April-May Fishing

 April-May Fishing in Sodus

Early season brown trout
Early season brown trout, caught near bootleggers point

Fishing on the open water for trout and salmon starts in Sodus Bay the first of April. At the beginning of the year, the fish are in very shallow water.  Fish will be concentrated in the warmest water they can find. They are just becoming active and chasing the bait that is congregating there. As a rule, we are looking for the warmest water possible. Warm water is found at the mouth of any stream or bay flowing out into the lake.

Another key to success is finding colored water. Though this is often found in the outflow of streams, it is also found in front of any of the bluffs.  The basic idea is that the sand gets stirred up into the water with the movement of waves. To the east, good places to start are in front of lake or chimney bluffs and east bay.  To the west, try in front of the trailer park, Maxwell creek, or Boller point.


early season browns, referred to as “cookie cutters”

Our setup in April and May is pretty simple.  We use flatlined stick baits or small spoons off planer boards, and spoons off riggers back 40-80 and down 4-6 feet. We will work water from 6-12 feet for the most part. The lead for our stick baits is determined by conditions.   In clear water, we will set them back 150+ feet, where in dirty water you can run as little as 80 feet back. We tend to use brightly colored stick baits in muddy water, and more natural looking lures in clear water. Perch colors, along with neon greens and oranges are popular muddy water colors. Silvers and golds, particularly the new goby patterns, along with blues and blacks are more popular clear water patterns. Thundersticks, rapalas, bay rats, and smithwicks are popular stick baits.

I love running small spoons as well. Dreamweaver superslims are my favorite, as well as honey bees and other similar small flutter spoons. Spoons are particularly effective off the riggers. I have found that it useful to run a single split shot about 6-8 feet above flat lined lures.  This will often catch any debris that may be floating in the water, and keeps the stick bait running a few feet down. The browns this time of year are plentiful, but not very big.  The average fish is 2-5 lbs, with a few 10 lb fish mixed in.

A pretty typical brown trout- average 2-5 lbs- caught in clear water on a blue stickbait

If there is a defined mudline, we will work in and out along the edge of it.  We try to keep one planer board water on the outside “clean” water and one in the mud. You will find that the fish are hanging out more on either the clean or the dirty side. We don’t troll in straight lines, but rather zig-zags.

We like to fish the deep pockets that are found on the wayward sides of points, as fish often congregate in these holes. If you find fish, color or temperature changes, work that area over a few times. The key to brown trout ANY time of year is getting out early- first light. Brown trout are very active early in the morning, and tend to go off the feed as the day progresses.   Prime time for brown trout is before 9 am; anything we catch after that is random and sporadic.

doubles are fairly common

A key to brown trout- you MUST use light line. We generally run 12 lb main line, and leader down to 8 or 10 lb fluorocarbon, as these fish are very line shy. Long leads in clear water are also a must, as is getting the planer boards WAY out. However, if you are fortunate enough to fish after a blow and the water is muddy, this becomes much less important.

red is not just for steelhead

As the day progresses and the bite slows, you will have a few options.  We either work out a bit deeper, and troll in the 15-30 range, or we go out and looking for lakers. Lake trout fishing in April and May is a greatly overlooked fishery. During this time of year, in the cold water, lakers are both plentiful and quite active. They like a big spoon or a “cowbell” rig trolled within 5-10 feet of the bottom VERY SLOWLY.  Most of the time, I use very short leads behind the riggers. Whereas our trolling speed for browns will be 2-2.5 on our Moor Subtroll, our “Laker speed” is often 1.8 or less. 60-120 feet of water is often the target, concentrating on areas where you see bumps on the bottom.

lakers are great for kids!

Focusing your depth finder on the bottom 20 feet is often helpful. You can really do some big numbers on decent sized fish.  Ten plus fish in a few hours is almost common, and 15lb+ lakers are not particularly hard to find.

The results of catching a laker on every rod… A quintuple!!

When conditions are right, salmon will be suspended over the lake trout.  In fact, some of my best days ever were trolling off the dumping grounds in 60-80 FOW catching lakers on the bottom and a combination of kings and browns suspended 15-40 feet down. Salmon are by no means common catches for us on the east end of the lake in the spring.   However, salmon fishing is NOTHING like one would expect off the Niagara or Geneses Rivers.

March 28th, 2012, the warmest spring I remember (though it was 31 this day)
early April, after a slug of salmon came through