Search This Blog

Blue Walleye Anyone?

They do exist. In his right hand the author holds a normal colored “yellow walleye” and in his left hand the famed “blue walleye” of Northwind Lake. The color difference is just a color phase, but it’s not something you see every day!
Mark Romanack

            To be honest, I’ve caught my share of walleye. When Chad Thompson of Pasha Lake Cabins near Beardmore, Ontario asked me if I had ever caught a blue walleye, I looked at him like he was on drugs. “No really, some of our lakes have a blue color phase of walleye,” explained Thompson as I listened with great interest. “For reasons no one seems to completely understand some of the lakes in Northwestern Ontario produce walleye that are a deep rich blue in color.”
            Inspired by Thompson’s description of the “blue walleye” this is something for sure I had to see with my own eyes. The very next day we planned a trip to Northwind Lake, located just a few miles north of our base at Pasha Lake Cabins. The launch at Northwind is pretty sketchy, but we managed to get a 16 foot Starcraft in the water.
            The first few walleye we caught were the traditional golden yellow color walleye living in tannic acid stained waters are supposed to be. Not that I was doubting the presence of “blue walleye”, but until you see one of these fish first hand it does seem a little like tales of Big Foot.
            Then it happened... I set the hook and worked a nice walleye close to the boat. When the landing net hit the floor of the boat, there flopping in front of my amazed eyes was the famed “blue walleye” as promised. To clarify, the blue walleye in Ontario are only a unique color phase of the Stizostedion vitreum or common walleye.
            The famed and extinct blue walleye or blue pike of Lake Erie were believed to be a completely unique species, not just a color phase. These fish disappeared about the same time as the passenger pigeon.
            As the day progressed we caught several more “blue walleye” proving that my catch wasn’t a fluke. In fact, the ratio of blue to yellow walleye caught in Northwind Lake is nearly the same.
            It’s also interesting to note that once they are filleted blue and yellow walleye taste exactly the same. However, Chad tells me that when you catch these fish in the winter and toss them on a fresh bed of snow, the snow turns blue!
            I haven’t witnessed the snow turning blue as of yet, but that is on my bucket list thanks to Chad Thompson and Pasha Lake Cabins.


            If you decide to target the blue walleye of Northwind Lake, get ahold of Chad Thompson at for lodging and fishing details. Chad guides and puts his clients on the famed blue walleye routinely. Be sure to take along a camera, because no one is going to believe the story without photographic proof!

Doubling Down on Downriggers

King salmon are just one of many species commonly caught on downriggers. Nick and Dale Voice teamed up to catch this nice fish out of Manistee, Michigan.
Mark Romanack

            Downriggers are often touted as essential equipment among anglers who routinely fish in deep water. The truth is downriggers are also useful for a much wider range of trolling situations. Downriggers are the “ultimate weapon in depth control fishing”, because they can also be used to “double down” on fish.
This OR2 Medium Tension Stacker Release by
Off Shore Tackle is the standard in the industry
when it comes to stacker technology. Using this
 unique release two rods can be fished using just one downrigger.

