Photo: Petteri Kontila
Zander trollers on North Kallavesi.
Trolling is a popular form of fishing that is ideally suited for Finland's extensive open water areas. In spring and late autumn, trolling enthusiasts pursue salmon and trout; in summer and early autumn, plugs are set to trap zander, pike and perch.
Trolling – i.e. rowing a boat drawing lures through the water behind – is an ancient fishing technique. Salmon trolling on a rowing boat is a Finnish tradition that is still alive and well. On Rivers Teno and Tornionjoki, the largest salmon are caught by trolling plugs, flies and spoons. Trout and grayling are also pursued on rivers on rowing boats. On lakes and on the coast, people mostly use motor boats for trolling.
Photo: Risto Jussila
Lake Keurusselkä is famed for its big pike.
Scouring with spreaders
A modern trolling boat has several lines being drawn at the same time. Some of the lines have been guided to reach beyond the boat's trail using spreaders, enabling the boat to scour a wider swath of water at a time.
There are two main types of spreaders or planers. A small spreader attached to the line guides a single line with its lure to the side. Large planer boards, in turn, are floated to the side of the boat using a plastic or steel wire. The releases attached to the wire make it possible to set up several lines with lures along the whole length of the wire.
Trolling rods are short and inflexible and equipped with a sensitive tip. The line thickness is 0.35 to 0.45 mm. The finer the line, the quicker the kick of the lure. However, the tackle may be sturdier when trolling for salmon from a rowing boat or for big pike from a motor boat. Lures are set to swim behind the boat on the end of 20–50-metre lines. On salmon rivers, however, it is enough to have 15 to 20 metres of line trailing behind the boat.
Pike from banks and from the bottom
Plugs and spoons are the most popular pike lures. Big pike are presented with sizeable plugs. People typically troll pike close to shores and at the edges of shallows at depths of 1 to 10 metres. Deep-water plugs dive deep without weights. Pike can be caught at depths of over 10 metres using a downrigger. It's a good idea to sweep the bottom once in a while with the downrigger ball, as pike mostly lurk close to the bottom.
Photo: Risto Jussila
Lake Kannonjärvi, Kannonkoski.
Baitfish rigs are efficient
Anglers present salmonoids with fast-swimming spoons and narrow-bodied and fast-kicking 7–12 cm plugs. Big spoons are the most popular lures when trolling for Atlantic salmon. Baitfish rigs have become very popular among trollers in pursuit of trout and landlocked salmon. The rig is baited with vendace or bleak and it should be drawn at a slow pace. With plugs and spoons, the trolling speed can be fast, 4 to 6 kph.
Good spots for trolling brown and sea trout include the flanks of shoals, the tips of points and the shores of islands out on the open waters. Trout – and both Atlantic and landlocked salmon in particular – often bite in the middle of open waters, at the edge of a shallow or on top of a deep. In late autumn, trout may strike right at the shoreline.
Trolling deep in summer
When waters are cold in spring and late autumn, salmonoids can be found in surface waters. In midsummer, salmonoids can be caught at 5 to 20 metres and that's when divers and downriggers are essential aids for trollers. Fishing grounds and schools of fish are located using an echo sounder.
Photo: Markku Myllylä
Whitefish are presented with mini-plugs.
Zander strike weighted lures
Anglers present zander with plugs and weighted lures. The lures can be lowered to zander's reach at 5 to 10 metres by combining plugs with weighted lures or using weighted lure rigs.
Zander trolling should be done at a slow speed, 2 to 3 kph. Indeed, many people still consider trolling from a rowing boat the best way to fish for zander. Good zander spots in early summer include shallows and mouths of bays. In midsummer and autumn, anglers head to mid-lake waters, trolling for zander at the edges of shallows, flanks of islands and on top of deep waters. Zander's bite depth varies on a daily basis between the surface to more than 10 metres depending both on the time of day and on weather conditions. In many cases, zander won't bite at all.
Anglers trolling for perch and whitefish use small plugs. Big perch also bite small spoons and rigs baited with fish. Small mini-plugs are used for whitefish.
It is also possible to use flies when trolling combined with, say, spoons. Arctic char and trout are eager to snatch flies.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to trolling. Those following the first one work like mad all the time, changing lures and catch depths and scouring the bottoms and shoals with a fine-tooth comb. Those in the other school simply set up their lures at the stern and then concentrate on waiting it out and admiring the scenery.
Photo: Risto Jussila
Trolling is a laid-back activity.