The choice of lures that can be used for trolling is endless with metal spoons, spinners, plastic and wooden fish imitation lures plus many more. I am guilty like many anglers of having far too many. Lure manufactures are very good at making lures that attract fisherman as much as they do the fish. Lures are easy to find in Finland with many of the department stores stocking them in addition to the specialist fishing tackle shops. Good quality lures from the like of Rapala, Jesse, Shakespeare and Bomber are worth the investment. Many of the cheaper imitations will catch fish but as the saying goes “you get what you pay for” and whilst they may look identical you can be sure that the hooks will not be of the same quality. I do use some of the cheap lures on the market especially when I know that a particular area I am fishing will be snag ridden. I have caught upwards of a dozen Zander in one session trolling with one of the cheapest lures I have ever bought which goes to show cost doesn’t always equate to performance.
When trolling with a lure you should always check from time to time that the lure is swimming as expected. This is especially the case when starting with a new lure or after being snagged as damage can occur that will affect its motion through the water.
An alternative to using lures when trolling is to use dead-baits fished in a similar manner. These can be mounted using specially designed dead-bait trolling rigs that can be found in the fishing tackle shops. One of the advantages of using dead-baits for trolling is the obvious addition of the fish scent that they leave in their trail. Most of the larger food shops sell fresh Baltic Herring which are ideal and easy to find. If the opportunity exists, Baltic Herring are easily caught in the Baltic Sea using Sabiki Rigs jigged in water of depths between 5-10 meters.
The down-rigger is used to fish the lure at depth. I have used both Scotty and Cannon down-riggers to equal effect. I use a manual down-rigger with a weight of 3 kg. The down-rigger is essential when trolling lakes and seeking fish that might be lying in water of greater than 10-20 meters. I have taken many fish from the likes of Oulujärvi and Lohjanjärvi with the down-rigger set at greater than 10 meters. These are fish that would not be possible to cover effectively without it. There are alternatives such as dipsy and jet divers that are designed to take the lures down deep but one of the benefits of the down-rigger is that the line clip allows the line to become free when a fish takes which then makes the fight more enjoyable. Another benefit of the down-rigger is the ease and speed of which you are able to adjust the depth. This is particular useful when fishing in areas of variable depth which are often the best fishing spots. Rather than trolling the lures at a constant depth I take an active approach and am constantly adjusting the down-rigger to ensure the lure is fished as close as possible to the bottom. I typically fish with the lure between 10-20 meters behind the down-rigger weight. On clearer waters this may need to be extended further.
When faced with large bodies of water or wanting to explore new waters, trolling lures or dead-baits behind a moving boat is a very effective method. The options on the type of boat, engine and fishing equipment are endless. Much is down to personal choice and related cost. Boats can vary from small rowing boats costing a few hundred Euros to specialized trolling boats & engines that can run into several tens of thousands Euros and more. Buying a big expensive boat with multiple engines and dragging some lures through the water gives no guarantee of catching fish. Whilst it may not be the most complex method of fishing there are like any other methods many factors that will determine success or failure. In the right hands, a well fished single rod in a €500 four meter rowing boat will outscore a €50k ten meter boat fishing ten rods poorly.
The following are just some of the main factors that will determine success of the trolling angler on any given day:
My own preference is to use a boat that can be easily transported with a trailer, launched and recovered from the water by one person with little effort. A boat that can be trolled with a four stroke petrol engine, electric engine or rowed gives flexibility for all occasions. Whilst most of my trolling is done with the main engine, there are often times when using the oars is required. Fish are by nature skittish creatures and if you motor under the main engine into a shallow bay to cover Trout or Zander feeding on the fry, the chances are that any decent sized fish will be off long before you reach them due to hearing you approach. A much better option would be to switch off the engine before entering the bay and covering it by rowing.
I have owned numerous different types of boats from 4 to 8.5 meters. Whilst all have had their merits and all better in some situations that others, I prefer an open boat in the range of 4-5 meters combined with a 25 HP four stroke engine for trolling. There are many excellent boat choices in Finland including aluminium boats from Buster and Silver and fibre glass / plastic boats from Terhi, Flipper, Yamarin and many others. My current set-up is a Terhi Nordic 6020C combined with a Yamaha 25 HP four stroke outboard. It is easily transported and sturdy enough in most weather conditions yet also light enough enabling it to be rowed without too much effort. The engine at lowest tick over will push the boat along nicely at just over 2 mph with no head wind.
There are many waters in Finland suitable for trolling including the Baltic Sea, many large lakes and rivers. In Southern Finland trolling in the Baltic Sea between the Islands in the archipelago gives not only great fishing but also spectacular scenery which makes for a very pleasant day out.
When trolling a new water or new area of a previously fished water some time spent in advance studying the charts will pay off. On the large lakes areas around islands, peninsulas and bays are always worth paying attention to along with any areas with depth variations. The use of an echo sounder / fish-finder is a valuable aid well worth its investment. A commonly used trolling technique is to troll an area using a similar decreasing rectangle method used when mowing the lawn. This method is good for ensuring you have covered an open area thoroughly but can be tedious & a trip round a island or bay is likely to be just as productive.
