Nowhere in the world can you venture out in the morning with a group of friends on your boat, deploy anywhere from 6-18 rods in the water and catch multiple species fish and come home with a five fish limit per person, regularly.
Here in the Great Lakes, we are blessed with arguably the best fishery in the world. We have an opportunity in many places to catch 3-4 species of salmon (chinook, coho, atlantic, pink) 3 species of trout (lake, steelhead, brown) and walleye...all on the same outing. Depending where you are at of course, as some Great Lakes are more known for cold water or warm water species, and timing of runs and other factors...but it is possible.
On any given day, multiple trout and salmon species are available, and in some cases walleye, and they often inhabit different levels of the water column.
Most Great Lakes (with the exception of Lake Erie) are deep, very deep, with easy access to depths several hundred feet deep within a 5-10 mile run from shore. That is alot of water column to cover.
In most sportfisheries around the world, speaking of trolling specifically, the top 40 or even 20 feet of the water column are all that is regularly targeted. Surface baits and some weighted baits are often all that is used while trolling, and that really limits the ability to target deeper pelagics.
In the Great Lakes, we target it all, and we have figured out how to do this over many years of innovation. Downriggers are essential, and most Great Lakes trollers have at least two if not more riggers designed to get our baits deep. Not that downriggers are only for "deep" presentations, we often run them higher in the water column. But there is no feasible way to target fish realistically beyond 200 feet down than with a downrigger, they are essential.
Most fishermen who troll around the world are aware of downriggers and their purpose, and most think that is all that is available if you want to get your presentations down deep.
Here in the Great Lakes, downriggers are where it starts, but certainly not where it ends. Most states surrounding the Great Lakes have a 3 rod per person regulation, and with a boat full of guys, two downriggers are just not going to cut it. Most species limits are in the 3-6 fish per person range, it would take a long time in most cases to get your 20-30 fish limit running only two downriggers.
A super effective way of getting more lines down deep is the use of diving planers (referred to as Dipsey Divers) and long weighted lines (Leadcore, Copper Fishing Line and Weighted Steel).
Without getting into the mechanics of a "diver", most boats in addition to their downriggers will run at least one diver per side, and in many cases TWO divers per side on different depth settings to avoid tangles while trolling.
Divers can be deployed with braided line or more often stainless diver wire line, and can be sent out as far as you want them to achieve your desired depth while trolling. 180 feet out on a "3" setting at 2.5mph will get you down about 60'. 500' out on a "1.5" setting will get you down about 250'!
But even that is not where it ends, remember you can run three rods per man and you have 20-30 fish to land in order to call it a "good" day, you need more rods in the water...and deep!
This is where weighted lines come into play, and as far as we know outside of small pockets of trollers in North America, nobody else takes it quite to the same level we do. We are talking about Leadcore fishing line, Copper Fishing line and more recently Weighted Steel fishing lines.
Each of these line types have different depth attaining ability depending upon speed, currents, and amount of line out. We have a blog post that compares depths at different speeds for each of these line types, but in a nutshell...more lines to get deeper.
The most frequently used "weighted line" typically run off to each side of the boat using "inline planer boards" is Copper fishing line. Copper fishing line, without getting into the specifics of why it's the most popular, can get as deep as you want depending on how much of the line is deployed into the water.
It is common to run as few as one copper rod on each side of the boat to as many as SIX copper rods PER SIDE of the boat. Standard is about four copper rods per side of the boat for most charter fisherman.
So doing a little math...2 downriggers, 4 divers, 8 copper rods..thats a standard trolling spread for most mid-large size trolling boats on the Great Lakes. Thats right, 14 rods deployed while trolling, targeting any depth of the water column you want.
In summer months when our fish are deeper, you can literally put ALL 14 rods down deep where the action is..at the same time. 70-90-150+ feet down, no problem.
Sure, tangles will happen on occasion as tight turns due to boat traffic can cause issues. But most Great Lakes trollers are savvy enough to deploy large spreads, handle multiple simultaneous hookups, and navigate boat traffic without issue.
That's how we put double digit loads of fish regularly in the boat, with expertise and precision trolling programs.
No where else in the world will you get on a boat and find as diverse a tackle system as you will find in the Great Lakes. Most boats will deploy multiple line types to complete the system as briefly described above.
Monofilament on downrigger rods, braid and stainless diver wire on "divers", fluorocarbon for leaders on everything, leadcore/copper/weighted steel lines to get your planer board program down deep. Combine all of these line types with a myriad of bait presentations ranging from hardware spoons, plastic rotating flashers with trolling flies or cut bait, and even diving plugs, we do it all.
If you have never fished the Great Lakes before, and consider yourself an adequate "troller" in your local fishery outside of the Great Lakes, your head would literally explode within minutes of watching this program being deployed much less produce.
It truly is the most complex fishery in the world, and we have mastered it, and therefore we are the best.
Convince us we aren't right...