Keeping speed in rough water on Lake Ontario while trolling for trout and salmon can be quite challenging. The constant bouncing and side to side swaying reeks havick with our speed sensing devices. In this article, we will discuss the technique we use to combat these situations.

keeping speed in rough water produces nice catches

Instrument Problems in Rough Water

As you may well know, we’re a big fan of the Fishhawk X4D system. Most of the time , this unit is spot on and gives accurate readings. Not so much, however, in rough water, especially when bouncing up and down fishing in 4 foot plus waves. Tightly packed three foot waves out of the northeast also create problems. So what are we to do?

Setting Vessel Propulsion

The first step and most important one is setting up your motor or motors on your vessel to their most forgiving state. On our Ace Charters II vessel, its most forgiving state when trolling into rough oncoming waves is with both motors engaged in gear. This does two things. First, it takes a lot of the rock and roll out of the boat. Because both propellers are rotating, they create more surface area that’s pushing and harder to displace. Second, because the boat is more stable and less rocky when running both propellers, speed is inherently more stable. Boats with single screw motors and kicker outboards, will do much better going into the waves with the larger propeller of the inboard or I/O spinning.

Trolling Bags

When traveling with the waves, we switch back to one engine. Those with kicker outboards can switch back to them, too! Speed variation is much easier to control going down wind with the waves. Depending on your boat, trolling bags may be another option to slow your speed down, if need be. Deploying bag(s) also has an added benefit of dampening the side to side rocking of the boat. Just remember to pull bags before you begin to turn.

Speed Gauges

There are three speed gauges available on most serious fishing boats trolling Lake Ontario. They are “Speed Over Ground” (SOG) via gps, “Speed Through Water” (STW) via paddle wheel, and “Down Speed” via the Fishhawk or whatever Down speed and temp unit you happen to have.

Overcome Inaccuracies

The only problem I have with the Fishhawk X4D is fishing in rough water especially, when going into them. The vertical up and down causes the Fishhawk to read nonsense numbers from time to time. However, there will be periods when it will read true. This is when you need to look at SOG and STW. The key is to use all three speed indicators to facilitate your speed control. Most importantly, what are your SOG and STW readings when the X4D is reading correctly. When the X4D goes nuts, watch and use your SOG and STW. At any one time, at least one of the three readings will be correct or as close to it as you will get.

All Together Now

Putting it all together allows keeping speed control in rough water doable. Set the boat propulsion to its most forgiving and stable state with proper motors. Deploy trolling bags when feasible. Use your SOG, STW, and Downspeed readings to your advantage. Watching your RPMs helps a bit, too.

As always, feel free to contact us at 413-346-7675 or by e-mail at You may also use our contact form

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