Any experienced fishermen knows that catching one kind of fish is completely different from catching another. Even though they all live in the water, they’re still different animals with unique tastes and habits.
If you’re interested in catching trout but aren’t sure where to start, this article will cover everything you know so that you can hit the water and reel in exactly what you’re looking for. Part of the art of fishing is not just being able to reel in a fish, but the specific fish you’re after. If trout are next on your list, these tips will help you out!
Everything You Need To Know About Trout
Before knowing how to catch trout, you first need to understand trout. It may sound a little Karate Kid, but it’ll pay off big time when you’re out on the water. Understanding how trout move, behave, and eat will inform you of where to look for them and how to best reel them in.
Trout are a great fish to go after, especially if you’re a beginner. They’re one of the common fish in the water, are relatively easy to find, and make great keepers! The most common species of trout in North America are Rainbow, Brook, and Brown trout. They’re native to colder waters and are easiest to find on the West Coast.
Knowing the target species you’re going after can help you prepare much better. For instance, you don’t want to use catfish baits to fish for trout, it won’t work too well.
Where They Live
You’ll usually find trout dwelling in colder waters, with temperatures ranging from 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They prefer to live in moving water, so you’ll have the most trout fishing success in creeks, tributaries, and rivers. However, they’re also present in lakes and are stocked frequently due to their popularity. So odds are pretty likely that you live near a body of water containing trout.
With that cold water you’ll certainly want to have waders on if you’re in it. Check out our reviews of the best waist high waders to keep you more comfortable while fly or trout fishing.
They live in wooded areas, making them a popular source of food for bears and bobcats. As a result, they’re smarter than the average fish, making trout fishing more akin to hunting. The deeper into wooded areas you go, the more active the trout fishing will be.
Another popular location for trout fishing is the Great Lakes. Here, trout live at depths, growing to big enough sizes that you’ll wonder if you’re fishing in the ocean.
What They Eat
Trout are scavengers by nature and love to feed on the spawn of other fish. Salmon roe, in particular, is a choice treat of trout.
If a trout is smaller, they’ll typically stick to eating aquatic insects, like flies, mosquitoes, caddisflies, mayflies, and dragonflies. As they get bigger, they’ll move onto eating other aquatic critters, like mollusks, snails, crustaceans, and small fish. You may even find a trout that’s eaten land animals, like grasshoppers or small mice that were unlucky enough to fall into the water.
If they’re able to, trout will search for other bodies of water if they’ve outgrown their current environment, looking for bigger and better prey to snack on. Because they’re smarter than other fish, they’re unlikely to fall for powerbait or other unnatural bait, unless they’re stocked.
What They Look Like
The most famous trout of all is, of course, the rainbow trout. They are recognizable by their distinctive, colored skin, hence the name. The color is vibrant, making it easy to recognize when you’ve caught one. There are also steelhead trout, which are rainbow trout with a silvery tint.
Trout are covered in dark brown spots across their bodies, with long, slender bodies. They come in shades of brown, red, and silver, with stripes of color going from their tail to their head.
Their coloration is meant to camouflage them, and you may find that the same species of trout looks different in different bodies of water. Trout from the ocean are usually much more silvery, while those living in freshwater will have more vibrant colorations.
How They Spawn
Trout usually begin spawning once they get to be around three or four years in age. They’re spawning season is typically in the Spring, and like salmon, they generally travel through streams to get to bigger bodies of water or return to the streams they were born in.
The spawning process typically takes place in shallow, oxygen-rich waters. The female will scout out a location, dig a trench, and deposit eggs into it. Male trout will then fight for the opportunity to fertilize the female’s eggs. Unlike salmon, who die after spawning, trout can spawn multiple times throughout their lifespan.
When approaching spawning season, male trout will develop a hooked jaw, and females will have a slightly larger stomach.
The Different Species of Trout
There are far too many species of trout to account for in this article, but there are two that you are more likely to encounter than the rest.
The first is, of course, the rainbow trout. Their color can vary drastically, though they almost all have a characteristic, colorful stripe across their body. They’re primarily freshwater, occurring naturally in lakes, ponds, and streams, and can reach up to 30″ in length.
The cutthroat trout can be identified by red and orange slashes located just under their bottom jaw. They live nearest to the coast, sometimes traveling back and forth between the ocean and freshwater streams. If they remain in freshwater, they usually only grow to about 8″ or 9″, though the ones that travel to the ocean and back can grow to be 17″.
Other Interesting Facts
Brown trout are one of the most genetically diverse species on the planet. There are more variations between brown trout living in Great Britain than there are between the entire human race!
Despite the fact that the different genetic variations of trout are capable of mating with one another, it is extremely rare. This is due to different habits and strategies, as well as the fact that trout return to the place they were born to spawn future generations.
