Long live the trout, curer of cabin fever and conqueror of the cold water. When saltwater fish have gone south, and large and smallmouth bass have gone dormant, the trout keeps biting, barely slowing its feeding even when the temperatures dip into the 30s. As local fishing options grow slim in January and February, and skim ice overtakes the bass ponds, the large, deep ponds stay open, with rainbows, browns, and the occasional brookie or tiger cruising well within casting distance of the shoreline, making for some exciting winter trout fishing opportunities.
The trout swimming around your favorite lake or creek from November to March are the ones that survived after the fall or spring stockings, and have wised up a bit, meaning the fishing won’t be as lock-and-load as it was right after the hatchery truck pulled away. But, when winter trout fishing with the right presentation, you’ll have no issues catching trout right through the spring stocking.
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Crappie tubes from 1.5 to 2.5 inches long, rigged with a 1/16-ounce jighead, and fished with short hops and an extremely slow retrieve are deadly for winter trout fishing. For a lighter, smaller presentation and more action, the Berkley PowerBait Pre-Rigged Atomic Teaser Jig adds a trailer to the tube that wiggles as the tube skirt flares, giving lots of action with little forward motion, fooling trout into thinking it’s an easy meal.
The only knock against the trout magnet is that at 1/64-ounce, it’s casting distance is limited. This hardly matters in little creeks, but on lakes, fishermen using these tiny jigs will want to spool up with micro-light gear and ultra-thin line, either 2-pound-test monofilament or similar diameter braid.
Trout magnets are fished in the same way as the tubes, with short hops and little forward motion, almost causing the lure to dance in place, like an aquatic insect. In the dead of winter, the smaller size of the Trout Magnet can give it an advantage over the tubes.
Pairing a weightless fly, like a Wooly Bugger, with a casting bubble like the Double X Tackle Tough Bubble creates a slow-sinking presentation that can be dangled in the strike zone for long enough to trigger coldwater trout to bite.
A slow-sinking stickbait, like the Rapala Countdown Minnow, allows fishermen to work the bottom half of the water column and incorporate pauses that cause the bait to flutter and fall like a dying baitfish.
Fish the lure by letting it sink after the cast and either beginning a slow and steady retrieve or sweeping the rod to the side and pausing, causing the lure to swim forward and then flutter down.
Spoons are trout catchers 365 days a year, but for winter trout fishing in particular, fishermen do best casting wide-bodied spoons like the Thomas Buoyant or Al’s Goldfish, as these can be fished with slower retrieves than narrower, more compact spoons like the Acme Kastmaster or Thomas Rough Rider.
Retrieving these fluttering spoons just over the bottom at a snail’s pace is a great way to connect with a big mid-winter brown. A variety of colors work, but golds, greens, and oranges seem to work best.