Fishing For Trout – A Complete Guide on How To Fish Trout

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From my previous experiences, going for new things can be overwhelming at first including new types of fish. While fishing for trout isn’t hard to learn, beginners need to read some basic information and do some practice to get the necessary knowledge before heading to.

I spent about 2 days reading online and noticed some deficit in the written content online regarding trout and how to fish it. That’s why I tried to put together an article that collects everything you need to know before going there. As you already know, Long introductions are of no benefit so let’s start!.

There is a list of contents on the left to make navigation easier for you. 

Trout Fishing Regulations

Though trout are relatively abundant, in most countries, there are regulations to follow in landing them. The basics of learning how to fish are understanding the ins and outs of the rules.

In some places, There are

  •  bag limits, minimum legal sizes, minimum length of the fish you catch or daily limits
  • A closed season (in certain waters) or limiting the open season for trout.

In other places, you may need to get a fishing license (I will talk about it in a little bit). 

There are also guidelines for catching and releasing trout in some states. New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation described some steps to decrease the chance of mortality of trout that are released back into the water.

Nice Advice: Consider reviewing all state, local laws and regulations to make sure you stay compiled, before heading out for your fishing trips.

License requirements

There are no special requirements for trout fishing, but generally speaking, usually, there is a juvenile angling license for the youth aged between 12-17 years, and for kids below 12 it’s free.

Where to Fish for Trout

Fishing For Trout Where

Trout is widely distributed and regardless of their type, all trout can be found in water that provides:

  • Cold, cool, clean, well-oxygenated water.
  • Protection for predators
  • Often live in moving water
  • Food including minnows, crawfish and aquatic insects.
  • As trout are one of the more accessible food sources for wildlife, you can likely find them in the woods hiding.

Considering these water criteria, heading to higher altitudes (such as alpine rivers and lakes) during summer would be more productive.

In addition, Trout habitats are often classified into:

 Lakes and ponds (still waters)

  • Hence the name “The Lake Trout”
  • Lakes are an ideal spot because you have the option to choose to land fish or boat fish.
  • For example, southern or highland waters that have a depth of at least 2.5 meters can continue to provide trout with the cool water they need during the warmer months.
  • Mostly stocked fish, one of the most stocked species to make your trip as rewarding as possible.
  • Some high-chance places to look for trout in lakes and ponds include:
    • near or above aquatic vegetation
    • around woods, stumps, rocks, or other structures at stream inlet because streams flowing into the lake brings cold, fresh water and likely a supply of food.
    • deeper waters, especially in the warm summer months as trout usually are looking for cooler water as well as protection from higher predators in the chain.

Rivers and streams (moving waters)

  • especially in forested areas that offer more shade and retain good flows and depths.
  • Mostly wild fish.
  • Depending on conditions:
    • Trouts will usually lie in currents next to snags or boulders where they can find well-oxygenated water, rest from the current and wait for the passing food to grab.
    • A likely place to look for trout in rivers include:
      • near steep or undercut banks
      • Look for it behind rocks or other structures.

Note: Notice the surface is textured with bumps or riffles, which are created by water flowing over rocks and boulders on the river bed.

  • In deeper, slower pools (for cold water)
  • You will find it feeding on baitfish, bugs, and hatching insects in shallow areas in the morning and late evening. 
  • During the day, particularly in summer, they’ll often sit in deeper water as protection from heat, that’s why you’ll need to get your lure or bait right down to the bottom.
  • In hot spells, trout look for food in shorter periods late at night and in the evening. Trout rarely reach near the bottoms of rivers when the water temperature exceeds 20℃.
  • The more remote the river, the more likely you are to find some trout fish swimming through their waters.

Fish behavior, location, and fishing tactics will change depending on whether you’re fishing in still waters or moving waters.

Note: To find a good spot for trout fishing, it’s a good idea to check out area sources. Most times, public agencies like a state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife will publish fishing maps. Don’t forget to check local bait and tackle shops, fellow anglers, or local online forums that discuss trout fishing in the areas you want to fish.

When To Fish Trout?

Trout bite usually during feeding time, because mosquitoes and bugs are most active, so the best fishing times to get more catches are in the warmer seasons:

  • In summer, the best times of day I recommend to fish are early morning and late evening.
  • In the spring and fall, I recommend going out around dusk.

When To fish Trout In Lakes

The top seasons of the year for trout fish in lakes are the spring and fall when the water is cooler and the trout are more active. Also, most lakes are stocked. In the warm summer months, You can search for trout in colder and deeper water like high-mountain lakes that remain cool year-round. In warmer parts of the state, such as along the coast, it is better in winter.

