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Guide To Fishing For Trout In Lakes

All about trout fishing.

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Trout are a fish of tradition, and enthusiasts consider the pursuit of trout to be the purest form of fishing. It is the finesse required to entice them to strike that appeals to the soul. They have endeared the imagination of anglers for centuries.

There are 5 primary trout species, distributed throughout the US. They are rainbow, brook, brown, cutthroat and lake trout. Browns are the most difficult to catch and brookies are the easiest. Pure cold water is key to survival of the all five and the brooks are the most sensitive to temperature. The others can be comfortable in slightly warmer waters. Learn about the best trout lures and bait, plus when to use them.

Rainbow Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss

Rainbow Trout

Prefers slightly stained to clear water with or without current. Ideal water temperature: 45° to 60°

World record: 42 pounds, 2 ounces

Known for its tasty pink flesh, beauty and gameness, rainbows are a favorite among the vast majority of anglers. It also appeals to the fly fisherman as it can be tempted to take properly presented flies as well as other baits and lures. It feeds on small insects, minnows, crustaceans and worms. It is ideal for both sport and dining pleasure.

Originally found in the Rockies and west to the Pacific ocean, it has been distributed far and wide across the US. It tends to do better in the northeast but is found in isolated areas even in the south. In waters that allow such migration the rainbow trout will remain in streams until it reaches 6" to 9" in length and then travel to lakes or oceans where it will bulk up and then return to the streams or rivers to spawn.

Steelhead trout are rainbows which have adapted to the salt water environment. In winter the steelhead seem to prefer spoons or bait rather than flies.

Cutthroat Trout

Salmo clarki

Cutthroat Trout

Prefers clear to slightly stained, cold water with current which flows to the ocean. Ideal water temperature: 45° to 58°

World record: 41 pounds, 0 ounces

Cutthroat trout call the great northwest home and flourish in these mountain streams that eventually drain into the Pacific Ocean. It too can be taken on flies as well as other baits and lures. It also feeds on small insects, minnows, crustaceans and worms.

Cutthroat trout fishing is a western angler favorite on big, fast-moving waters. Fly fishing is the preferred method but they can be caught on any number of minnow or grub imitating lures as well as live bait.

Brook Trout

Salvelinus fontinalis

Brook Trout

Prefers cold, clear water with current. Rocky streams are preferred. Ideal water temperature: 44° to 58°

World record: 14 pounds, 8 ounces

Brook trout are the native trout of the US, originally found throughout areas with cold clean water, preferably waters which never exceed 68 degrees. As civilization invades its cool shady forest areas it causes the waters to warm and the brook trout population begins to diminish. Its primary food source is small insects, mollusks, crustaceans and other small fishes.

Fishing for brook trout is the easiest of all the trouts. Look for gravel bottom streams with a moderate current, plenty of waterfalls and ponds which include rocks and cover. Overhanging trees offer additional shade, attract insects and offer protection from preying birds.

Brown Trout

Salmo trutta

Brown Trout

Prefers clear to slightly stained water with little or no current. Ideal water temperature: 45° to 62°

World record: 40 pounds, 4 ounces

The brown trout can tolerate slightly warmer waters than the brook trout and have taken over some of the fisheries formerly inhabited by the brookies. It is much more wary than other trouts which help ensure its longevity in waters where other trouts are fished out.

When brown trout fishing look for quiet water with lots of cover. Logs, under cuts in the bank, rock shelves, overhanging trees and brush are some of the brown trouts favorite hiding places. The larger they get, the more wary they get and become more inclined to feed at night under the protection of darkness.

Brown trout feed on worms, minnows, insects and crustaceans. Dry fly fishing for pan-sized browns is a favorite technique as they rise well to these crafty presentations. Larger browns tend to feed more on flesh and favor nutritious crustaceans, worms or small fishes.

Lake Trout

Salvelinus namaycush

Lake Trout

Prefers clear, deep water with little or no current. Ideal water temperature: 40° to 52°

World record: 72 pounds, 0 ounces

The lake trout is by far the largest of the trouts. It lives in deep cold lakes in the northern US and is also known as Great Lakes trout, Mackinaw trout and salmon trout. It feeds on virtually all forms of flesh which abound in its home waters. Minnows, smelt, eels and any variety of small fishes are part of the lake trout's diet. It's rich flaky flesh makes it a tasty table favorite.

In early spring these fish can be taken in the lake shallows on dry flies, wet flies and other slow moving presentations. Once the surface waters warm the lake trout retreats to deep water where trolling with heavy tackle is the preferred method. Spoons and baitfish imitating lures worked near the bottom provide the best results.

Golden Trout

Oncorhynchus mykiss aguabonita

Golden Trout

In native waters it grow to about one pound, in lakes much larger. Ideal water temperature: 56° to 64°

World record: 11 pounds, 4 ounces

The golden trout is native to Golden Trout Creek, South Fork Kern River and Volcano Creek. These trout have been transplanted into lakes where they thrive and grow to ten pounds or more. States where golden trout have been introduced, with varying degrees of success, include Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

Trout Fishing Organizations & Resources

Trout Unlimited
Trout Conservation

Trout Fishing Information

The purpose of the page is to provide specific detailed information about fishing for all species of trout. Find tips, recommended tackle, techniques and more. We want to help you make your trout fishing trips more successful. Use the navigation below to locate specific information about trout fishing in your state. The trout fishing videos section offers excellent tips and fishing action.


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