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Simple Winter Flatlining advice


lavarock64

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I flatlined with my son a couple of times this weekend with my son just south of Deans Cove on Cayuga.  Skunk both times, I'd really like to get him hooked-up..  We are using a 14' aluminum with a 8 hp.  I had a small stick bait on one rod and a streamer fly / split shot on the other.  (even snuck out a copper rod and a orange silver spoon for a while).  Thoughts on different tackle to try next time?  I checked our speed by lure action, so no real idea on speed.  Thanks, a rusty troller

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Rusty, Im sure there are going to some additional tips from members, one thing ive seen during winter months is to know what species are you going after, bows/ salmon or lakers.   If its the bows or LL or lets say top water fish, I think your going to need to target warm water or a flow that comes into the lake, over by Deans Im not sure what there is.  You've got some areas around there but could be far for a 14ft in the winter.  (PFD's remember)  Sometimes a sandy little bay that gets warmed up by the sun is a good spot.  If its the lakers, your going to have to possibly go deep and near the bottom.  Flashers or cow bells rigged with a peanut or spoon can be deadly at this time.  Speed for the lakers is going to be slower, 1.2 -1.8 mph, if your going after the bows, faster is needed, 2.2-2.5 if not faster sometimes.  Weave in and out of the shallows to deep water.  Also wouldn't want to miss the speech about light line for flat lining and the need for fluorocarbon.  6-8lb leader I think is a must right about now with how clear things are.  Stay with the smaller stick baits different color variations, youll get one to hit. 

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I havent been there since december but often seneca out of watkins is worth the extra drive.  warm water discharge right there at the south end so good for a small boat.  this is where I take newbies and kids first trip or two of the year.  if the bigs ones arnt around often you can get some numbers of smaller fish though often legal leangh.  great way to get kids into it.  another option is go shallow with sticks and get some pike or pickeral again find the right bay and lots of action for the kid. The pike can be real aggressive this time of year as they feed up for spawning.  This time of year look for green weeks they will make pockets of higher O2 concentration which pike love to sit in.  This is more true through the ice where weeds start to die as rotting weeds suck up O2 the open water weed die off isnt as fast or as drastic but it happens 

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In the Finger Lakes toplining in winter is a little different "animal" than Spring or Fall. First of all the fish are distributed very differently (for the most part) in the lakes and bait and primary food sources are as well. It is important to understand this relationship. The alewives go very deep in winter and are bottom oriented rather than suspended. The trout for the most part locate near them and near bottom where it is the "warmest" (often 39 degrees in the densest water on bottom)  The lake trout that come into the shallows tend to be fewer but often bigger in size which is understandable because they are competing there for scarce resources with the pike and pickerel and feeding on whatever is available (small perch, sunfish, small bass, shiners, and minnows. Many warm weather food sources like crayfish are hibernating in the mud, and bugs are gone (rainbows and landlocks feed heavily on them during early summer months). Once in a while big lakers are caught through the ice by folks fishing for perch and bass with fathead minnows or small shiners but for the most part they are in deep water and need to be fished  with bottom tactics as mentioned by Frogger. The rainbows, browns and landlocks are more responsive  to water temperature differences and will actively seek out and explore even small differences in water temps (i.e. warmer water sources) in search of food and these are usually actively feeding fish. Depending on water flow and stream temps rainbows may be entering the streams whenever conditions permit during the winter months and some stay there until they spawn so what this means isthat they aren't usually "cruising" the lakes like in the Spring , Summer, and Fall months and you have to fish them near stream mouths for best results. The browns on the other hand may also be at or near stream mouths searching for food such as fish eggs and small fish or small items discharged by the streams and they are often found near ANY warmer water being discharged or located near potential food sources because some bait(minnows and shiners for example) also seek out warmer water sources. Landlocks seem to range more and may be more surface oriented than the others in the lakes where they are found. I have caught them through the ice on Keuka while perch fishing for example cruising just under the ice.  In short, if toplining in winter months and your targets are rainbows and browns do your toplining near stream outlets, power plant outlets, other potential warmer water sources, or in the case of the south end of Seneca near the salt plant. For lakers toplining will probably not have a high success rate until about the first or second week of March in the Finger Lakes when there will be some large lakers in the shallows (8-20 ft range) competing for available food with the pike which you may catch right along with the lakers on the same spoons or sticks. I've had good luck over the years with fairly large "floppy" spoons such as medium to large size red and while Daredevils, Cleos or KO Wobblers or jointed Rapalas or similar sticks. I keep a bunch of these old spoons just for this purpose. Usually the lakers and the pike are very large ones then. For the landlocks fishing them where they habitually range like on Seneca at the south end around the edges of the lake or around Milliken or Taughanock and at the south end of Cayuga is the best bet if you are only toplining them.

Edited by Sk8man
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The lls can be anywhere in the water column. Do yourself a favor and run baits at different depths. If you don't have riggers run core off inlines and slide divers inside those, run the high lines outside the cores. On any given day I've gotten em on everything from trolling flies on top to DW ss spoons down 55'.

It's been an ugli winter so far and very few days have been what I would call fishable, should start to see a few good days before too long here.

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