When trolling for trout and salmon, especially in deeper water and when fishing is slow, it’s a good idea to cover the whole water column in order to maximize your catch rate and find the fish more quickly. In fact it gives you and your partners something to do when things are slow until you start catching fish.
Here are some of the ways to do it:
(6) Side planer lines (These could be in-line boards such as the Off Shore brand or a large cable connected planer like the Riviera with fishing lines slid down the cable on a release) We generally use 3 in-line boards on each side, starboard and port (6 lines total) with the closest ones on a shorter lead with a clip-on weight in order to get it a little deaper. The 2 centermost (closest to the boat) ones with a shorter lead and a slightly heavier clip weight and the center ones with a medium length lead and light clip weight and the outer ones with the longest lead and no weight so that they are covering the surface a great distance back. If targeting browns it’s crucial to be far out and far back, as they are very boat shy and will not hit anywhere near the boat.
(3) to (5) Dipsy Divers Run one starboard and one Port with the rods almost horizontal out of the sides and the 3rd one straight off the stern. Set each of the side ones to 1, 2 or 3 left for the port side and 1, 2, or 3 on the starboard side. You may add 2 more on the sides if you put one deep (the heavier weighted ones) on each side with a .5 or 1 setting and one smaller diver on a higher setting (2 to 3 setting) on each side. If running planer boards at the same time, though, be sure that you have some spread between the outer dipsies and the inner planer boards. The stern dipsy line should also be a smaller, non-weighted one so that it does not interfere with the downrigger line straight off the stern.
2 or 3 Downriggers. One on each side, deep down and one straight off the stern with on the middle one. The 2 on the sides will have 8 lb balls and fished lower down, sometimes on the bottom and the center one will have a 10 or 12 lb weight and fished at a shallower depth than the outer ones. With a wider beam boat, you can even use more, but vary the depth of them so that there is less chance of tangling lines. I’ve seen as many as 5 downriggers used at the same time with good success on a wider boat. Also, the 2 outer downrigger weights could be directional ones that pull out from the boat, in order to give them even more spread. (Click here to see Cabela’s directional weight)
(2) surface lines. One short, in the prop-wash and one long. The longer one should be a little closer than the outer side planers to prevent tangles when turning. The prop-wash line is used if targeting coho or other fish that like to hang in the moving water and are not boat shy.
2 or 3 Sliders. These do not count as additional lines, because it’s just a 6 to 8 foot leader line with a snap swivel on one end and lure on the other that is clipped on and slid down each of the downrigger lines (not down the cable). It will slide down to the middle of the “bow” in the line so that it ends up about ½ way down to your ball. When a fish hits it and the line releases from the downrigger, there is lots of slack to wind up, so wind fast to get the slack out as fast as possible. You may not feel a fish on at first when beginning to wind in, as there is so much slack line, so don’t stop pulling too soon, you could lose a fish.
Of course there are other ways to get more lines out, but the idea is to get them spread out as much as possible so that when turning the lines do not tangle. The spread should be horizontal in order to cover a wide swath of water and vertical in order to cover all depths from the surface to the bottom. Here is an article on downrigger fishing that explains it more thouroughly.