You finally made the decision to try that new spot that you heard about, but anglers turned mute when it came time to divulge techniques and whereabouts. So, now you're afraid to waste time and not get the results you hope. Let's even the odds there a bit, first thing you must do is get a paper chart of the lake in question. Why? Simply because it allows you to study the lake prior to your first outing and give you a chance to choose which area you want to target.
Second thing is to find what kind of '' bait '' is mostly present in the lake that allows you to narrow down a specific point in the area, some angler like to call that '' the spot on the spot ''. Unlike other species such as bass and walleye, salmons do not concentrate as much around a small structure, you have to look at a bigger picture and you have two scenarios that you must take into consideration: the bait you'll find in deep water and the ones who prefer shallow warmer water.
First example is smelts, no matter what time of year you fish; you will always find smelt suspended over deep water except during spawning time when smelts run up rivers and creeks. Personally I’ve located smelt at 40 feet deep in 100 feet of water while there were still ice blocs floating on the surface.
Second: common minnows such as shiners and chubs like warm shallow water and you will find them anywhere along shorelines: weed beds, boulders and sand flats are just a few examples of structures that those baits prefer and do not be surprised if you find that your target is feeding on perch and baby bass. A couple of years ago I caught a landlocked salmon that had 5-6 smallmouth bass in his stomach.
So now comes lure selection and presentation, even on an opening day, I’ll usually bring the gears to face all possibilities: downriggers, dypsy divers, side planers are very useful tools. If you are not ready to invest in that kind of equipment, I suggest a rod and reel with lead core, in this case the DRC500 is your best bet, plus the line counter provides you to know exactly how much line you have out. As for the lead core I would be careful to how much pound test to use, unlike popular believe, the amount of lead in the line is the same; it's just the strength of the line that changes.
Also, you have to remember that a line too big doesn't cut the water as well and you might have to strip more line and probably add weight to your setup. At the end, you end up with a gear that is too heavy and you'll have no fun during fights. Personally, 18 lbs. test is enough for the southern areas and you will have no problem crossing blades with brookies, rainbows and landlockeds. As for lakers, I fought fish up to 20 lbs. on a similar setup with a 12lbs fluocarbon leader.
For surface trolling I love those small side planer, many companies offers them at a very reasonable price, you can use them on a regular spinning or baitcasting setup, I also love to ''flatline'' behind the boat using a fly rod, my personal favorite is a Streamside Tranquility 6 or 7 weight using a sinking fly line or a floating with sinking tip (actually, the best is to have both). Lures, spoons, crank baits and streamers in different size and colors must fill your tackle box. In early cold water, I always go with smaller sizes and at all time you must try to match the lure color with the bait present in the lake.
Wishing everybody a great opener.