When to Catch Trout

Trout fishing is both a sport and a science. Different species of trout reside in different habitats with varying optimal times for fishing. Although fishing is enjoyable regardless, prior planning and research will lead to a more successful trip.

Best Time of Year to Catch Trout

Trout fishing is accessible year-round, but to increase your chances of success, follow these tips:

  • Conventional wisdom suggests that late spring is the best time of year to fish for trout, especially if you're looking for larger fish.
  • The warmer it gets, the more fishing pressure from other anglers, the thicker the grass and brush surrounding their habitats and the lower the water levels. Although regarded as a myth by some, the trout could be more educated on avoiding lures and bait later in the season.
  • Rule of thumb: If the air temperature is uncomfortable for you (below freezing or scorching hot), it will be uncomfortable for the trout as well, since they are cold blooded and their body temperatures reflect the temperature of the water they swim in.

Best Time of Day to Catch Trout

According to trout fishing and behavior expert Jay Ford Thurston, the most important factors to consider when seeking the best time of day to catch trout are the water temperature and cloud cover.

  • Trout are most actively feeding in comfortable water temperatures between 34 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Trout feeding picks up just as the water temperature rises one degree above 40, 45 and 49 degrees Fahrenheit, so taking the water temperature every hour is beneficial.
  • Since trout don't have eyelids and can't dilate their pupils, they must seek shade in extreme sun to avoid bright lights. If possible, fish under cloud cover when water temperatures are cooler or look for shady areas where you can quietly wade in with rubber boots.
  • It's common to see anglers fishing right before dusk until dark, or even under a full moon, hoping to catch bigger fish the darker it is.
  • In the summertime, if water temperatures rise into the high 60s, increase your chances of success by moving upstream to cooler waters.

Timetable for Best Fishing Times

Thurston has created the trout timetable below for best fishing times associated with a range of high air temperature (Fahrenheit).

  • 34-49 degrees; 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 50-55 degrees; 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 56-60 degrees; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • 61-65 degrees; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
  • 66-70 degrees; 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
  • 71-75 degrees; 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
  • 76-80 degrees; 7 a.m. to 11 a.m.
  • 81-85 degrees; 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.
  • 86-89 degrees; 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.

Best Time to Fish Trout in a Lake

Keeping in mind air and water temperatures, fishing for trout when it's significantly cooler will lead to more success in lake. A good tool for lake trout fishing is a depth finder, so you could adjust your fishing depth depending on the season.

  • In the summer, lake trout feed between first light and before 11 a.m., especially when the water is as calm as glass with clear skies and high pressure.
  • In the early spring, your chances of success increase throughout the lake since trout feed in more parts of the lake and during longer periods of the day.
  • Myth has it that lake trout go to the deepest part of the lake in the summer and remain dormant there, but in fact, they stay suspended in the 53 degree Fahrenheit thermal layer, following schools of their bait fish (White Fish and Suckers).
  • With a depth finder, fish your lure/bait between 10 feet and the surface following winter, between 35 and 45 feet deep in mid-spring, between 50 and 65 feet deep in late spring and at the 53 degree thermal layer in the summer.

How to Catch River Trout

It's important to read up on regulations before fishing river trout with wild populations, as they could be stricter. River trout fishing varies slightly from lake trout fishing, so follow these suggestions:

  • The top three river trout bait is live earthworm, salmon roe and canned corn kernels.
  • The smaller the river, the lighter the lure except if the river is moving quickly, in which case you'll need a heavier lure.
  • When casting your line, always cast slightly upstream to allow your lure/bait to drift with the current and appear more lively.
  • Spooking fish in smaller rivers is extremely easy, so you should wait up to 20 minutes to allow the hole to rest before fishing it again.
  • To know which bait to fish on a certain day, follow the weather forecast. Fish worms after a rainstorm and insects on a windy day to simulate the type of food the trout would be feeding on that particular day.

How to Catch Rainbow Trout

The most common and easiest species of trout to catch in North America, rainbow trout are found both stocked and wild in lakes and rivers.

  • Packing a wide variety of lures allows you to try different lures and adapt to the rainbow trout's liking from day to day, even hour to hour.
  • You can use a small silver and blue spoon since it works on a wide range of species (including the rainbow trout), has an attractive color and erratic action that lure the fish.
  • Common knowledge suggest that the most effective bait is a playdough-like substance that you mold right onto a small hook, and with a light weight, you're ready to cast out your line, letting it float right off the bottom.

Learn what is the best time to fish in freshwaters, what is seasonal lake turnover, how water temperature affect fish and more in our next section.