Trout can be found on almost every corner of the globe! The only place you’ll won’t be able to catch any trout is in Antartica. This is one of the reasons that they are such a popular game for fishermen.
Everything You Need To Catch A Trout
Now that you know a little bit more about what goes on in the life of a trout, it’s time to gather all of the necessary equipment for a successful catch.
Obviously, the first things you’ll need are a quality rod, reel, and line. Trout typically weigh between two and eight pounds, so make sure your equipment is rated up to that amount. They can be larger, though, depending on the depths you’re fishing at.
When it comes to bait, if you’re going with live bait, the best way to ensure bites is to buy insects and critters that trout in your location would normally eat. They’re smart enough to avoid unusual prey for the most part, so an out of region snack might not work out.
How To Actually Catch A Trout
Now that you know how trout think, and what you’ll need to catch a trout, it’s time to actually go and catch them. Finally, the part you’ve been waiting for. Take a deep breath, you’ve earned it.
While there’s nothing wrong with casually fishing, there’s something to be said about going after a specific catch. It’s an extra challenge that can add to the whole experience.
Even if you have everything you need and understand the way a trout thinks, you’ll still need to know the best techniques, locations, and strategies for catching this fish. All your research and preparation will go to waste if you keep catching catfish by using the wrong methods.
The Best Time To Go Trout Fishing
In general, the best fishing is typically dawn and dusk. This is when insects are most active, and as a result, so are the fish.
Fish are going to be biting in any kind of weather, but warmer weather, in particular, will bring you the most success. During warmer seasons, insects are much more active, leading to more hungry trout mouths.
While it’s a little harder to plan for this, going trout fishing within 24 hours of a rainstorm will also yield great results. Mosquitoes hatch en masse after a storm, earthworms and the like wash into the water; it’s a trout feeding frenzy.
It may seem a little contradictory, but trout prefer colder water. So even though you’ll want to go in a warmer season (when the trout’s source of food is active), you’ll also want to go during the coolest part of the day (because that’s when the trout are most active). So you’ll have the best success on the coolest part of a warm day, after a rainstorm if possible.
Bring bug spray.
If you’re just after any kind of trout you can find, then you should be able to have decent luck in any nearby bodies of water known for fishing. Lakes, streams, ponds, rivers, creeks, etc., all contain trout. You likely live near a body of water where trout are stocked, which will make the whole process that much simpler.
If you’re after a specific species of trout, you’ll need to do a little research in your area, maybe talk to fellow fishermen and wildlife management; they’ll be able to point you in the right direction.
Once you’ve scouted out the right body of water, find an area in that body of water that’s in motion. Head to a downstream area, and cast your bait upstream, so that it is steadily being carried back to you. Trout wait downstream for prey to come to them, so this will make your bait appear the most natural and appetizing.
Techniques For Catching Trout
If you’re fishing in a lake, there are two primary techniques for trout fishing.
The first is with a bobber. Add a bobber to your line about one to one and a half feet above your bait, so that the bait is relatively close to the surface. This works well when you’re in shallow waters, or notice that the fish seem pretty active near the top of the water.
The second is when you are trying to fish at the bottom of the lake, which is good for snagging the biggest fish. Add a lead weight to your line about a foot and a half above your bait and let it sink to the bottom. When the weight hits the bottom, the bait will float, making it an appealing snack for large trout.
If you’re fishing in a stream or river, where there’s much more motion, and the fish are more active, you’ll need a slightly different approach. Everything in a river is constantly moving, including a trout’s source of food. So your bait needs to also be in constant motion, and that motion needs to look like the motion of everything else in the water.
Casting your bait upstream and letting it drift back to you, without reeling it in faster than the current, will help your bait blend in with the trout’s natural source of food. If you want to fish along the bottom, adding a split shot to your line should do the trick. For trout near the surface, you’ll need (you guessed it!) a bobber.
Lure or Bait?
Whether you use lure or bait will depend on what size trout you’re hoping to reel in.
If you’re in a catch and release mood, and aren’t too concerned with size, then bait should work fine. Worms, nightcrawlers, flies, and grasshoppers are all suitable for catching trout. Powerbait will likely only work on stocked trout since native trout won’t encounter anything like that in the wild. If you’re fishing in a stocked lake, powerbait will likely work fine, but otherwise, a more natural approach will work better.
If you’re going for the biggest catch possible, then you’ll most likely want to step up your equipment to lures. Trout over a foot long have pretty much cut insects out of their diet and are on the lookout for smaller fish, worms, shrimp, and mollusks. Critters, swimsuit, and worm imitators will all work great for attracting a trout. Cranks have the potential to get you the big trout, but their size will make them less appealing to most.
And no matter what, salmon roe is sure to be a hit when fishing for trout. It’s one of their favorite snacks, regardless of size. Thread as many onto your hook as you can and you’ll have a trout’s dream buffet at the end of your line.