Tips and Tricks Eagle Lake in CA

Val’s “How to” guide for setting up for Bait Fishing from a boat and from shore on Eagle Lake CA

Bait Fishing Tips from a Boat
(Keep scrolling down for Shore Fishing)

BAIT/STILL FISHING USING SLIP BOBBERS: Over the years I have found that the novice fisherman can easily make mistakes in purchase as well as attempting to set up a slip bobber that has no instructions or all the necessary parts in the package. Merchants up here at the lake generally have packages with all the parts but you can also get ones without and parts are sold separately. There are a few tips that will help end the frustration of fishing in the same place as other people are and everyone around you is catching fish while you haven’t had a bite.

The first time buyer who has not been shown how to set-up a slip-bobber generally makes a few mistakes and those first problems can end up in a lot of wasted time. Everyone has preferences and my way is not necessarily the only way, but the principles are pretty much the same.

Buying slip bobber is a matter of choice. I prefer “cigar” shaped bobbers because they have less resistance when a trout shows some interest in the bait…and THAT can make a difference when our trout are on a light non-aggressive bite. I also make sure that the top of the bobber tube has a small cap inserted in it with a fine hole through it. The cap insert removes the need for the use of a bead. But, if you have purchased a bobber without the insert you will need to use the bead to prevent the knot from sliding through the bobber which defeats the purpose of the stop. Both the cap and bead prevent the bobber-stop from sliding any deeper through the bobber than you have it set. Some slip bobbers come with all the parts needed and some basic instructions but if you buy a package without the “parts” (parts being a bead and bobber-stop) or instructions you will be disappointed in their function and won’t understand what the “big deal” is about using slip-bobbers.

Bobber Stops: There are many different types of bobber-stops on the market, rubber, plastic thread-thru and thread knots that come pre-tied on small tubes. The rubber stops are too bulky and wear out fast. The thread-through damages your line; they’re not easily adjustable, are not user friendly and hang up in your reel worse than any others. I prefer the pre-tied knots generally found in yellow or red colors. Some threads hold better than others but they all wear out after a while. The first thing to remember is when you thread the tube and knot on your line, be sure to pull the tube down towards the end of the line and not towards the rod (so you can remove it and dispose of it). If you don’t, it will cause you a lot of trouble casting and reeling in your line. Slide the knot off the tube toward your rod. I generally set a new knot at the depth I am going to fish (including my leader length). Once I “set” the knot on the line I trim the tag ends but leave about an eighth to three sixteenths of an inch of thread at each end. This tip can save a day of fishing because once the knots start wearing out they have a tendency to loosen up and not stay where they were set. By having the tag ends you can retighten the knot well enough to use it the rest of the day. But, generally once they start loosening up and slide too easily on the line it is time to replace it.

I don’t care what kind of bobber-stop you use, they all can and do hang up and cause resistance on the line when casting and can foul up your leader, bait and leave loose loops on your spool. But, if you pay attention when reeling in and purposely put the knot at the very bottom of the spool (spinning reel) and watch to make sure that no line wraps below the knot as you continue to reel in your line to make another cast. I place mine as low as feasibly possible (I also turn the spool so the knot is visible from the top). Once you see how the line wraps as you slowly reel in you generally can continue reeling without worry of catching a loop below the knot. The next time you cast out all the line ahead of the bobber-stop can freely come off the spool. Once I have my bobber-stop set for the depth I want, for example 30 ft deep (normal fish catching depth in mid summer on Eagle Lake) I count the number of cranks (full turns of the reel handle) from the knot to my bobber and add my leader length. On my reels 10 cranks (full turns of the handle) plus my leader is 30 ft. The reason I count the cranks is because the knots and rubber bobber stops do wear and loosen up, but they can also hang up in the eye of your rod and slip on the line when you have a hard fighting fish on. If the knot (bobber stop) hangs up on the rod tip when a fish is on the run and your rod is doubled over, the fish can pull the line easily but the knot stays at the eye of the rod. If you don’t see that or check for it the next time you bait up and cast out you can be at a totally different depth and may not catch another fish for the rest of the day. The reason I count the cranks is so I don’t have to count it foot by foot over the side of the boat, I just count cranks. If I find it changed to 14 cranks for example, I can take hold of the moistened knot (tighten my drag if necessary) and count the cranks back down from 14 to 10. So it is important to watch for the bobber knot when you reel in and while catching a hard fighting trout. But don’t worry if you don’t pay a lot of attention while you are attending that four pound trout. We all lose concentration on the little things during the excitement of the moment. But it is very easy to count cranks right over the side of the boat if you have any suspicions or need to adjust the knot placement on the spool. Trust me, it is worth a few extra seconds to make sure your bobber stop has not slipped. I generally do this before re-baiting my hook…wild fresh worms can take advantage of tangling you up while hurriedly dropping it over the side and cranking it back up quickly. We guides check that all the time because you can fish the entire bite and not catch anything if you are too high or too low.

