Informational Guide

Best Time To Fish for Trout

For easier catches and larger hauls of fish, read our comprehensive guide on the best time to fish for trout.

by Andrew

Informational Guide

Best Time To Fish for Trout

For easier catches and larger hauls of fish, read our comprehensive guide on the best time to fish for trout.

by Andrew

by Andrew

Trout fishing is the fourth most popular prey in North America for good reason. These tasty cold-water catches can be found across a wide variety of waters, but are particularly populous in Pacific Ocean tributaries.

Whether you’re aiming for rainbow, brook, or brown trout, experienced anglers know that picking the right season for trout fishing is just as important as choosing the right reel.

Understanding trout behavior can help you tailor your approach and improve your angling. For easier catches and larger hauls, read on for our comprehensive guide on the best time to fish for trout!

Understanding Trout Behavior

Trout prefer cold moving water, such as creeks and rivers, but can also be found in larger or stocked lakes. Cold-blooded trout will generally be more active in warmer waters. A good rule of thumb is to consider the current temperature on your skin: if it’s uncomfortable for you, it’ll be uncomfortable for them. The colder it is, the deeper you’ll have to aim, as trout gather in slow-moving schools in warmer depths.

Famished and occasionally frisky depending upon the species, trout have a far more active metabolism once waters begin to warm in the spring. However, this activity tends to drop off in some of the hotter summer months.

A long-standing myth claims that trout will learn to recognize and avoid lures, but their decreased metabolism in waters over 60 degrees Fahrenheit may be another reason. Aim for cooler waters in the deeper pools of rivers and creeks during hot months, preferably shaded.

Trout Fishing

General Factors to Consider When Fishing for Trout

  • Water Temperature
    Trout prefer waters that are cold, but not too cold. Around 55 - 60º Fahrenheit is the ideal temperature for trout fishing. Both warmer and cooler waters tend to slow their metabolism, as 45º waters will lead to sluggish metabolisms, while temperatures above 65º result in similarly lackluster feeding behavior as the trout search for cooler waters. If you’re practicing catch and release, remember that fishing in waters at or above 68º can increase trout’s likelihood of death even with proper handling. 
  • Barometric Pressure
    Barometric pressure refers to the force exerted by atmospheric pressure, or "the weight of the air." Whether barometric pressure rises or falls depends less on how fast it’s changing and more on what direction it’s moving. Fish are often affected by barometry, and trout and salmon’s larger swim bladders, which help control buoyancy, are sensitive to barometry. Falling pressure systems before rainstorms can lead trout to be more aggressive, while low pressure pushes sluggish trout into deeper waters. Strike-shy trout can still be found in deeper waters during rising pressure afterward, whereas stable pressure encourages standard feeding behaviors.
  • Cloud Cover
    Just as cloud cover can affect the barometric pressure, so too can it impact the temperature of the water, underwater light levels, and your visibility. Full sun exposure can have trout rushing for deeper, cooler pools, as well as running the risk of increased line visibility depending on the color of your fluorocarbon. Although mildly sunny days can still yield some decent bites, we recommend aiming for moderate cloud cover and, if safe, just before a thunderstorm. Keep an eye on the weather forecast before each trip, and always check thunderstorm safety warnings before heading out to the river.
  • Trout Feeding Time
    Feeding time refers to the time of day when mosquitoes and bugs are most active, such as late afternoon or early morning. This is in part because insects are active and partly because the threat of high sun exposure is significantly lessened as compared to the afternoon. Trout will creep closer to the highest 10ft of water to catch a bite between dawn to 8 am and again around 5 pm to an hour or so after dusk. Insectoid lures and fly lures work well during feeding time.
  • Spawning Behavior
    Trout spawning season varies depending upon the species, as different trout spawn at different ages and seasons. Lake trout spawn during autumnal months, and their spawning behaviors are most active at night, which can be tricky to spot. Rainbow trout spawn once they’re around two years old and prefer the steadily warming waters of late spring and early summer. Finally, brown trout spawn during the day and prefer cooling waters between late September and early November.
  • Fishing Technique
    Deciding on your preferred trout species can help determine the best fishing technique to use, as changing environments and behaviors call for varied approaches. River trout respond well to drifting with lighter lures, as well as fly fishing presentations. However, fast-moving rivers may call for heavier lures, such as those used for lake trout. Trolling works well for bottom-dwelling lake species, especially with a good fish-finder. Rainbow trout can be found in both lakes and rivers and respond well to bright colors, flashing silver spoons, and erratic presentations.
  • Water Type
    Depending upon the time of year and trout species, you may be angling for shallow ponds, fast-flowing rivers, or placid lakes. Research your preferred trout species' movements for the specific time of year, and bear in mind you may need a boat or longer rod for trolling in lakes or ponds. Fly-fishing works best in rivers for both rainbow and river trout but can be poorly suited to smaller, still waters. 
  • Daily Weather Conditions
    Will you have full sun overhead? Has there been an unexpected cold-snap? Is a storm forecasted to appear soon? Each of these factors will influence the trout’s behavior, and the best time of day to fish for trout is impacted by daily weather conditions. Check your local weather forecast for a sense of barometric pressure. Always aim for cloud cover or offset clear, sunny days by going earlier in the morning or later in the evening.

