Lake Trout On The First Step Down


*Lake Trout On The First Step Down*
*Timely tactics for early season success*

As lake water temperatures warm during late spring and summer, lake trout make a predictable migration from shallow shoreline areas deep into the offshore abyss. Right now, the fish are on the first leg of their seasonal exodus, offering anglers the opportunity for fast fishing a short cast from shore.

"I call it the first step down," says veteran lake trout guide Bernie Keefe, of Granby, Colorado. "When the water temperature reaches about 52 degrees, which typically happens three to four weeks after ice-out, the trout move onto humps, ridges and flats in 10 to 40 feet of water, near the shallow water where they've been feeding since open water arrived."

"The fish are active and highly catchable," he reports. "So finding them is more than half the battle."

Keeping a close eye on his Lowrance Carbon 12 electronics, Keefe idles over likely areas, watching the screen for signs of life below. "In depths of 10 to 20 feet, you might not mark an entire school of fish since the sonar cone is still pretty narrow," he says. "So it pays to spend a little time over every fish you mark because there may be more trout in the area."

When Keefe spots a promising return on sonar, he marks the spot with GPS, turns his Crestliner around and prepares for battle. "I don't look for the fish on sonar," he notes. "The fish is most likely on the move, cruising the structure in search of a meal. My job is to lure him back to me."

Keefe's "first step down" tackle setup includes a 6- to 6½-foot Scheel's Guide Series spinning rod, paired with an Abu Garcia Revo reel spooled with 14-pound Berkley FireLine. He finishes off the mainline with a 10-pound leader of Berkley 100% Fluorocarbon.

Jigs are his lures of choice. All feature razor-sharp TroKar hooks and range in weight from ¼ to 1½ ounces, depending on the depth and conditions. Plain heads are tipped with 4- to 6-inch Berkley artificial softbaits including Havoc tubes, PowerBait Power Tubes, Gulp! Minnows and Jerk Shads. Shades of white or natural grays, greens and browns are perennial producers. "An assortment of hair jigs in the same colors rounds out my jig box," he adds."

Keefe's presentation includes a variety of moves. "Drop the jig to bottom and start with a nice constant jigging rhythm," he advises. "Then experiment with snaps and deadsticking. Don't be afraid to raise the jig for suspended fish or even reel it all the way to the surface, inviting hungry trout to give chase. Pay attention to what works, because consistent success is all about repeatability." The diehard guide also encourages trout fans not to wait too long to give the first step down pattern a try. "It typically lasts four to five weeks," he says. "Some of the areas will produce fish all summer, but others become barren as trout continue their journey into deeper water offshore."

CONTACT INFORMATIONFor more information or to book a trip with Keefe, visit: or call (970) 531-2318.

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Crankbaits, Swimbaits and really big fish!!!

Crankbaits, Swimbaits, Single Hooks and Really Big Fish

The sun had just began to send its rays through the peaks on the continental divide and a small chop from the morning breeze kept slapping the boat. I had the Crestliner a long cast from shore. Steve had a Sebile Magic Swimmer and cast it towards the bank. About 5 or 6 cranks of the handle it stopped for a brief second Steve wondered if it was a snag then felt the head throb of a large fish. After a brief battle the 34” lake trout surrendered to my net.

A Guides Life

As a fishing guide I get to fish more then anyone I know. On hot bites I get to net a lot of fish, slap high fives and listen to people giggle with excitement when they get a big fish on.

 I generally get my Crestliner ready in April for ice off in May. This year mother nature decided to give me an early spring. When my boat was ready for delivery my wife and I decided pick it up in Minnesota. After a short 2.5 day drive and 2 days of rigging my boat with a Motorguide XI-5 and Lowrance sonars we were ready for ice off.

Early Fall Trout, Opportunities Abound for Fast Autumn Action

Fall offers ample options afield. Across the spectrum of hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits, autumn is truly a time of plenty. And one of the more overlooked opportunities involves the early fall trout bite.

The action often gets lost in the shuffle of activities, and is largely misunderstood by the masses. But the fact remains, September produces fine fishing afoot and afloat for anglers who understand a bit about fall trout behavior.

Logbooks, who needs them

Keeping a logbook of waters you fish, conditions, and details of the catch are to me, a key tool in the development of an angler.  Logbooks help us to remember significant and minute events that may have affected the bite of the fish that day.  Why were they there?  Why aren't they here?  What are they feeding on?  Those are all questions which a fishing logbook can answer for you.

Lessons learned from one particular fish

My buddy Scott and I were out ice fishing at Granby recently.  I had moved a ways away to drill our next series of holes when I heard a shout from Scott. Setting the auger down hurriedly, I sprinted over to Scott.  He was totally fixed upon the screen of the Vexilar FL-20.  He had a fish there and Scott was doing his best to entice it to bite while the fish was eyeing the jig to see if it was real or not.  Scott would offer up the jig, jiggling it, lifting, slowly falling, trying everything he knew to get the bite.

Working with fluctuating reservoirs

Up thirty feet and down eighty feet in the same year?  If your reservoir regularly changes depth to manage water supplies or due to drought the daily, monthly, or yearly change in depth affects your fishing success.  Or simply plays with your mind and tests your ability to find the fish every day.

Lake Granby Water Cycles Explained

It will be fun this year seeing Dike 3 recede back into the depths.  It rises like a beached submarine every four to six years only to dive back a couple of years later.  I started guiding about 20 years ago and I have seen it all.  High water, low water, and everything in-between.

