Each spring, die-hard anglers look forward to brown and rainbow trout returning to the main-lake area of Lake Jocassee. The first few weeks of the return are a great time to catch trophy sized trout, and guide Sam Jones said he realized the return was in progress when one of his clients, Tony Hale, of Gastonia, N.C., reeled in a 9-pound, 4-ounce brown trout on Saturday, April 18.

Jones specializes in deep-water trolling using downriggers and trolling spoons from his pontoon boat. He said the fish hit a 3-inch, green Apex spoon designed for salmon fishing that was being trolled 60 feet deep in 200 feet of water.

“I guess the fish are moving in now,” said Jones (864-350-9056). “Last week we caught an 8-pound brown trout up around this end of the Three Rivers area. Yesterday, this fish hit out in what we call the big-water area, out in front of the intakes on the main lake.”

The day started out overcast as Jones took his party of three and began trolling in the area of the intakes. At first, when the fish slammed the spoon, Jones thought it was hung in a tree, but then the line began moving and the party knew it was a fish.

“Tony did a great job handling the fish and getting it to the boat,” said Jones. “We knew we had something big. I thought it might be one of the big carp that are spawning around the lake, but it turned out to be the record for this boat. The huge brown trout measured 26 inches long and weighed 9 pounds, 4 ounces.”

Jones said rainbow trout are also on the move, as the party caught another eight to 10 rainbows in the 13- to 14-inch range. Trout must be 15 inches to keep on Jocassee, but Jones said he expects bigger fish are on the way down the lake.

“Most of the anglers in the local trout tournament were up in the rivers, but I guess we’ll be down here from now through the summer,” said Jones.

Deep-water trolling using downriggers is a refined tactic, with anglers using multiple baits, typically trolling spoons, to trigger bites. Trolling speeds vary from 1 ½ to sometimes 3 miles per hour. One of the biggest factors of catching trout is determining the depth, speed and color choices they prefer on a given day.