Seeking Salmon: Setting a Winning Spread

No one said trolling for salmon was simple—especially if you want to score consistently.

Just ask veteran Lake Winnipesaukee guide Jason Parent of Salmon Patrol Charters. Parent’s early-season trolling spread varies according to the depth at which the fish are feeding on any given day and the number of licensed fishermen aboard (New Hampshire allows two rods per angler). However, his “standard” spread consists of six lines staggered at different depths, to cover the water column from 5 to 25 feet below the surface. Here are the details:

First, two lines are set off downriggers, one 10 feet deep and 10 feet behind the boat, the other 8 to 15 feet deep and 30 to 50 feet behind the boat. Both lines are 10-pound-test mono with 8-foot, 4- to 6-pound-test fluorocarbon leaders.

Next, a leadcore line is run off a planer board. This line is let out at least two “colors” to achieve a depth of 10 to 15 feet, and fished off a 100-foot fluorocarbon leader. It’s important to note that the planer board lines must be set farther back than the flat lines, to prevent tangles when a fish is hooked.

A second planer board line is set off the other side at three to four colors (15 to 20 feet deep) and fished off a 100-foot leader.

The two flat lines are deployed from leadcore outfits, one on either side of the boat. The starboard line can be let out anywhere from one to four colors, to achieve a depth of 5 to 25 feet.

The leader is 75 to 100 feet. The portside line can be let out one to two colors for a depth of 5 to 12 feet, depending on whether a live bait or lure is used. The leader on this outfit is typically 50 feet. The spread should be tweaked according to the fish’s behavior and the depth at which they are feeding. If you haven’t had a strike after 30 minutes, make adjustments to bait and lure type, trolling depth, and speed until you find the combination that works.