Best Time of Day to Catch Trout

  • Early Mornings
    Early mornings just before dawn are generally the best time to fish for trout, as dawn till two hours after sunrise is a popular time for trout activity. Cooler temperatures in spring to early summer is ideal, and the earlier you head out to the water, the better. Sunnier afternoons can warm the water and drive trout into cooler depths. For a good lure, we recommend tube lures and worms or night crawlers for excellent trout bait.
  • Late Afternoon
    Mid-afternoon may be a poor time for trout fishing, as the cold-blooded fish often avoid the warmer shallows once the sun is directly overhead, but late afternoon is surprisingly one of the best times to get a trout bite. In late spring or early summer, keep an ear out for when insects are at their loudest after sunset: This is peak trout feeding time, and you’ll be able to spot them in shallower waters. To distract the trout from their usual prey, try using beetle, cricket, or insectoid lures.
  • Nighttime
    Night and mid-afternoon are the two worst times for trout fishing but, during their spawn season, nighttime can be the best time to fish for brown trout. Otherwise, the later it gets, the more sluggish trout tend to be. However, bright moonlight and insect activity can both change this. Less aggressive trout also tend to feed at night, so you may need to be patient with your presentations. Try fishing soon after the sunset on a brightly-lit evening.
Trout Fly Fishing

Best Season To Catch Trout

  • Spring
    Spring is unquestionably the best time of year to fish for trout, particularly late spring. Trout become more active as the water warms but, since spring mornings can still be quite chilly, it’s best to fish for trout in the mid-to-late morning or mid-to-late afternoon.
  • Winter
    Aim for warmer days with sunny skies, as trout will be sluggish and need the motivation to leave the warmer depths. As such, the best time of day to fish for trout in winter is generally mid-to-late morning, midday, or later in the afternoon. This is also the best time of day to ice fish for trout, but make sure you invest in some ice fishing gloves.
  • Summer
    Summer, much like winter, can offer extreme temperatures that are inhospitable to cold-blooded trout. The best time to fish for trout in summer is early morning or late afternoon before they swim deep, as well as late evening if there is a bright enough moon and plenty of insects. To keep temperatures cool, aim for early or late summer months.
  • Fall
    Early fall has the more mild temperatures trout prefer, but trout will grow increasingly less active as temperatures cool. Early morning and mid-to-late afternoon are still the best time of day to fly fish for trout. Once insects die-off in early fall, nighttime fishing is generally a bust. In late fall, later mornings and afternoons work best.

Favorable Time to Fish for Different Types of Trout

Brown trout are some of the most common and largest trout. Brown trout spawn in the fall and actively pursue insects and insectoid lures in early spring. The best time to fish for brown trout is during feeding time in late spring or early summer evenings.

Lake trout avoid bright lights, so aim for cloudier days or just before storms to draw them up from their depths. Notoriously fond of lurking at the bottom, the best time of day to fish for lake trout is between dawn to late morning or just before and after dusk.

Otherwise known as the spotted seatrout, speckled trout prefer to lurk around structures and are fond of saltwater seagrass flats. Speckled trout prefer to feed in schools during low light, so the best time to fish for speckled trout is around dusk and dawn.

The most commonly caught trout in North America, rainbow trout, can be found in both lakes and rivers. Rainbow trout spawn in the spring and are most active in waters around 60º Fahrenheit. The best time to fish for rainbow trout in a lake is later morning and early afternoon.


Fishing for Trout in Different Locations

  • Louisiana
    Speckled trout are commonly found in brackish waters throughout Louisiana and Texas, and the best time to fish for speckled trout in Louisiana is late spring, particularly May. Good speckled trout fishing spots include Calcasieu Lake, Coon Island in Dularge, Grand Isle, Iron Banks, Lake Pontchartrain, and the mouth of Oak River in Delacroix.
  • Nebraska
    Nebraska's most populous trout species is the brown trout, although you can also find rainbow, brook, and cutthroat trout throughout the state. Its rivers and creeks are well-suited to fly fishing, and the best time to fish for trout in Nebraska is spring and fall, particularly October and November. For an interactive map of trout fishing spots, we recommend consulting The Nebraska Parks Department.
  • Colorado
    Colorado has a sizable population of native cutthroat, rainbow, brook, lake, and brown trout. Cutthroats, named for the bright red slash on their side, are the only trout native to the state. The best time to fish for trout in Colorado is between April to October, but steamy summer months can send cutthroats to cooler, deeper waters. Gore Creek, North Delaney Lake, and Roaring Fork are all popular trout fishing spots.
  • Washington
    Washington state has two native trout species, specifically the Columbia Basin redband and the coastal rainbow trout. However, brown, brook, Kokanee, tiger, and golden trout can also be found throughout the state. Tributaries of Puget Sound and Hood Canal are popular spots, and the Washington Fish & Wildlife Department tracks species online. Spring and autumn is the best time to fish for trout in Washington.

People also Ask (FAQs)

Is trout fishing better in the morning or evening?

When deciding what’s the best time to fish trout, morning is consistently better than evening. Fishing for trout at night can be hit or miss unless there’s local insect life or a bright moon.

What months are best for trout fishing?

Although spawn seasons may vary, Late April to June is the best time of year to fish for trout.

How to fish for trout in the late afternoon? In the early morning?

As waters grow cooler in the afternoon, trout tend to swim deeper. We recommend trolling for trout in afternoons up until dusk. Dry flies work well in afternoons as well as early morning. Mornings allow for shallower presentations, as trout loiter closer to the surface in search of warmth. Brightly colored swimbaits, tubes, or critter lures work well.

Do I need to be quiet when fishing for trout?

Not necessarily, but it helps. Avoid loud noises that may cause disruptive vibrations and “spook” the fish.

Is it good to fish for trout during rain or during a storm?

Yes! So long as you can do so safely, fishing just before or during a storm often yields a larger haul thanks to the barometric pressure. Many insects also get washed into rivers during storms, leading to a trout feeding frenzy.


Conclusion

Once you’ve decided on your target trout species, finding the right bodies of water and lures can take some trial and error. But strategically choosing the right weather conditions and researching when’s the best time to fish for trout will drastically increase your catch. Tight lines!

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