Plunkers Catching Steelhead On Lake Ontario’s North Shore

By Bojan (Bojangles) Zivkovic | 03/23/2014

Plunking, otherwise known as bottom-bouncing or surf-casting in fisherman lingo, is a change in pace compared to targeting steelhead by float-fishing, trolling or casting hardware. It is a very simple, inexpensive and ‘laid-back’ technique to target staging steelhead at river mouths in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) prior to the first run of the spring.


Us ‘plunkers’ cast out heavy weights way offshore to keep our bait stationary a couple feet off bottom, in hopes of hooking up with fresh and silver steelhead before these fish start making their trek up our rivers and tributaries on the north shore of Lake Ontario for the annual spring spawn.


Plunking doesn’t require arm breaking casts all day long (hence why it’s laid-back and relaxing), but you definitely need to be close and pay close attention to your rod if you’re not holding it to see strikes!


So you want to head out and plunk? This is what you’ll need to get started!


–          a medium to light action rod ranging from 9 – 15 feet in length

–          a size 3000 (or bigger) spinning reel loaded with 6 – 10 lb test line

–          egg sinkers weighing anywhere from ½ – 2oz (use sinker sizes accordingly with rod action ratings and wave/current conditions)

–          size 6 – 12 hooks used accordingly with the size of your bait (Owner SSW and Raven Specialist hooks are my favourite)

–          4 – 8lb test fluorocarbon leader line (Drennan is my go-to fluorocarbon leader line)

–          good barrel swivels (mainline to leader connection)

–          6mm beads to cushion egg sinkers bouncing against the barrel swivel

–          freshly harvested and cured spawn sacs (Pautzke BorX O Fire) tied with Styrofoam floaters to keep your presentation off bottom (I like to tie big and bright spawn sacs for plunking)

–          a long pier net (up to 16ft for some places)


Getting set-up is quite simple and it takes no time at all!


To get started, you’ll need to slide your egg sinker onto your mainline. Use your sinkers accordingly with the conditions you’re facing to keep your bait as stationary as possible on the bottom. Swells and lake currents are factors that will keep your bait bouncing along the bottom, forcing you to constantly pick up your slack-line if you are not fishing with your rod in-hand.


Once the egg sinker is on your mainline, I like to put on a small bead as a stopper/knot-protector followed by a barrel swivel right after the bead. I’ll tie on fourteen to twenty-six inches of fluorocarbon leader line onto the swivel, followed by the hook I’m using accordingly with the size of the spawn sacs I’m launching out. I like to use fresh scraped skein, cured using Orange Pautzke BorX O Fire, tied in big and bright spawn sacs for this kind of fishing.


You are now ready to launch your rig off just about any shoreline or pier near that favourite steelhead tributary of yours! There are many available on the north shore of Lake Ontario.


Although plunking is a very simple and effective way to catch steelhead, timing and finding fishable water with great visibility at this time of the year is definitely the most important factor if you want to have a successful day plunking off piers or shorelines near rivers and creeks that get runs of steelhead. With temperatures on the rise these days, our rivers and creeks are just starting to thaw out slowly, pushing dirty water out into the lake in areas where I like to fish.


In order to time clear water days here in the GTA, you need to look for winds that will push out dirty water in the area you are fishing after a good period of onshore winds. For example, steady north winds on the north shore of Lake Ontario can clean up water nicely for certain spots I fish. Winds are crucial for setting up clear fishable water around piers and shorelines, however too much wind and heavy gusts and make it too tough to cast and get a good presentation going. You might have to spend half your day traveling, jumping from spot to spot, just to find fishable water with over good visibility.


I hope this brief blog covered the basics on how to plunk! Here’s one great tip I can leave for our readers.


‘Never trust the weatherman!’