I caught my first trout on a worm, but learned the “magic of lures” after out-fishing my uncle and his secret “red” worms by trolling a “coach dog” colored FlatFish. Still, bait remains a standby for many anglers because it’s a consistent producer. There are two bait choices that dominate the market, with prepared bait (called PowerBait) and worms topping the list.
You can buy worms at the local fishing tackle store or gather them yourself. Finding your own can be fun (especially with kids) and may be as close as your backyard lawn. No, you won’t need a shovel. You see, worms come out of their holes and bask in the night air, especially after a rain. That’s why they’re called “night crawlers.” All you need is a flashlight, a small container, and a flexible back.
Worms don’t leave their ground holes all the way; they stretch out, but hang on with their tails. When sensing danger they will quickly pull themselves back into their holes. Since they don’t have eyes, worms feel your approach through ground vibration, so walk softly. Don’t pull hard when you get hold of your worm, or it might break in two. Just apply steady pressure and your worm will tire and release its grip.
Worms are normally used in combination with a single hook, which allows them to be easily threaded over your hook. There are worm threaders, which make it easy to place a whole worm up over your hook and onto your line – so your worm will hang straight.
Like worms, PowerBait or its stronger version called Gulp! is available at every store dealing in fishing tackle. PowerBait was developed by biologists who conducted tests on real fish – so it really does work. It comes in jars or reusable zip-top bags and is available in moldable dough, nugget, nibble, worm and salmon egg shapes.
Power Bait dough, sometime called Trout Bait, is best used molded around a small 16 size treble hook. Although single hooks will work, small trebles are popular because their light weight allows your bait to float above bottom where cruising trout can quickly find it. Hooks, like a small Owner treble or light wire “Mosquito” style single is what I use.
The majority of anglers rig worms or PowerBait in combination with a sinker and such that they will float above bottom where cruising trout can quickly find it. PowerBait will float above your sinker if enough is used in combination with a lightweight hook. To get your worm to float will require a boost with a worm blower. A worm blower will allow you to fill your worm with air so he’ll float off the bottom.
Most anglers who still-fish bait employ an oval egg sinker for weight. Adding weight to your outfit (3/8-to-½ ounce) makes casting easy and will pull your bait to the bottom. Oval Egg sinkers allow you to rig your bait free sliding so trout can swim off and swallow your bait without feeling line resistance. Rigging is easy, simply thread your line through the hole in your Oval Egg sinker, add a small plastic bead, and connect to a size 7 or 10 barrel swivel. Then attach your leader (18-to-30 inches) complete with hook, to the free swivel end and add you bait.
Although there are lakes open to fishing year-round, most trout lakes along the mid-Columbia open in late April, so check the fishing regulation pamphlet produced by the Department of Fish and Wildlife or the department web site before planning your trip.
Some of the most popular lakes located on the Washington side of the mid-Columbia, from west to east, include Kidney Lake (located near Old Bonneville and north of Highway 14), Ash Lake (the small lake just east of the Bridge of the Gods), Tunnel Lake (immediately east of “no-trout-here” Drano Lake), Rowland (just east of Bingen), Spearfish (north of The Dalles), and Horsethief (located south of Hwy 14 just east of The Dalles cut-off). Some, like Rowland Lake, are planted with a mixture of 9- to 12-inch hatchery planters along with a generous supply of what the state calls “Trophy Trout,” which can reach 15 inches or more.
In Oregon, try Taylor Lake (found at the west end of The Dalles and visible from I-84). Located in the Hood River valley are Lawrence Lake, Lost Lake and Kingsley Lake (also known as Green Point Reservoir). These lakes, too, are stocked annually with catchable size trout.
If worms or Power Bait doesn’t work, should you try a lure? Sure, a lure (the right lure) can out-fish bait if employed correctly and are what most anglers use when trolling or wanting to catch fish while employing the cast-and-retrieve method with spinner or spoon. Once (I’ll always remember), an assembly line employee at a lure factory asked me if fish would really eat the plugs she was packaging. Before I could answer, her co-worker said: “Listen honey! If they’ll eat worms, they’ll eat anything.”