Trout are one of the most popular species of fish for anglers to target. Not only can they be found in abundance across the United States (and likely not too far from where you are), either wild or stocked, but they also bite throughout most of the year. The best part? They even offer a pretty good fight.
If you are looking to hook some trout on your line, this guide will walk you through where and how to fish for trout and provide some angler-approved tips and tricks for trout fishing.
Common Species of Trout
Let’s start off with a quick overview of what trout you might find in the water. There are hundreds of species of trout, but the most common species you will be looking for are those such as Brown, Brook, Cutthroat, or Rainbow trout.
Where to Fish for Trout
If you are targeting a specific species, keep in mind that some can only be found in very specific rivers or streams – especially for those cross-bred or sub-species. In general, trout can be found in a wide variety of lakes, rivers and streams that provide cool, clean water habitats.
Although trout fishing from a center console boat with a t-top and leaning post is preferable, a boat isn’t a requirement. You can fish for trout from the banks of lakes or rivers, or (if you have the right gear) by wading into the water. Options for where to fish for trout are virtually endless, and a quick online search, visit to your state’s Fish and Wildlife department’s website, or conversation with a local fisherman should quickly reveal where you should be going.
When to Fish for Trout
You can fish for trout almost all year long, but winter is typically less productive. There are many year-round fisheries you can visit, but some states regulate the fishing season on certain bodies of water. It is always a good idea to check the season for where you plan to go fishing, just to make sure. Beyond that, you can go trout fishing any time of day you want, but mornings and evenings will generally have you getting more action. Also keep in mind that busier waters with more fishermen will always reduce bites.
How to Fish for Trout
Once you know where to fish and when to go, you need to know how to fish for trout. Although they are generally widely available, that does not always mean they are easy to catch. You will need patience and the right gear. Aside from your usual fishing basics (e.g., a tackle box, net, polarized sunglasses, weather-appropriate attire, and your fishing license), you also need the right rod, reel and bait or lure.
Trout Fishing Rod and Reel
First, keep in mind that every fisherman is different, every fishing trip is different, and your gear is going to change a bit no matter what recommendations are made at any given time. Fishing requires some flexibility and creativity, so try not to take what we have here as the do-all, end-all, because as you gain experience with trout fishing you are going to formulate your own opinions based on your knowledge and experience – and let’s be honest, that is when fishing gets truly exciting.
Generally speaking, ultralight to medium-light rods and spinning reels are going to be completely fine for trout fishing. While the fish can put up a fight, they are not very large, and you are not going to need much more than that to net the catch. One consideration to note is where you will be fishing, as this will help you determine how long you want your rod to be. For streams, shorter rods are typically a good choice, but longer rods are better for longer distances when fishing in places such as lakes or ponds. Spool your reel with 4- or 6-pound monofilament and then you are ready to choose your bait or lure.
Using Bait or Lures to Fish for Trout
When static fishing, you may opt to use some type of bait to fish for trout. To do this, you can put live, dead, or artificial bait on your line and cast it out into the water – then, you wait for a bite. Subcategories of baits include either floating or sinking baits. If you are using a sinking bait, you will want to add a bobber to your line. These work best early or late in the day. For floating bait, aim for where you see activity or somewhere deep, usually around midday. Common baits to use for trout fishing include powerbait, worms, and salmon eggs, but do not be afraid to experiment with others.
You may also want to try lures when fishing for trout. Lures behave differently as you reel them in through the water, making them look like a small fish, or other creature, to entice the fish. This is a very active form of fishing and may be more efficient for larger bodies of water so you can cover more area in a shorter amount of time. Because fish will bite differently depending on the time of year, the time of day, and the environment, we suggest having a variety of lures in your tackle box. This way, you can cast, reel in, and repeat as you figure out which lure is performing best when you are out. Some lures to consider include in-line spinners, spoons, rapalas, and wedding rings.
Trolling for Trout
If static fishing or constant casting is not quite your speed, then another technique to try is trolling. When trolling for trout, you will cast a lure behind your boat, kayak, or canoe and pull it through the water. If you do opt for trolling, just be sure to secure your rod in a rod holder and stay aware of your line so you can be ready for a fight the second you get a strike.
Trout Fishing Tip: Do not be afraid to try something new. While best practice for trout fishing is to maximize the amount of time your line is in the water (rather than constantly switching up your bait or lure, for example), if you try something for a while and it just is not working – adapt!
Trout are going to behave differently depending on where they are and what food sources are available since they are opportunistic feeders. This means that what works for you one day might not work for you the next. Fishing for any species is a sport, and to be successful you need to be willing to try, try again with different baits, lures, and techniques.
Trout Fishing Tip: Go trout fishing often! Learning where and when to fish for trout, how they are biting and which bait or lure works best is something you can hear from locals (local fishermen are almost always willing to share their advice if you are genuinely curious and kind), but it’s best to learn through your own experience.
Trout Fishing Regulations
The last thing you need to think about is fishing regulations. We already mentioned that some fisheries are only open seasonally and mentioned that you will need a fishing license. To learn about your state and local regulations, you can check online. You should also be able to find a link to purchase a fishing license through the Fish and Wildlife department’s website. Once you have your license, know the rules of the water, have a plan, and a tackle box prepared, you should be set to head out trout fishing.