Planer Board Trolling
Planer board trolling….. The public enemy of Salmon, Trout and even Walleye!
Just after ice out in late Winter, when the waters of southern Lake Michigan warm up, thousands of Salmon fisherman swarm to the ports of Indiana and Illinois to troll the shore lines for wild Coho and fighting steelhead. The use of planer boards of all sizes and flat lines are the most productive methods this time of year. Salmon trollers will experience more fun, excitement and confusion than a power outage at a three ring surface! Fishing rods go off two and three at a time. Anglers holler, “fish on” while passing rods over and under each other to avoid tangles! If everything goes right, the result is a cooler full of good eating silver bullets. When things go wrong and the Cohos succeed in making shambles of everyone’s tackle, the boat can look like a set from a Three Stooges movie. Coho fishing is like that!
You can start out by running planer boards out to about forty or fifty feet. How far you can let them out depends on the type, size, height of the boards and also the height of the mast. It’s a good idea to use just one board until you start feeling more comfortable using them. Get out your first rod and your favorite trolling lure or fly. Put the lure in the water next to the boat and make sure it is running properly and adjust your speed if needed. Next, let out the line over the back of the boat to the distance that you normally would. You need some way of knowing how far out your lure is. You can use a line counter reel or count the passes of the level winder on your trolling reel. You can also pull the line off the reel two feet at a time until you get back to the desired distance. Now that your at the distance you want. Wave height can be a determining factor as to whether or not to use them. If it’s too rough, the boards can disappear from sight and become difficult to use effectively.
Once the planer boards are installed, the fishing process can begin. The planer board should be lowered into the water. Most fishermen will feed out 15 to 25 yards of line to keep the board a significant distance from the boat. Once the board is in the proper location, the reel of the planer board should be locked to hold it into position.
Tie on the lure you want to use. Then, place the fishing line into the water. The fishing line can be fed out as far as the fisherman would like. After setting the drag, place the rod in a holder. Clip a loop of the line in a release clamp and clip the ring onto the planer board line. Then, place it into the water. The clip and line will slide to the planer board. Continue to feed the fishing line until the release clip is only a two to three feet from the planer board.
Many fishermen enjoy fishing with multiple fishing lines. If this is your preference, keep repeating the above steps for each additional fishing line. Ensure the lines and release clips are at least two to three feet apart.
When a fish has taken the bait, the line will fall out of the release clip and fall behind the boat without getting tangled with other lines. Smaller fish may not pull the line free of the clip. If this does not happen, the fisherman can give the line a tug and release the line from the clip manually.
Planer boards can cover a targeted area of 25 feet or more. A large coverage area aids in catching fish early. The pull will be greater during trolling as the speed is increased. Lower speeds are not as effective in the trolling process. Trolling speed is pretty much dictated by the lures being used, wind, and wave height. Medium to fast is usually productive.
The use of planer boards is also an excellent system that is most popular on the Great Lakes to catch limits of walleyes, especially in the spring when they are running. Some Musky Hunters use them as well.