Catching Predatory Fish

Catching Predatory Fish

As I approach a large run on a river, just below the outlet of a huge lake, I am fidgeting with anticipation. I know very well that large, fish chomping Bull Trout will be on the bite today.

Opportunities like this are very common along the whole Pacific Coast of North America. As the rivers swell with snow melt, young Salmon fry, smolts, and other juvenile fish will be migrating to the ocean or moving into large lakes to feed and grow, and often leave the next Spring as smolts. Waiting for them at key locations will be the danger of fish-eating birds…and more of interest to the angler… large, hungry predator fish.
Bull Trout, Cutthroat Trout, Rainbow Trout, Large Pike Minnow, Dolly Varden, and sometimes Lake Trout take a keen interest in these migrating Salmon and other young fish.

I have aspired to get away to fish more of these special places where the predator fish dine on young Salmonoids, Trout, Coarse Fish, and any small fish unlucky enough to cross their paths.
With so many other fisheries keeping me busy however, I rarely take the chance to get away. The few opportunities I have taken have found my best success fishing inlets and outlets of large lakes, or the initial smaller receiving rivers of large lake drainage (these small rivers then lead to a larger river, eventually reaching the ocean).

Depending on where you are fishing, you can often find Bull Trout and Rainbow Trout feeding recklessly on small fish (Cutthroat Trout if you are more coastal). While Salmon Smolts are the predator’s main target, all other small fish in the area become fair game. I have watched in amazement as the Rainbow Trout chase a pack of Salmon Smolts to the rise, attacking on the surface as the smolts are frantically jumping all around. If you are a skilled and lucky fly angler, you can cast a dry fly line with a Minnow pattern into these boils and be rewarded with a huge predatory Rainbow Trout! Few fishing accomplishments compare to this excitement.

The typical, and often more reliably productive technique for catching these fish is with a sinking fly line and a Minnow or Smolt pattern- OR with my new favourite option, the paddle tail swimbait.

I have spent endless hours researching the Salmon bearing rivers, streams, and lakes in search of these predator fish, congregation areas.
My discovery has been that there are many, and if you spend the time seeking them out and employing the right techniques, you will be rewarded with some of the craziest fishing of your life! It’s common to experience non-stop action all day in these spots. I have personally caught some amazing Rainbows and Bull Trout in the spots I frequent.

These predatory fish are very responsive to fish imitating baits. I have also had good success using soft beads and roe fished under a float, and twitching marabou feathered jigs. The Bull Trout especially fall for the twitching jigs I tie on large 1/2 oz. lead heads with a very large profile.

Last year I was fishing a river that held both Rainbows and Bull Trout. On my first day, I only experienced average success using beads, roe, spinners, and twitching jigs. On day number two, I decided to give it a whirl using soft plastic paddle tail swimbaits. I had picked up a few packs of 4” swimbaits that resembled a Rainbow Trout. The water in the spot I was fishing was roughly ten to six feet deep, so my 1/2 oz. lead head jig was the perfect choice to get that swimbait close to bottom while retrieving in the current.
Fast forward four hours…and I had just experienced the best fishing I had EVER seen in this spot! I landed over 30 fish, mainly Bull Trout with just a handful of Rainbows, my largest fish weighing close to 8 pounds. I returned to this spot a week later, and while fishing was still very good and the fish were still consistently favouring the swimbaits, my previous trip was not to be outdone.

I was absolutely hooked by this technique, and since that trip, I have started making my own swimbaits both for my personal fishing, as well as for sale to my customers. This swimbait creating process has allowed me to design them to imitate Salmon Smolts, Rainbow Trout, and Coarse Fish that should cover most predator fish situations.

In my part of British Columbia, most of our fisheries revolve around Springtime and the movement of Salmon Fry and Smolts… however there are MANY other options for catching predator fish throughout North America!
Another fishery of interest to me is the Fall spawning of Kokanee Salmon. In those large lakes and rivers where Kokanee go to spawn, some of the most ridiculously large Rainbow and Bull Trout will be hunting down the small Red Kokanee for a tasty meal.


You may see me one day on a remote Kootenay River, tossing bright red 6” paddle tails to some MONSTER Bull Trout.
If so, come say hi! I’ll toss you a few swimbaits to try!

Tight Lines & Bent Rods!
~Rod Toth

June 23, 2023