            Imagine fishing two rods and lures using just one downrigger. It’s easy with the help of an unique line release known as a stacker release. A stacker is actually two releases connected together with a short and slightly longer length of steel leader material terminated using a heavy duty snap.
            Before we can jump into discussing how to rig a stacker as a second line it’s important first to describe how to go about rigging the main line. Start by letting the desired lure 20 or more feet behind the boat. Grasp the line near the rod tip and place this line between the rubber pads of the downrigger release attached directly to the back of the downrigger ball.
            Open the bail of the reel, engage the bait clicker and lower the downrigger ball about 10 to 15 feet down into the water. Now that the first line is set, it’s time to grab a second rod and a stacker release. Set the second lure behind the boat just 10-15 feet. Now take the heavy duty snap on the stacker release and clip it over the downrigger cable. Grasp the stacker release on the short leader, pinch open the release and place the rubber pads on the downrigger cable.
            The final rigging step is to take the line from the second rod and place the line between the rubber pads on the stacker release attached to the longer leader. At this point make sure the bail is open on both rod/reel combinations and the rods are placed in nearby rod holders. Lower the downrigger weight to the desired fishing depth and reel up the slack line.
            Fishing a stacker not only allows two rods to be fished with one downrigger, it enables anglers to fish at two different trolling depths and also to use two different trolling leads and or lure types. The second rod is normally positioned 10-15 feet above the main line, but these numbers can be adjusted as dictated by fishing conditions. Also the lead lengths between the main line and the second line can be manipulated, so long as the lead on the second rod is always shorter than the main line.
Jake and Gabe VanWormer team up to land this salmon while
 Buzz Ramsey surveys the situation. Note the rigger on
the right side of the image is fishing two rods from
 one rigger with the help of a stacker release.
            Stacker releases allow anglers to effectively “double down” when trolling for trout, salmon, striper and even walleye. Stackers work great, but they are not the only way to fish two lures on one downrigger set up.
            A rigging option known as an Add-A-Line is a simple way to fish a second lure using just one rod and reel. To rig up an Add-A-Line start with a six foot length of fluorocarbon leader material. Thread a line release onto the leader material and terminate with a snap on one end and a ball bearing swivel on the other.
            The most common releases used for Add-A-Lines are smaller models like the Off Shore Tackle OR10, OR14 and OR19. The OR10 is a light tension release and is normally used for smaller fish like walleye. The OR14 and OR19 are medium and heavy tension releases typically used for trolling up brown trout, lake trout, salmon and steelhead.
            Before the Add-A-Line can be set, the main line needs to be rigged. Let the main line and lure the desired distance behind the boat and place the line into the line release on the downrigger weight. Next, open the reel bail and engage the bait clicker feature. Now lower the downrigger weight 10-15 feet.
            Take the Add-A-Line leader, open the snap and place the snap over the main line. Close the snap and then take the release and pinch it onto the main line. This effectively pins the Add-A-Line in place. Finish the rig by adding the desired lure to the snap swivel and tossing the lure into the water. Now lower the downrigger weight to the desired fishing depth.
            The Add-A-Line allows for a second lure to be fished when using just one rod and reel. This set up also pins the second lure at a desired depth level. When a fish hits the lure on the Add-A-Line there is resistance provided by the line release insuring a good hook set.
            When a fish is hooked on the Add-A-Line, the angler trips the main downrigger release and reels in the struggling fish. The Add-A-Line slowly slides down the main line until it hits the terminal end.
            The Add-A-Line takes a little more time to rig and fish than “slider rigs”, but they also tend to hook and land a higher percentage of the fish that strike. The “slider rig” is little more than a lure on a short leader that is clipped over the main line and allowed to slide up and down the main line.
            When a fish is hooked on the slider, the angler must reel in line quickly to come tight on the fish before it escapes. Because there is no resistance on the slider, the percentage of strikes that end up as hooked and landed fish is much lower than Add-A-Line set ups.
            A lot of different lures can be used when fishing stacker releases and Add-A-Line set ups, but the most common choices are trolling spoons, plugs, spinners and cut-bait rigs.
            Downriggers are the ultimate in depth control fishing and they can also be used to double down on walleye, trout, salmon, striper and more.


Precision Trolling & Line Diameter Equivalents

Most of the Precision Trolling Data customers are walleye anglers, but the data provided by the PTD apps is also widely in use for other species like this brown trout taken by Jake Romanack near Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
By: Mark Romanack

