Winter Trout fishing can be challenging; it’s cold, uncomfortable, and the fish can be hard to find. Many of your favorite lures, color patterns, hook sizes and baits, and even line sizes are often useless. Some locations that were once easily accessed in the spring and summer are now covered in snow and ice. Sound familiar? The good news is that trout ultimately behave similarly no matter where in the world you are. And winter can provide some of the best angling if you know what you’re doing. But it requires you to be dialed into the correct methods of fishing.
Where Do Trout Go In Winter?
Trout will seek out the nearest safety they can find. This might include boulders, undercut banks, and slower moving water. As winter settles, a trout’s metabolism begins to slow, requiring the fish to eat less. As a result, they move slower, which is why they will seek out the slowest moving water available such as long tail-outs and large, deep pools. In lakes, trout will move to the deepest area and remain on ledges and humps with access to deeper water.
Like other species, much smaller trout will die off in the winter due to starvation and stress, leaving the larger specimens to thrive due to having larger fat storages. So your chances of catching your PB during winter are higher!
1.) Night Crawlers
The old-school method of using worms persists. The trick is to downsize. In the summer, baiting a hook with a whole nightcrawler would entice a trout on the hunt. But in winter, trout are less likely to make huge efforts to chase down food, especially when it’s large enough to evade capture. Cut your nightcrawler in half and downsize your hook. Two awesome presentation methods are:
- Split Shot
Drifting your nightcrawler on a bobber rig is a perfect way to present an easy meal to a sluggish trout. As mentioned above, trout will conserve energy as best they can, which means they won’t chase after a fast-moving bait. Find the slowest moving water on your river or stream and really be diligent; make several casts and play with your depth. The keyword this season is slow.
For trout in deeper water like lakes, a split-shot rig is perfect for reaching them and enticing a bite. Simply cast out and let your rig hit bottom. Then, slowly drag your split shot along the bottom, giving it a few pops for added action.
2.) Minnow Lures
Even though trout slow down greatly in winter, they still need to eat. And smaller fish are still on the menu. Trout lures like the Rapala Original Floating and countdown are still highly effective. But, unlike the spring and summer months, trout are less likely to chase down a moving bait in winter. When fishing a lure like a Flat Rap Rapala or original floating minnow, slow your retrieve. Seek out calmer waters and identify structures like submerged boulders, rock piles, or fallen trees and begin your cast. Other good places would include the mouth of river systems that open into lakes, hydroelectric stations with outflow, and rock ledges.
These all provide moving water but they slow into calm sections that provide sweet spots for fish to rest and eat. Using the current, cast out and cut across the current and allow it to carry your lure while giving it a slow retrieve. This imitates an injured baitfish, and, like drifting a bobber, you’ll potentially sweep the lure across the fish’s snout. Giving your rod tip a few quick twitches will entice a wary fish to bite. As always, the trick is to slow down.
3.) Winter Trout Fishing: Spoons
When targeting trout in deeper water such as reservoirs and lakes, a great lure to use is a Kast Master. The weight of this lure will allow you to not only cast out far but will sink to the right depth. Also, you can jig a kast master along the bottom. This time of year, you shouldn’t expect much vegetation to snag on. Raise your rod tip slowly allowing your lure to swim toward the surface.
Then, allow the lure to drop, which creates a flutter action as it falls. Continue this all the way back to the bank. It’s a perfect way to entice a slow, winter bite from a hungry, winter rainbow trout. Tipping your spoon with a chunk of night crawler is also a great way to add to the lure presentation.
4.) Salmon Eggs
The key to winter trout fishing is moving your bait slow. In this case, salmon eggs under a bobber are a perfect, slow-moving meal. Using a slip or fixed bobber, a
Gamakatsu salmon egg hook ( red color), you can drift your set-up along slow-moving seems and undercut banks. Try finding the slowest moving water and adjust the depth of your bobber accordingly.
Some great bands of salmon eggs I like to use:
Salmon eggs present a slow, easy meal for fish, particularly in river systems. As fall nears an end, eggs can be great to use as many trout have returned from spawning and are now ready to feed, and they’re keyed in on lost eggs, drifting downstream.
Two rules I like to follow this time of year:
- Smaller Baits
- Fish em’ slow
Remember that trout this time of year, whether under ice, suspended over ledges, or held in river systems, are much slower, and many of the smaller fish will likely die off due to starvation. But this leaves the chance to catch the fish of a lifetime! Try these methods above and ask your local anglers for advice on what the fish in your region are feeding on.