Lake Granby area fishing report 9-4-13

This lake Granby area fishing report is being brought to you by “Fishing with Bernie”. The crawdads have hatched!!!! The past couple weeks the fishing has been getting tougher on Granby, Grand Lake and Williams Fork. The fish will still bite but it takes some patience. The rainbows and browns are hitting crankbaits and spoons around the shoreline very early and late in the day.  The Brook trout in the streams around Rocky Mountain National Park and Winter Park are still hitting large dries, spinners and small crank baits in the evenings With the water rising after rainstorms streamers have become effective. Pike fishing at Williams fork is still fair but it should be getting a lot better as the weather starts cooling.  The Kokanee bite at Wolford is good to excellent in the mornings.

Things that go "thump in the night"

Every fall as the nights get cooler, I relish the thought of putting on my waders and casting floating stickbaits like the Sebile "Koolie Minnow"around the inlets of my favorite reservoirs. While Brown Trout are spawning they will still hit a stickbait presented over their heads. I grew up without a boat and learned how and when to catch certain species from the shore.
It all started in the late 1970’s at the Delaney Buttes and Dillon Reservoir at night in the fall. We would go out just before dark and throw everything in our tackle boxes at them. Eventually we started putting together a pattern that just seemed to work. We have refined it over the years, so here are the basics of what we have been doing.Starting in late September, Brown Trout stage at or near their spawning areas. We have always worn waders whether we needed them or not. Waders will keep you dry and warm and although we typically do not wade in the water, you never know when you’ll need to get wet.

Fishing report 8-6-2013

This lake Granby area fishing report is being brought to you by “Fishing with Bernie”.The weather has cooled a bit and the bite has been getting better every week. The Kokanee in Wolford reservoir are starting to school up and a few are being caught by trolling lead-core or down riggers. PK spoons and Dodgers with squid imitations caught a few last week. Rainbows, Kokanee and browns are biting spoons and flies at Shadow Mountain, fish them just above the weeds in the evening and morning periods. The Lake trout in Granby and Grand lake are still biting, the trick is finding them. Tube jigs and twister tails tipped with sucker meat or a small piece of "Gulp" baits seem to trigger a few more strikes then a bait less presentation. One of the keys to deep water jigging is a sharp strong hook. TroKar hooks have been responsible for landing 90% of the fish in my boat this summer. The streams in Rocky mountain national park, and Winter park are fishing very well during the afternoon wins with Grasshopper patterns.

Granby area fishing report 7-19-13

This lake Granby area fishing report is being brought to you by “Fishing with Bernie”. The heat has driven people into the mountains. I have noticed people from up here are ducking into air cooled areas about noon and the people from the lower elevations are still thinking its cool at 2pm. The rainbows and browns are becoming increasingly harder to catch in Lake Granby, while the lake trout are still biting albeit not very much. Trolling small spoons on Shadow mountain and Grand lake are still producing rainbows and a few Kokanee. The rivers around Rocky Mountain national park are still fishing very well for brook trout in the evenings. The grasshoppers are starting to jump in the Frazier river through Winter park and the trout are eager to eat them. Bernie Keefe has been a fishing guide on Lake Granby for 15 years. Contact him through his

6-28-2013 fishing report

This Lake Granby area fishing report has been brought to you by "Fishing with Bernie". The run off is about over and the bugs are hatching on the rivers. The Frazier river through Winter Park is fishing well for brookies and rainbows. The Colorado river through Rocky mountain national park is fishing excellent for brook trout and the Tonahuto and Adams creek near Grand lake is fishing very well for brookies. Grand lake still has some brown trout hanging around the shoreline as well as a lot of rainbow are being caught also. Shadow mountain spillway and the river below it is producing browns, rainbows and a few lake trout with lures early and late. There are some kokanee biting jigs and waxworms under a bobber very early in the morning. The rainbows and browns in Granby have moved a little further off the shoreline in the lakes but are still catchable. Worms and powerbait are producing rainbows, the browns are still eating rapalas and crawdad imitations. The Lake trout have continued their downward descent into the depths. They can still be caught trolling plugs or jigging. Tube jigs with a small piece of sucker meat have been working well.

Crankbaits, Swimbaits and really big fish!!!

The sun had just begun to send its rays through the peaks on the continental divide and a small chop from the morning breeze kept slapping the boat. I had the Crestliner a long cast from shore. Steve had a Sebile Magic Swimmer and cast it towards the bank. About 5 or 6 cranks of the handle it stopped for a brief second Steve wondered if it was a snag then felt the head throb of a large fish. After a brief battle, the 34” lake trout surrendered to my net.

6-15-13 Lake Granby Fishing Report

This lake Granby fishing report is brought to you by "Fishing with Bernie". While that young amorous bull moose in Grand Lake has been introducing himself to a statue, the fish have not noticed. The rainbows in Willow Creek and Grand Lake continue to eat bait and lures (kastmasters, pk flutterfish and worms)early and late in the day. The brown trout in Grand Lake and Granby are still eating lures (minnow style jerkbaits and 2-3" "Gulp minnow"cast around rocky shorelines, that bite is very good early, late and in the wind. The CPW stocked 1.5 million Kokanee last week but they were about an inch long, don't get your hopes up this summer. They will be catchable in a couple years. The lakers in Granby and Grand lake are moving deeper each day, my Lowrance HDS sonar units help find those fish and a jig with a small piece of sucker meat is working very well. Bernie Keefe has been a fishing guide on Lake Granby for 15 years.For more info or contact me through my