When To Fish Trout In Rivers or Streams

Spring and fall are the best for rivers when water temperatures are cooler. Rivers and streams are rarely stocked, so you’ll likely be fishing for wild fish. As the water gets warmer, Trout get more abundant in faster riffles where the water becomes re-oxygenated as it tumbles over rocks. Look for trout in places where they don’t have to fight the current.

like slow, calm waters where 

Note: The best time to catch summer trout is the first hour or two following sun-up.

What Gear Do You Need to Fish trout ?

Trout Fishing Gear

The nice thing about Trout gear is that it’s considered minimal compared to other species. A standard trout fishing setup would include a trout spinning reel with an ultralight rod or action rod besides, a 4-8 lb fluorocarbon line.

Here is some general advice for the gear when you’re fishing trout:

Rods

A spin casting or spinning rod will do the job. Fishing rods and reels have come to a long road across the year. Technology advancements didn’t make it not only lighter, but stronger. That’s why I recommend picking an ultralight fishing rod.

Recommended length: 6 or 7 feet (about 2 meters).

I prefer the guides to be lined with ceramic to chromed wire ones to minimize line wear.

Price: The price varies greatly depending on the brand and the material, I can’t mention a specific price. 

Note: If you’re into ice fishing, you generally need a rod that is made specifically for this purpose. If so, I recommend checking our guide about the best ice fishing rod for lake trout.

Reel

I consider it the most important part of the spinning setup. To be honest, in reels, you get what you pay for, but you don’t have to pay an expensive one if you’re a beginner, just stick to the metal ones. When buying a reel, look for 3 things:

  • Lightweight.
  • Smooth operation.
  • The size should be suitable to fit a sufficient line.

You might also consider going for a trout fishing rod and reel combo. Also, if you’re on a budget you can read our article about the best spinning reels for trout under $100.

Line

For trout, I recommend a trout line with 3-4 kg breaking strength. This one should be able to land most fish, even in the toughest situations.

Bait

Trout are not particularly conditioned to eat a specific thing, they will actually go for anything. Anglers usually should experiment by trying a variety of options to reach the ultimate lure for their spot.

But, there are some Notes that I want to add here:

  1. Power baits work only with stocked trout.
  2. If you’re looking for a big trout, avoid flies, tiny haired imitators. Big trouts (over 1 foot in length) almost exclusively feed on smaller fish, worms, shrimp, and larger insects.
  3. Experience a lot of lures and mix up retrieval speeds, pauses, and twitches until you find a mix of what’s working with you.
  4. Metal spoons are a good option for trout, particularly in deeper lakes, I like that their heavy weight allows more distances of casting. They are also flashy colored and trigger their predatory instinct.
  5. For Hard body lures, you need to consider the type of water and depth. Choose Floating and light lures for shallow water, and heavier ones for deeper water.
  6. Soft plastics are effective and I like the ability to adjust the jig head weight to fish the desired depth and area you are fishing.
  7. In summer trout fishing:

Especially in rainfall, heavy rainfall raises water levels, watercolor gets darker and puts big trout on the feed. Under these circumstances, use larger spinners; sizes #2 or #3. I personally recommend  Copper and gold blades. The old reliable Mepps Aglia is known for its flash and vibration. Aglia Longs can also be effective, as can Black Furys. Mepps XD is engineered to drop deep and stay deep throughout your retrieve. Tie it  if you are fishing fast, deep water

I also recommend watching this 2-minute video to learn more about what type of spin fishing lures you should go for:

Related: 8 Best Trout Lures – Which One Should You Buy?

Trace

This is a pro tip: Use a short piece of a thinner line connecting to the mainline by a small swivel. This prevents spinning lures from kinking the main line. Tie the other end of the trace directly to the lure. This will prevent the loss of the mainline when a lure becomes irretrievably snagged. A small spool of nylon of a slightly lower breaking strain can get the job done.

Trout Fishing Techniques

Here are some techniques to fish trout in different water conditions:

How to Fish Trout In Lakes & Ponds

Here are 3 of the easiest ways for beginners to start with:

1. Bobber Bait Suspending.

This is a good technique when fish are swimming nearer the surface or when you are willing to keep your bait and hook suspended above a weed bed.

Step 1: Get with a piece of worm or a little PowerBait (for stocked trout) or similar product on a bait hook. 

Step 2: Attach a small, lead weight just to the hook to help the bait sink, 

Step 3: Add a bobber 2 to 3 feet above the hook.

Step 4: Cast out and notice the bobber movement.