The knot can be adjusted up or down your line. I generally wet the knot before sliding it to lubricate it so it doesn’t “burn” the line while sliding. After each adjustment I give a little tug on my tag ends to make sure the knot is taunt.

If you have a bobber with just a straight tube, you will need to thread the bead on below the knot. If your bobber has the insert, slide the bobber on after the knot is set. Then an egg (my preference) or other sinker, swivel, leader and hook and you are ready to go. Be sure not to over weight your bobber.

BAIT HOOKS: Again, hooks are a matter of personal preference. I normally use a size 6 bait hook but I do go down to 8-10 under certain conditions that concern how the trout are biting. Some folk’s fish size 4 hooks but they are too large for me. I prefer a “straight eye” on my bait hooks of any size. The turned down eye tear up a nightcrawler when threading the worm but they do have other uses. The straight eye slides through the worm effortlessly. This also keeps your live bait “live” longer.

BAIT: Nightcrawlers are the main bait used on Eagle Lake. Minnows are not allowed, including the native tui-chub minnows we see in the lake come fall. Nightcrawlers are categorized by size normal and “mini-crawlers”. I use both. The mini-crawlers work well when the trout are “off the bite”, and a snack will entice a strike while a larger worm is more than the trout wants at that moment. Generally we thread the worm on the hook using a “worm threader” which is available at most all fishing tackle stores. I really never thought much about a right way or the wrong way to apply the worm but over the years I have learned a few tricks that seem to keep me catching.

Use a towel over your knee or on a table of sorts. You may laugh now when I use the term “wild worm” but that is exactly what happens when you ram that threader through them. The towel makes it easier to handle a wild worm and you won’t get dirt all over your pant leg or all over the boat. Normally I start threading my worm by sticking the threader into the “band” of the nightcrawler first. The band is a tough muscle and is where the hook is going to end up once I am through baiting up and it is tough enough to take quite a bit of abuse from fish trying to suck the worm off the hook. The short end of the worm below the band we call the “tail” referring to the part of the worm hanging below the hook (even though it is the head). Then, run the threader through the inside of the worm without coming out the side (wild worms don’t help), run it the distance of the worm (approximately 2/3 of the length) and come out the center (butt). Thread the worm over the hook and up the line leaving the tail at the hook. This method keeps the worm from spinning when reeling in. If the trout are biting very light (and they definitely do that on occasion) and you are getting attention but not getting a hook set in one, I thread the entire worm on the hook and leave little to no tail below the hook. Often I use a size smaller hook when I need to thread the entire worm. The fish are suspicious enough already at that point and they are looking for anything that isn’t normal before solidly taking the bait. Sometimes the fish need a little more natural presentation to even get their interest. In those cases we leave “two tails” one on the top at the line and one below the hook. Generally these types of presentations are needed when the water is very clear and the fish know you are there looking for them…also when the bite starts slowing down this will help you get that last fish, do it with a mini-crawler and you might as well start getting ready to go, it will catch you that last fish!

Worms as bait are imitating leeches that we have in the lake. We have a few different types and they do vary in size. But, once the bite is off, bait size CAN matter. I can not stress the importance of having mini-crawlers on hand for late morning or early afternoon fishing. Some folks use a half of a normal nightcrawler but there are times that these fish are not quite that stupid and to be regularly successful imitating the natural world, you need a bag of tricks.

FREE-LINING BAIT: Free-lining has its benefits too. Free-lining is basically “drifting” bait. This method allows the bait (in our case nightcrawlers) to sink naturally. We use no weight but we often use a very small barrel swivel (size 14) which has very little weight of its own but protects your line from twisting. Your only weight is the weight of the worm so don’t expect a real long cast with it…30 to 40 ft is a good distance. Thread the nightcrawler from the band straight through the butt as I described above. Once it hits the water watch how it slowly sinks. We always leave our bails open to allow the line to go out as the worm sinks. Also when a fish does pick up the worm as it drifts down, it feels no resistance what so ever. I leave my rod in a position that as the worm drops, line can easily come off my open bailed spool…I often pull out slack line and lay it on the water, then watch the line as it sinks. You will see a slow natural drift as the worm sinks and the current takes it. With practice you will notice the moment when the line sinks a little too fast….or moves in a deliberate manner. We wait until the fish really starts peeling line off the open spool before flipping the bail over and setting the hook. If we feel a bump when slowly retrieving, stop reeling and quickly open the bail. Let your worm “play dead” for several seconds and watch the line on the surface of the water.