All the large lakes and rivers big enough to be trolled in Finland hold stocks of predatory fish that will succumb to the well trolled lure. See the location page for guidance of where to fish.
The weather in Finland during the summer months can be surprisingly too many very good with all day sunshine, mild winds and temperatures in the mid 20s Celsius. The trolling season extends from the day the ice clears to the day the water freezes over again. This is typically from May – December although it takes a hardy sole to spend the day out in an open boat in the Baltic Sea or one of the big lakes late in the year. It is not uncommon for waters to freeze over earlier than December and many people take the boats out of the water during mid October.
As anywhere in the world, the weather will affect the fishing and keeping an eye on the forecast is always wise. What can start out as a nice warm July summers day can very quickly turn into a heavy violent thunder storm accompanied with heavy rain. Later in the year when the temperatures cool down a bit, fog can appear from nowhere and leave the unsuspecting angler lost at sea. I have had to sprint for the shore at Oulujärvi on a few occasions being chased across the lake by a nasty thunderstorm and have several times been caught in thick fog when out on the Baltic Sea. There have been times when the fog has been so thick that it's been impossible to see more than a few meters. Due to the rocky nature and zillion islands of the Baltic in South Finland this can make it very dangerous if you panic. My advice would be to sit and wait it out if possible and if not then the only option is to motor home as slow as possible. Fog at sea causes confusion and there may be times when you start to miss-trust the instruments, this is a common mistake and has happened too many. If you are caught in fog and are in doubt whether it's your sense of direction or compass/GPS that is wrong then always trust in the instruments (a compass doesn't get confused).
Trolling speed and depths are perhaps two of the most important factors for success. The key is to present your lures to the fish as naturally as possible. The size of the lure and its swimming action should mimic the prey fish as close as possible. In Finland many of the lakes hold large stocks of Vendace and small Roach. Whilst not always the case a lure in the region of 10-15 cm in length fished with a trolling speed between 1.5 – 3.5 mph will catch on most days. Without really having good reason I tend to use 11cm lures for most of my trolling with a trolling speed of approx 2.5 mph. The echo sounder / fish finder will give a good indication of what depth to fish the lures. When trolling for Pike I troll with the lure as close to the bottom as possible. In water of 10 meters this would mean fishing the lure at about 9 meters. The balance between losing the lures on sunken trees and rocks and catching good Pike is a dilemma only you can answer. The price of good quality lures has risen to the point where many anglers can't justify the risk of losing them too often and this then means they fish in a way that they will never catch bottom. Whilst this makes a lot of sense financially it unfortunately also means that many big Pike will not be covered by these lures. Thankfully not all big Pike read the angling books and rather than staying hidden in the depths under a submerged branch waiting to ambush the passing Roach before retreating to its den, they will sometimes do the unexpected. I have taken some good Pike whilst trolling in deep open water with lures fished just below the surface. The Pike in the picture below was taken from Oulujärvi in the open part of the lake where the depth was over 20 meters. It was caught whilst trolling for Zander with the lure fished at approx 1.5 meters below the surface.
Many of the lakes and rivers in Finland impose limits on the numbers of rods that can be used. It is also forbidden to use Planers in some locations such as rivers due to the space requirements. When starting in a new location it pays to use multiple rods fished at different depths with different lures to establish what will work. The number of rods used is a matter of personal choice (if not limited by rules of the water). My own preference is to use one on the downrigger with another fished higher up in the water with a planer board. On occasions if the fishing is hectic I just use the one rod and have had days where the sport has been so fast that a second rod would be a hindrance rather than productive.
Fishing for Zander in Finland is often done during the summer months late in the evening by trolling lures close to the surface. Whilst I have also had success using this method it should be remembered that Zander will also take lures close to the bottom and in mid water.
Trolling for Salmon and Trout in Finland can be done on the Baltic Sea with southern Finland being far more productive for Salmon than the northern Baltic as the Salmon are still feeding rather than heading into the rivers for spawning. There are frequently Salmon trolling competitions in the sea around Helsinki and surrounding areas during the summer with some impressive catches recorded. Many of the large lakes in Finland hold stocks of land locked Salmon along with the various types of Trout, which provide an added bonus in the day's catch. As well as being strong fighters they also go down well with a plate of chips and cold beer.
Decent sized Perch and whitefish will also fall to the trolled lure. When targeting these species it often pays to step down on the lures sizes. Both will readily take a small Mepps or similar spinner fished together with a trolling weight of an ounce or two to take it down a few meters. Trolling around the edges of islands and the estuary areas of the Baltic Sea has brought me many a good sized Perch.
Whilst neither is essential for trolling, both will increase the amount of fish caught by the regular trolling angler. I spent two seasons when I started trolling without using planer boards. Whilst I was catching fish regularly I noticed that after I started using planers the bigger fish would come more often. This is simply because the planer takes the lure away from the boat and the noise of the engine and therefore the lure is covering fish that are not spooked by the engine or other sounds emitted from the boat and its occupants. Planer boards are available that clip directly onto the line with others that are used on a fixed separate line with the lures clipped on using specially made line clips. With the clip-on planers I typically fish with the planer out some 20-30 meters from the boat and the lure another 10-30 meters behind the planer.