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How to Catch Trout in Lakes

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A brightly colored rainbow trout.

A brightly colored rainbow trout.

A How to Guide to Trout Fishing

Learning how to catch trout in lakes is simple; anyone can do it. Fishing does not have to be complicated. Everyone that likes to hike or camp near fish-holding waters should know the basics of lake fishing for trout.

Fishing for trout in lakes is an excellent way to get young anglers excited about fishing and catching their first fish. Trout fishing is straightforward and easy to do and does not require large amounts of expensive fishing tackle and gear like pursuing other species, yet it is still a rewarding outdoor activity. Learning how to catch trout in lakes is fairly straightforward. Most anglers find success quickly using a prepared bait or earthworms, but other techniques like casting spinners, fly fishing, or trolling work well and sometimes are the preferred methods for a specific body of water. All will work.

Trout are a popular species to catch for many anglers because many states have very robust hatchery programs run by the local department of fish and game. The DFG plants hatchery-raised rainbow trout and other species into local lakes and ponds so that they are available for the angling public. A quick search on Google of "State Name" and "Trout Planting" should result in a schedule of lakes that receive trout and when that occurs. When the fish have just recently been planted can be an excellent time to take kids fishing for their first time as the chance for success is much higher than other times of the year. Anglers also love to catch trout because they simply are a very tasty and delicious fish. They cook up well whether you want to pan fry them or place them in a smoker for a smoked fish dish.

Trout Fishing Is Affordable

You can learn to catch trout in lakes with very minimal investment. Trout fishing requires a minimal amount of tackle to be successful, making it the perfect place to get kids interested in fishing without breaking the bank. If they drop and break a rod it won't be the end of the world.

Basic Equipment

Rainbow trout will bite artificial lures, prepared baits, worms, and all types of flies. Most people fishing lakes will be using bait balls or worms and using a weight or bobber and occasionally casting a rooster tail spinner or kastmaster spoon and reeling it in slowly or trolling.

Most trout are caught with a spinning rod and reel about six feet in length with ten pounds test line on. Using an even lighter line, like six pounds test, can be not only fun but more effective in the clear waters where trout roam.

You should be able to get a decent cheap trout fishing combo for around $30 and even cheaper if you keep your eyes peeled at local garage sales.

Kids learn how to fish for trout quickly.

Kids learn how to fish for trout quickly.

Bait for Trout in Lakes

There are several types of bait that work well when fishing for trout in ponds and lakes. Here are a few of the most popular varieties.

  • Power Bait: Made by Berkeley it is one of the most popular trout dough baits, there are many other companies with products that are similar. The power bait comes in a huge range of colors and color mixes, which may make a difference but usually, it is not the biggest deal to have the right color. Grab a couple of jars such as a pink and chartreuse orange swirl.
  • Flavored Marshmallows: These come in a variety of colors and flavors and are similar to the dough baits in that they float a small hook easily. Use these when using a bottom fishing presentation not a bobber as otherwise, they may float all the way back up to the surface.
  • Worms: The earthworm or the smaller red worm variety have been popular fishing bait for ages. Either dig up a few from the backyard or purchase a container at the local fishing store. The worm should be lightly threaded onto the hook a few times so that it is still wiggling around. The worm is very effective when other prepared baits are not working.
How to catch lake trout—here's a full-size adult lake trout caught trolling plugs.

How to catch lake trout—here's a full-size adult lake trout caught trolling plugs.

The brown trout in lakes get big.

The brown trout in lakes get big.

Artificial Lures

Fishing with artificial lures works well for trout. There is a huge selection of spinners and plugs that can be used with great success. Anglers that are pursuing the larger varieties of trout such as the Lake Trout or the Brown Trout often prefer to troll large plugs or spinners to entice these fish to eat since they predominantly feed on local forage fish such as small minnows.

Fly fishing is often associated with trout fishing due to the high number of fly fishers that exclusively target trout species.

My Favorite Artificial Lures

  • Spoons: A spoon such as a Kastmaster is a single piece of metal that can be in either silver, gold, or bronze in color or any other color via reflective tape. The spoon can be cast and retrieved slowly or they can be trolled while fishing from a boat. Most anglers will use a treble hook with the spoon and the strikes can be hard and easy to detect. The fish sometimes will just slap at the lure and not actually bite the business end so you will likely have a few missed strikes when using these lures.
  • Spinners: Rooster Tails and Blue Fox spinners are very popular. There are also 101 variations of the traditional spinner. Talk to your local tackle shop about lures that are perfect for the lake you are fishing in terms of size and color.
  • Rapala Minnows: These are a popular plug to troll for catching the larger trout variations.
How to catch Dolly Varden trout—here's a Dolly Varden trout caught on a fly.

How to catch Dolly Varden trout—here's a Dolly Varden trout caught on a fly.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


CZCZCZ (author) from Oregon on January 28, 2014:

Glad you liked it, trout stockings will be happening soon. I always enjoy going out to hit the little local lakes.

Ed Palumbo from Tualatin, OR on January 26, 2014:

Thank you for the information! This was a fine article, interest and useful, and I enjoyed reading it.

Edwin Brown from Oregon, USA on April 30, 2013:

Thanks for the tips. I will certainly keep them in mind next time I hit one of our Oregon lakes.

CZCZCZ (author) from Oregon on April 29, 2013:

I always like to be near creek channels when fishing lakes. Main lake points also tend to be good places to try, but anywhere water is either coming in or leaving the body of water tends to have a little current and helps to improve the fish catching in my opinion.

Edwin Brown from Oregon, USA on April 29, 2013:

Yeah, I love fishing for trout too. I have caught them in lakes, but my preference is fishing for trout in streams. I like reading the water and figuring out where the fish are hiding, then presenting with a morsel of good stuff to eat, like a worm or grasshopper.

The problem I have found fishing in lakes is finding out just where those trout are hiding out at any given time. I don't much like trolling, so the trick is to find the schools somehow and give them what they want. Not always easy to do.

Got any hot tips?