The length of time you let your free-line sink depends on the depth and the drift or current of water as well as the depth you are intending to fish. If I am in 50 feet of water and fish are suspended between 20 and 30 ft I would let about 15 to 20 minutes go by before relocating. If I was in 30 feet of water, I would wait for it to stop sinking then pick it up….that may only take 10 minutes. So free-lining is a method that requires some attention. Reel in very slowly when relocating your free-line. This is when it is important to have your worm threaded perfectly centered on the line. It looks natural. If you had two tails or come out the side of the worm it will twist and spin when retrieved. That can leave you with a mess of twists and loops in your line after a few casts. But, once you have retrieved it, toss it back out and start over again.

Monofilament lines sink and are great for free-lining because they are willing. Some of the new braids sink too fast or don’t sink at all (but will be discussed in more under TROLLING). The small barrel swivel in a size 14 or no larger than 12 adds minimal weight, sizes any larger sink too fast. Free-lining works best in water deeper than 25 feet.

Most of us use 6 to 10 pound test line on our spinning reels but drop down to 4 to 6 pound leader. I prefer “clear” leader to the bait but it doesn’t really matter what color of line you use on the spool…but the clear leader is critical to me. Lines are a matter of preference but the average fisherman doesn’t have to spend a fortune for a decent line. “Ande” 6lb clear or green is inexpensive and has taken a lot of abuse from me over the years and Maxima has also held up well.

Val’s How to Guide for Shore Fishing Eagle Lake

Shore fishing on Eagle Lake can be excellent in spring and fall/winter. In the summer months when water temperatures hit 70 F and higher our trout are out of range from the shore unless particular conditions happen. But, even in the cooler months it can be necessary to have long casts to reach a drop-off. There are a few things that can help you out distance your buddies.

We all know that one can really wing it out there when using a heavier weight but in the case of not wanting to fish off the bottom or have a bobber the size of a softball to compensate for the extra weight (which defeats the purpose in wind resistance) there are a few things that will surely add to your arsenal of equipment.

Using longer rods in the 8 to 9 ft range helps a lot but having a rod for every tactic is not feasible for many folks and using waders to walk out farther before casting helps as long as you have waders. But many folks don’t have the necessary gear and don’t plan on buying it for as often as they would use it. So, here is a way of improving your distance.

We use slip bobbers most of the season when bait fishing from boats, but when fishing from shore we often use weighted clip-on bobbers especially if we don’t need to go more than 4 to 5 feet deep under the surface. The slip bobber has its drawbacks once temperatures drop below freezing. Ice readily plugs the line hole as icy line slips through…especially after the first cast wets the line. Set bobbers don’t have that trouble.

Generally the weighted bobbers are fairly light because the manufacturer wants it to sit high in the water so you can see it. But, we have been known to add baby split-shot (re-loaders can use shot) to the bobber. This is actually pretty easy to press the weights into the Styrofoam of the bobber. You may choose to use a light squeeze of a pair of pliers. Add just enough shots to keep about a half inch of bobber sticking up. We try to keep them as uniform or balanced as we can by starting off at 12, 3, 6 and 9 positions first. Generally 5 to 6 baby shots are fine but it depends on the size of the weighted bobber and what you are fishing with be it a worm (has its own weight) or a jig (which come in various weights). This tactic is actually best used when fishing with jigs and the best jigs for catching fish here at Eagle are light and small, mostly 3/32 to 3/16 ounce so it is necessary to have some extra weight for casting. On the retrieve when jig fishing the bobber is just below the surface other than the top clip so it doesn’t cause a lot of surface disturbance which can move fish out of the zone quickly. The added weight to the bobber also gives it less resistance when a fish takes it down. It also helps keep your leader from looping around an extra sinker and swivel when the wind picks up.

To remove twists in your line of your bait fishing rods remove all your terminal tackle…everything. Put the boat in a fast trolling speed and let all the line out on the spool. Drag the naked line for about 5 minutes before brining it back in (while under power). This will save your weekend of fishing if your line is twisted and miss-behaving. You can also do this along the shoreline while walking your line out, dragging it and reeling it back in.