How to Fish for Trout in a Lake: Tips for Catching Rainbows

By Debbie Hanson

Nov 08, 2023

List of tips on how to fish for trout in lake that cover fishing tackle to use, which baits work best, types of areas to catch stocked rainbow trout in lakes.

Are you ready to learn how to fish for trout in lake near you? You most often see photos of anglers fishing for wild or native rainbow trout in cool mountain streams and rivers, but you might not have realized that you can catch stocked rainbows in lakes too. Since rainbow trout are highly adaptable, they are stocked every year in hundreds of lakes across the country.

Many states stock rainbow trout twice a year – during the spring and then again during the fall. State fish and wildlife agencies often publish a trout stocking schedule on their websites, which lets you know when certain bodies of water will be stocked with rainbow trout. For example, the states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia all include links to trout stocking programs on the state agency websites.

Now that you know where and when rainbow trout will be stocked, get a few fishing tips that will help you successfully catch them.


How to Fish for Rainbow Trout in a Lake

1. Use the light-action rods for trout. When targeting stocked rainbow trout, you can use a light-action or ultralight spinning rod and reel combo (similar to what you would use for small bass and panfish). Spool the reel with 4- to 8-pound monofilament line, depending on the size of fish you might catch.

2. If you want to use bait, you’ll need to bring split-shot sinkers, barrel swivels, and size 8 to 10 hooks. Earthworms, meal worms, manufactured dough baits, and corn are some of the best baits to use when learning how to fish for stocked trout in a lake.

3. Attach the end of your 4-to-8-pound monofilament fishing line to a barrel swivel using an improved clinch knot and pinch two split shot weights on the line above the swivel. Then, cut 12 to 18 inches of 6- or 8-pound monofilament leader and tie it on the opposite end of the swivel. Use the same knot to attach a hook to the end of your rig. It helps to add a bobber above this rig if you want to suspend it over structure.

4. Cast your line in areas where trout are likely to be. The key to finding rainbow trout in ponds and lakes (still waters) during the fall season is to find inflows and outflows of cold, oxygenated water. If the inflow/outflow areas are close to structure, such as weed beds or submerged trees, all the better.

5. When learning how to fish for trout in a lake from the shore, try focusing your fishing efforts near drop-offs and ledges where there is a significant change in depth. Rainbow trout are constantly on the move in search of food and ideal water conditions, so when you find one, you typically find more.

Since you now know more about how to fish for trout in a lake, get your freshwater fishing license and find a good place to fish near you.

Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson
Debbie Hanson is an award-winning outdoor writer, women’s sport fishing advocate, IGFA world record holder, and freshwater guide living in Southwest Florida. Hanson’s written work has appeared in publications such as Florida Game & Fish Magazine, BoatUS Magazine, and USA Today Hunt & Fish. To learn more about her work, visit or follow her on Instagram @shefishes2.