A number of variables influence how deep a crankbait or other piece of trolling gear will dive. Of these variables, line diameter ranks as one of the most important. Thinner lines create less friction in the water while trolling, allowing lures and trolling gear in turn to reach greater depths. In contrast, using heavier lines increases the amount of friction and therefore  reduces the diving depth of popular lures and trolling gear.
            On average the amount of depth lost or gained when fluctuating from the line diameters tested and documented by the Precision Trolling Data apps amounts to about two feet of depth at the maximum lead length. For example, if a popular crankbait is running 15 feet deep on 10 pound test Berkley XT 150 feet back, that same bait will run about 13 feet deep (two feet shallower) when fished on 12 pound test Berkley XT.
            From a practical standpoint it would be difficult at best for the staff of Precision Trolling Data, LLC to test all the available line diameters and line types in popular use by trollers. The logical approach is to test various lures and devices on line diameters and types that are the most practical, popular and in wide use.
            For example, the majority of the crankbaits featured in the PTD apps and “Stickers” are baits that are primarily used to target walleye and therefore 10 pound test monofilament and or 10/4 Fireline super line are practical and popular line diameters and types to feature.
            However, some of the crankbaits featured in PTD are designed for both warm water species like walleye and cold water species like trout and salmon trolling applications. To provide the most information as practical, these lures are tested on both small and large line diameters.
Some lures like this Mag Lip 3.5 are popular lures for targeting
 both warm and cold water species. In this case the Precision Trolling
 Data apps feature depth data for smaller and larger monofilament
 line diameter suitable for both trolling applications.

            For example, the Yakima Mag Lip 3.5 and 4.5 plugs are tested on both 10 and 20 pound test monofilament lines. Other devices like the larger sizes of diving planers are generally tested on larger diameter super braid lines, but these devices are also routinely tested using wire line.
            It’s also worth noting that different line types often share a similar line diameter, but not necessarily break strength. A shared diameter makes these lines especially useful for anglers who need the extra break strength, but at the same time don’t want to sacrifice any of the diving depth of their favorite lures and trolling hardware.
            For example, Berkley XT monofilament in 10 pound test is used in much of the PTD testing and this line is about .0135 in diameter. It’s interesting to note that most 40 pound test Spectra based super braids are also about .0135 in diameter. This means that anglers can substitute 40 pound test super braid lines for 10 pound test monofilament and enjoy the same precise depth data published in the PTD apps and “Stickers”.
            It’s also important to note that not all monofilament lines are the same diameter for a respective break strength. Berkley XT 10 pound test is about .0135 in diameter and Berkley Big Game 12 pound test is also .0135 in diameter. Either of these lines can be substituted without impacting on the data published in PTD.
            Co-polymer lines are also an intriguing subject for the serious troller. In general, co-polymers are much thinner in diameter than nylon monofilaments for popular break strengths. Berkley’s popular Sensation line is about two line diameters thinner than comparable monofilament lines. Berkley Sensation in 14 pound test is about .0135 in diameter or similar to 10 pound test Berkley XT monofilament.
            For the angler who is interested in studying line diameters and line types the sky is the limit in regards to options that fit nicely with the research conducted by Precision Trolling Data. The web page  provides a convenient list of the line diameters for hundreds of fishing line brands and types. 
            This information in effect gives anglers an almost unlimited license to substitute line types and brands for similar line diameters used in the Precision Trolling Data apps.
            Back in the day Precision Trolling published a line conversion chart to assist anglers in selecting different line diameters for various trolling applications. When this research was conducted more than 20 years ago anglers had relatively few line types to pick from. Today with the market flooded with line types, diameters and brands the ability to produce a useful fishing line conversion chart would be 10 fold more difficult to create and use.
            At Precision Trolling Data, we feel it is more practical to teach anglers to pay close attention to line diameters and substitute line types and diameters for the “base lines” that are used in the PTD testing.
            Trollers these days are using a host of different line types in their fishing including monofilament, co-polymers, fluorocarbon, fused and super braid lines. By paying attention to important details like line diameter, anglers can use a host of different line types that match perfectly with the depth data provided by Precision Trolling Data, LLC.

            Fishing harder is always a good way to put more fish in the boat, but in this case fishing “smarter” is equally important. The smart troller employs a host of different line types and diameters that best suit specific trolling chores. By paying attention to critical details like line diameter, the modern Precision Troller can have his cake and eat it too!
Most of the lures and trolling hardware included in the Precision Trolling
 Data apps and “Stickers” feature Dive Curves for two or more line
 diameters and types. By substituting other lines of similar diameter to
 the test lines used by PTD the angler can dramatically expand trolling
 opportunities while enjoying accurate depth data.

