random directions as if nothing happened.  And if they don’t like the smell of gasoline, why are they swimming by the outboard engine with the oil slick in the water? They don’t seem to be care much about scents we think they should or shouldn’t like.

Scents often make no sense.  If you go back to the analogy of trout being similar to us and think about sitting in a rental boat that reeks of gasoline. Does it prevent you from eating your lunch?  How about something different as the alluring perfume of a beautiful woman.  Does that make you want to bust out a call for pizza?  Nope.

Do most animals learn or recognize the scent of danger?  Are trout wary creatures? Yup. Perhaps Mr. Trout also learns or instinctively recognizes that the human scent represents danger. Most animal hunters are acutely aware of wind direction as to not tip-off their quarry.  Maybe all those ‘trout attractants’ aren’t attracting trout so much as they are masking our scent.  In the meanwhile I’ll keep rinsing off my hands every so often in the lake just to be on the safe side and not eat beans when fishing.

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Short Leader Lessons

While fishing at Convict Lake my friend was using a 2 lb 6″ inch leader and not catching any trout while the other two of us were getting loads of bites and catching fish.  I mentioned to my friend that he needs to use a longer leader.  He said “I’m fine” which to fellow fishermen means let me do it my way.  Finally after we (not short leader man) almost caught our limits he finally put on an 18″ leader, but the bite had finished.  So, he ended up getting no bites all morning long and was skunked for the day. Lesson learned?  Maybe.

My thoughts regarding the longer 18″ leader is that the bait can float above the rocks and weeds thus increasing visibility to the trout.  Also, being further away from the terminal tackle (sinker, swivel, etc.) it is a more stealthy approach for a wary trout.  Finally,  due to the longer leader would this would give the trout more time with the bait before feeling the sinker.

A few weeks ago my friend was using that damn 6″ leader at Santa Ana Rivers Lake and guess what?  He was getting the bites while me and my friend were getting nothing.  I switched over to the 6″ leader and quickly started to get action.  Well, I couldn’t believe that Mr. Trout would only hit on short leaders.  Short leaders can make as much of a difference in your fishing success as long leaders do.  Another tactic to try when nothing else seems to work.  Lesson learned.

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Why do trout fool around nibbling instead of simply biting?

You probably know the feeling when your line nudges slightly as Mr. Trout begins to nibble at your bait and the ‘ugh!’ when setting the hook and sensing nothing at the end of your line.  Score: You – Zip / Mr. Trout + 1.    Sometimes my whole day is all nibbles and skunkola, but at least I got some action.  This happened yesterday at Santa Ana Rivers Lake with me and my friends.  Here’s my thoughts on why:

  • I used to think city trout were dumb, but actually there are very wary as there is tremendous fishing pressure at city lakes.   So unlike those sierra trout that simply engulf the bait, these city slickers are more careful about what they bite on.
  • If Mr. Trout feel the weight of the sinker or hook they will spit out the bait.  Then how in the hell are we just supposed to catch them then!
  • Mr. Trout thinking that smells and looks good, oh but wait that tastes like the powerbait that got me hooked last time.  Blah. Spit.  Gee, how many flavors and colors of bait in your tackle box?
  • Trout can taste with their lips so they bump their food without actually putting it their little mouth.  I guess they would be chewing on a bunch or rocks all day otherwise.
  • “Drive-bys” as Cedric calls them.  It’s when your line move against the trout’s body when it changed it’s mind and simply run past the line and pulls it along it’s body.  Think of it like a ballistic submarine swimming right along your bait and imagine how loud the bell would ring when it slammed into your rod shattering it into a million pieces!
  • Trout quickly learn from their own mistakes and by observing other fish being taken.  So when they nibble on the bait they may get the ‘uh oh, I remember that one’ and immediately spit it out.  Ok, can’t blame them for that one.

I have come to the conclusion that I am most creative in explaining why I’m not catching fish as it obviously can’t be me.  Or it’s corollary, which is I’m the most brilliant clever fisherman when I’m catching!

What do you think?

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