Slow trolling at walking speed is a great way to pick up pickerel, which are one of the few species in our area that’s sure to get more and more active this month as the water temps get chillier and chillier. Want to try trolling for this species, from either a small boat or a kayak? It’s as simple as one, two, three.

trolling for pickerel
You want to hook into pickerel like this? Consider slow trolling. Photo courtesy of Eric Packard
  1. Choose a lure that runs just one to three feet beneath the surface. Light wobbling spoons, lipped floating plugs, and twitch-baits will all do the trick. It’s usually best to stay away from soft plastics, which these toothy fish will chop to pieces. Note: since pickerel fishing is mostly a catch-and-release fishery, the stock trebles on plugs should be swapped out for single hooks.
  2. Set up a trolling pattern along a drop-off, channel edge, or weedbed edge. Trolling directly over weeds will often lead to fouled hooks, so skirting the periphery is usually a better bet. When looking for drop-offs and edges, transition points from two or three to five or six feet is an ideal depth range.
  3. Rather than trolling in a straight line, pull plenty of S-turns and zigzags. This will cause the speed of your lures to vary and allow you to present them at differing depths. If you’re not getting hits switch things up — go slower, go faster, switch out a lure, etc. Also be sure to check all your lures at least every 30 minutes or so, to make sure they haven’t snagged a leaf or a sprig of weed.

When you hook up, note the depth and location. Pickerel aren’t schooling fish, but you will find them concentrated in areas with similar characteristics. So when you catch one you know more should be in that same depth range or around the same type of structure.

For more intel on pickerel fishing, check out:

Fishing Tactics for Chain Pickerel

Winter Pickerel Fishing Tactics that Work

Paddler's Edge: Kayak Fishing for Pickerel