Rigging In-Line Boards To Release

When rigged to release the author pins his board to the line using an OR16 Snap Weight clip mounted to the back of the board. This option prevents the board from planing when a fish is hooked and makes it much easier to reel in the board and fish. Also, once the board releases it slides to the back of the boat making it possible to fight a hooked fish without having to clear other planer board lines.
By Mark Romanack

              Avid trollers who use in-line boards have historically fixed their boards to the line and when a fish is hooked they reel in the board and fish together. This rigging method works, but requires clearing inside lines before a fish hooked on an outside line can be landed.
            Clearing and resetting lines is a lot of work and wasted fishing time. Also, when fighting a fish while the board is still on plane gives the fish resistance to leverage against enabling many fish to tear free.
            A few years ago I started rigging my boards with an OR16 Snap Weight clip (red) on the back of the board and the OR19 (orange) line release on the tow arm of the board. Rigged in this manner I can set my baits behind the boat the desired distance and then attach the board to both the OR19 and the OR16 being careful to make sure the line is behind the pin that’s featured in the OR16 Snap Weight clip.
Rigging In-Line boards to release makes it possible to stack multiple
 board lines per side of the boat and never clear a line
 to fight a fish, change out a lure or adjust a trolling lead length.

            When a fish is hooked, I give the rod tip a little snap and trip the line from the OR19 on the tow arm. The board swings around and is no longer on plane, but is still attached to the line via the OR16 Snap Weight clip. Once the line is released from the release on the tow arm the board quickly falls back. Even better the board and fish and can be reeled in without having to clear any inside board lines!
            The trick to this super slick board rigging method is to give the tripped board a few seconds to swing towards the back of the boat before reeling in the board and fish. If the board is tripped and reeled in immediately lines can still get crossed up.
            This rigging method has other advantages besides being able to trip boards and reel in fish without clearing other lines. When the board trips there is a lot less resistance and it’s easier to reel in the fish. Meanwhile the fish can’t gain leverage and tear free because the rod and fishing line are acting as shock absorbers as they were designed to do.
            This board releasing method works great when fighting fish and also works equally well when clearing a line to switch out a lure or change lead lengths.
            One last tip helps this system work flawlessly. When putting the line into the OR19 on the tow arm of the board, I first spin the line between my fingers about five or six times to form a small loop of line. These loops of line are placed between the rubber pads on the OR19. Set up this way, it’s far easier to trip the board when a fish is hooked and also when just clearing lines to switch out lures or change lead lengths.
            This rigging method is designed to function with monofilament and also fluorocarbon line types. For anglers who prefer to troll with braided lines I recommend using the same methodology, but substituting the OR16 clip for a OR18 Snapper Clip at the back of the board. On the tow arm substitute the OR19 release for a Sam’s Release produced by Silver Horde. The Sam’s Release is a jettison style release that is designed to function with super lines.
Rigged properly anglers can troll with multiple boards
 per side and never have to clear a line to fight
 a fish hooked on an outside line.

            Off Shore Tackle OR12 Side-Planers come factory supplied with the necessary releases and clips that allow anglers to trip their boards and keep the board pinned to the line. Other manufacturers rig their boards so when the line releases from the tow arm clip, the board slides down the line via a molded in groove and a plastic retaining pin mounted at the back of the board.
            This rigging method is flawed in several ways. For one, allowing the board to slide down to the fish forces the angler to rig a bead or other device on the line to stop the board from sliding down and hitting the fish. More knots and rigging means that the chances of line failures increase dramatically.
            Secondly, this rigging method causes the board to be pulled under water by the struggling fish making it difficult to control a struggling fish at the boat.Thirdly, when the board gets pulled under water the fish gains leverage and can easily tear free and escape at the last minute.
            It’s also worth noting that the plastic pin quickly gets gouged up, fails and must be replaced often. On top of all this, if the line breaks the board simply slides off the line and is lost to the waves.
            Rigging in-line boards to release, but remain pinned to the fishing line is the best way to fish multiple boards and avoid the hassles of constantly clearing and resetting lines. This rigging method works great for walleye, trout, salmon and other trolling chores.