Fishing

How To Fish For Trout – Full Guide

Trout are a great sports fish for many reasons. They put up a good fight, they can be caught by anglers of all skill levels, and they taste great on the grill or baked!

In North America alone, Trout are the 4th most popular fish, behind bass, panfish, and catfish. They’re also abundant from the Great Lakes to the Pacific Northwest and even further down south!

Trout are popular fish, there’s no doubt about that, but how do you fish for trout? You’d think you just go to a place where there’s trout, throw your line in, and wait, right?

Well, no. Trout fishing is a bit more involved than that, but with enough patience, you can easily be reeling in prized catches in no time. That’s depending if someone doesn’t beat you to it first!

rainbow trout

Getting A License To Fish

The first thing you need to grab before a fishing pole and gear is a license. Unless you happen to have a pond or lake on your property that is stocked with trout, you’ll need a license to fish.

As all states have different license requirements, you’ll need to check with the local fish and game website for your area. They’ll provide you with a more detailed instruction list to obtain your license.

Like all licenses, they will expire so be sure to be on top of updating them or getting a new license when the time arises.

What Gear Do I Need?

You of course need a rod and line. A light or action-light rod that’s around six to seven feet in length is ideal. You’ll also want it to have an attached spinning reel, or buy a reel for your rod if you want something more unique.

As for line, around 4 to 8 pounds of either monofilament or fluorocarbon line. Both are highly regarded among Trout fishers.

You’ll also need bait, which I’ll go over in a separate section. Along with your rod and bait, you’ll need some waterproof clothes for the outdoors.

trout in a lake

Best Places To Find Trout

Trout live in water, so finding them should be easy? Yes, but also no. Before you go hiking for days looking for trout, research your area online to see if trout are even native to your area. Or at the very least, if a pond or lake has been stocked with trout. Trouts prefer cold water, as well as running water. So rivers, creeks, and streams that are cold are perfect for them.

If you want to fish for bigger trout, try a lake. While trout are very common in the Great Lakes, you’ll also find them in smaller lakes that have been stocked.

In the deeper waters, trout can grow to massive sizes. Well, massive sizes for a trout. They’ll begin to feed on smaller fish and even raid spawning grounds.

So to find trout in your area, research online and look for any cold water sources in your area. Some of these areas aren’t going to be where you can park your car and fish, so you might have to do some trekking. Especially if you want to find a good, quiet spot that no one has touched yet. You may want to watch and see how the current is flowing as well.

Trout are opportunistic feeders, so if they don’t have to travel far for their food they don’t mind swimming in one place. The mouth of a river where it meets a lake is usually a good bet, as trouts will flock here to hunt and wait for new prey to be brought to them.

live bait vs lures

What’s The Best Bait For Trout?

When considering the bait, you need to decide if you want live bait or lures. Here is a quick rundown on the two, and the pros and cons of each.

Live Bait

Pros:

  • Normally very efficient
  • Lots to choose from
  • Easy to pick native species for the task

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Can’t reuse the bait once taken
  • Some might not like using a living thing to catch another living thing.

Lures

Pros:

  • Not alive
  • Plenty of types to choose from
  • Can easily mimic natural prey
  • Reusable

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Typically not biodegradable and can hurt other fish if it falls off the line

If you want a clear-cut answer on which one is “better” I don’t have an answer for you. Both have their merits, and both have their downsides.

That said, let’s focus on the two types and go over which ones will work for catching trout in each category.

Live Bait

When selecting live bait, the classic choice is worms. And for the most part, worms will attract trout but only the smaller ones.

If you want big trout that live at the bottom, ones that will really put up a fight, then consider a bait fish like minnows. Bigger trouts feed on fish, and these will be perfect for hooking a large trout.

As a rule of thumb, match the bait to the size of trout you’re looking for. Bait fish for large trout, medium-sized worms or locust for medium trout, and then worms, waxworms, nymphs, etc for medium and small trout.

Lures

When it comes to lures, the three best choices are Tubes, Swimbait, and Spinners. Truth be told, any sort of lure tends to work well. You want a lure that looks like it’s “swimming”, which is why spinners are popular.

They add a flash into the current, enticing trout to come and take a bite. The same is true with swimbait. As for tubes, no one really knows but many anglers can attest to them being popular with trout.

Crankers work well for larger trout, but might not be for all trout. Imitation lures will work wonders, added they look like they’re swimming or struggling.

Spoons are a hit-or-miss type of lure with some saying they work, others adding they work only if you attach something, and then some saying they don’t work at all.

The last two baits to mention are eggs and “power bait”. Eggs are fish eggs, which trout love to eat, commonly from salmon. Adding a few to your line or lure can help entice a hesitant trout.

“Power bait” is a formulated dough-based bait that is designed for attracting trout. How well it works depends, as while some swear by it, others swear at it. It’s a gamble in my book.

best time to catch trout

What’s The Best Time To Catch Trout?

Early morning or late evening during warmer months, and around dusk during colder months. Trout will start to feed when their prey starts to feed, and when there is just enough light out for them to see but still dark enough for them to hunt.

Likewise, during the middle of the day, most fish including trout will retreat to deeper areas to avoid predators.

When it’s raining is another good time to fish for trout, although more dangerous due to everything being wet and slippery.

The rain breaks up the image on top of the water, allowing trout to hunt without being grabbed by a bigger predator. The rains also knock insects into the water, which smaller trout will happily gobble up.

How To Fish For Trout?

Now, how do you exactly catch a trout? The good news is they’re not too hard to catch. Just throw your line out and reel it back slowly, making jerking motions to mimic an animal in the water. This will, hopefully, attract the trout. Once they take the bait and bite on, you’ll need to prepare to fight as they don’t easily give up.

When you’re reeling in the trout, release the line every now and then to help with the tension and to wear out the trout. Soon it’ll grow tired and you can reel it in.

This is why a rod of 7 to 8 feet, and the type of line you pick, are important. A trout can easily snap a weaker line, and you might be the one getting tired if your rod is too long or too short.

Can You Attract Trout?

No. Unlike some fish, attracting trout isn’t really possible. Just throwing food on the water is wasting your time and the trouts, as well as attracting other fish you’re not interested in.

So no, you can’t attract trout. Instead, you have to seek out an optimal spot where you think they might be and fish for trout there.

Final Thoughts

Trout fishing is a fun experience for both new and veteran anglers. Big trouts can put up quite a fight, while smaller trout will still not go without some thrashing.

Because of their habits being very specific, you can easily make a weekend trip by both camping, hiking, and trout fishing in your favorite park or woodlands.

As well as making good eating fish, trout are plentiful and there are always new ways to catch them!

Nathan Barker

My wife and I are huge adventure seekers! We've traveled and explored over 40 countries and want to share what we have learned on our journey. We'll be talking about everything from hiking and camping, to guides, reviews and tips that we're sure will help any avid adventurer no matter what walk of life. So relax, grab a cup of coffee and we hope you enjoy the read!
Close