The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 29, 2014

Ken Maurer outdoors column: Big bait equals big trout?

— The early trout season is upon us, and shortly the rest of the state will open. Every year there are stories of large trout seen or lost, and once in a while, there are actual pictures of big trout.

The state and local clubs stock some big trout and there are a smattering of streams in the commonwealth that breed or hold over large trout.

I have caught enough trout to the point that with the exception of a couple of fish fries, I like to target big trout.

For a fish fry, two or three 11- or 12-inchers are about right for us. I can catch enough of them while trying to catch a big trout, which will be released anyway.

A big trout, even if it is stocked, is a different critter. A trout that has made it through a couple of seasons also turns into a different critter.

Many years ago I struck up a conversation with an elderly gentleman along the river. We got around to trout fishing and it turned out that he loved the river with its bass and walleye, but he also liked to go after trophy trout.

I never did find out what his name was, but he told me how he caught big trout. It was simple, really. He fished at night with bass-sized plugs.

The big trout, the wise old veterans, didn’t even feed during the daylight according to him. If he was not familiar with the water, he would scout it by fishing during the daylight, but what he was really doing was scouting for the real fishing that would come after dark.

Deep holes were critical to his success. According to him, big trout come out and roam after dark. They’ll cruise the hole and end up at a prime feeding lane at the head of the hole, letting the current wash food to them.

It all made a lot of sense to me, but I have to admit I never really went after trout after dark. I like the river and chasing walleyes after dark, but I never got around to stalking monster browns at midnight.

You can catch big trout during the day by avoiding crowds, fishing secluded stretches and concentrating on the deeper holes.

Trophy trout have been caught on size 22 dry flies, but it’s a little easier to do with a rapala or rebel minnow.

If you want to catch a big trout, don’t be afraid to use big bait.

Lots of big trout have been caught with a waxworm on a size 12 hook. But a size 8 rapala husky jerk or J50 rebel minnow, or any similar lure will target the biggest fish in the hole.

Big spinners work, too. A size 2 or 3 is not at all too big for a 20-plus inch trout. Don’t be afraid to bump up to 6- or 8-pound test line and a sturdier rod and reel, you’re not fishing for 9-inch stockies.

You can catch a 20-inch trout if you really want to, all it takes is a little perseverance and a step up in size of the bait you are throwing.

Ken Maurer is a licensed fishing guide and a regular contributor to the outdoors page. Email comments to

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