You may want to check: The 5 Best Fishing Rods for Plastic Worm Fishing: Reviews and Buying Guide

2. Bait off the bottom Way.

This technique is for deeper water to get the bait to be down deep where the fish are. 

Same as the previous technique, but without the bobber. You want the lead weight to sink, but the bait will float up and hover 1 ½ to 2   feet (depending on where you tied it) above the bottom of the lake.

3. Mimicking Trout Food by Retrieving.

This technique mimics small minnows, leeches, and other favorite trout food movements.

Step 1: When fishing a spinner or spoon, cast it over a likely spot of water.

Step 2: Let it sink for a minute then begin pulling it in slowly (retrieving).

Step 3: mix the amount of time you let the spinner go deep and the speed of the retrieve until you find the perfect combo that catches fish.

How to Fish Trout In Rivers & Streams

  • In moving waters, You won’t have to retrieve because the current will affect how your lure moves in the water. Here is a good fishing technique to use:

Casting a spinner or spoon.

  • Cast the spinner slightly upriver and reel in any excess line.
  • As the current carries the spinner down the river, reel in any slack fishing line off the water to mimic a natural “drift.” 
  • Begin a moderate retrieve, when you notice that the spinner has swung toward the shore and is straight down river.
  • Drift your bait with enough split shot to reach within a few inches of the bottom.

Notes:

  • Sometimes if you add a bobber it will help keep track of where the bait is drifting.
  • In the case of deep or slow rivers with very little current, you can use many of the same trout fishing techniques I described above for small ponds.
  • You can improve your success by fishing from locations not used by anyone else.

Fly fishing for trout

Fly fishing For trout image

Targeting trout with fly fishing is very popular. Fly fishing is an art of its own. When starting this art it’s best to seek the help of an experienced professional who can teach you casting and rigging techniques. The thing about fly fishing is that it requires specialized trout rods which allow you to cast very light artificial flies. This works extremely well in shallow streams with occasional more depth pools. It uses the current to move your fly into the strike zone. This one may be a good choice when Trout reside in calm areas or quite quick running water. They move upstream avoiding the current waiting for easy meals to pass by.

A Final Pro tip:

  • Rainbow and brook trout will bite a lure when it’s traveling downstream or upstream with the current.
  • Sizable brown trout will rarely if ever, bite a lure that’s being pulled upstream with the current.
  • To conclude, with all three species, there is a higher chance the larger fish will hit a spinner that’s tumbling downstream with the current. If you’re after trophy trout, you probably would like to keep this in mind.

Responsible fish handling

If you catch a fish, you should be able to handle it responsibly to minimize stress and maximize its chance of survival if you intend to release it. Here are some advice:

  • Take a rubber knotless net and release the fish inside the net in the water.
  • Remove hooks as cleanly as possible without causing any unnecessary pain to the fish using long-nosed pliers or hemostats.
  • Don’t remove it, if the fish is hooked deeply in the mouth or stomach, just cut the line as close as possible to the hook.
  • It’s better to remove the hook while the fish is still in the water.
  • There is a simple technique if you want to take a photo, remove the fish from the net gently, use your both hands to support the weight of the fish near the head and under the belly, take the snap and return to the water quickly.
  • Revive the fish by putting the fish gently in swift-flowing water to force water through its gills until it’s able to swim normally.

In case trout is of legal size and you want to keep it, I recommend that:

  • Keep the fish in some ice and store it away from sunlight, I prefer to use a moist bag or cooler. 

Check responsible fish handling for more information.

Freshwater vs Saltwater Trout Fishing

If you’re a beginner, I advise you to stay with freshwater fishing. It’s a lot easier and trout tend to be bigger there. If you want to catch a fish to eat, you should keep this in mind.

Note: There are different licenses for freshwater and saltwater, ensure that you have the appropriate fishing license.

Trout Fishing World Records

Trout image

Here are different types of trout with their records:

  • Brook Trout: 6.57 kg (14 lbs. 8 oz.)
  • Brown Trout: 19.08 kg (42 lbs. 1 oz)
  • Cutthroat Trout: 18.59 kg (41 lbs. 0 oz.)
  • Rainbow trout: 21.77 kg (48 lbs. 0 oz.)
  • Lake trout: 32.65 kg (72 lbs. 0 oz.)
  • Bull trout: 14.51 kg (32 lbs. 0 oz.)

Bottom Line

Trout Fishing is easy to learn and a good start for beginners. This can be too much to absorb in the beginning, but take your time and you will get it right! Give it a shot and share your experiences with us in the comments section. Feel free to check our latest Fishing Tips & Tricks to learn more about fishing.

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