By: Chris Shaffer
Whether called golden rainbows (Pennsylvania) or palominos (West Virginia) the number of anglers chasing these genetically altered trout just blasted through all time highs. Because they are rare compared to brook, brown and rainbow trout anglers get even more excited when it comes to catching them. On the other hand, as their popularity increases so does the fishing pressure to catch them.
It’s not uncommon to see a dozen anglers in one hole all trying to catch the one golden (or palomino) in it. Oftentimes, a stocking truck with 2,000 trout could only have 10 of these colorful fish that stand out. Spotting them is as easy as finding a full moon in a clear sky. Because of this these fish literally see every fly, lure and bait on the market pass by their nose.
In the last five years we’ve spent countless days targeting them mostly in West Virginia and Pennsylvania, but also in Southwest Virginia. Having caught dozens of them on film over the years it’s rarely been easy. Like most anglers, oftentimes, we’ve had to spend hours getting them to bite on camera. We’ve compiled a few of our tricks and some from our pros to help you gain the upper hand on catching them in the east this spring.
*It’s A Timing Thing
When filming we are often behind the eight ball simply because most of them are stocked for the opener. To avoid the highest crowds we often film weeks after openers and by the time we arrive these fish have been caught and kept. The sooner you arrive after a stocking the better chance you have to catch them.
*Time Often Does Matter
Get there early. Be the first to the hole where these fish are swimming. If they haven’t been caught right away they will likely be skittish. Unfortunately, we’ve watched dozens of anglers try to snag them, line them and even net them. These illegal activities spook them more and make them even less likely to bite. Letting them rest overnight, the angler who casts first in the morning often has the best chance at catching them.
*Think Outside the Box
Green Label, Premium and Gold Label salmon eggs are our best selling items at Pautzke. Ironically, these are eggs we rarely drift towards goldens. Atlas Mikes sells boatloads of their Pink Shrimp, so we normally leave our Pink Shrimp salmon eggs at home. Why? Because of their popularity they have likely been shown to these trout already. We want something different, which is why Natural Deluxe and Chartreuse Garlic salmon eggs, non red Fire Balls and Chartreuse Fire Dye minnows work well. Be different. Show these fish something they haven’t seen – yet.
Now, Tips from the Pros
James Swearingen – Steel City Anglers
One thing I’ve noticed chasing goldens in PA over the years is that they like white. Now with that being said I have seen them caught on other colors as well, but for me personally I’ve seen a trend of white being the best. Now keep in mind that all of the other things we know about catching big fish are still in play. For example, walking up to go fishing you don’t want to cast a shadow on the water and using fluorocarbon line and subtle natural presentations are key. All these things come into play when targeting a highly visible fish that has likely been pressured for a while.
Isaac Zettle – Trophy Chasers Outdoors
Keeping a low profile is the biggest single factor when it comes to success catching goldens. That means small hooks, light line and little to no sinkers. Bait with a lot of scent or flash works best. For example, I use Gold Garlic and Pink Shrimp Fire Balls to catch them. And when I can’t get them to bite those I’ll use a live Chartreuse Fire Dye minnows. We all know big fish eat minnows.
Mike Wickkiser – Team Pautzke
The most effective trick I use to catch goldens is float a single Natural Deluxe egg with size 18 hook. They are picky. When goldens see the hook they’ll shy away. The other thing I use is Natural Fire Bait. I’ll plunk it in front of them and wait. As it flutters in the water they get agitated and will come and hit it. Because these fish are so spooky I prefer to use two-and-four pound test. If that doesn’t work I’ll tie on a 1/8 ounce jig head and mold either Natural or Chartreuse Garlic Fire Bait into a worm and jig it through the water. Oftentimes that action will instigate a strike.
Dustin Slinker: The Bait Shack
I haven’t fished for goldens much in my life but spent a week filming Pautzke Outdoors targeting these fish recently. I caught most of my goldens on Gold Garlic Fire Balls. I learned that being persistent is imperative, as is changing out your bait constantly. If I don’t get bit or get a reaction from the fish every two drifts I’ll swap out baits. Also, watch the fish’s reaction to the different baits. Does he turn and swipe at the bait? If he does keep fishing that bait, but it he doesn’t it’s time to switch baits. If you have the means to have several different jars of eggs the payoff could be huge. Constantly changing baits until you find what that fish is in the mood for is critical. And, don’t overlook being prepared for when that fish does strike. When it does you need to set the hook right away.
*The following is an episode of Pautzke Outdoors we filmed recently chasing golden rainbows: https://youtu.be/asXRRbHxiQg.
Editor’s Note: To learn more about golden rainbows please read the Q&A from the PA Fish & Boat Commission via the following link: https://www.pautzke.com/pennsylvania-golden-rainbows-heavily-stocked-for-saturdays-opener.