Trout Fishing: The Complete Guide for 2024

Feb 9, 2024 | 8 minute read
Reading Time: 8 minutes

Trout are undeniably among the top freshwater sport fish across the globe. They’re elusive, feisty, tasty, and picture-perfect. It’s no wonder they’re so sought-after! If you’re a passionate angler who wants to test your skills against these beauties, you’re in the right place. This is the complete guide to Trout fishing.

A man wading up to his waist in a river in Alberta on a clear day, holding a catch in one hand and a net in the other with another man navigating a boat behind him
Photo taken by Shallow Water Drift Co.

In the following sections, we’ll tell you more about what makes the various species of Trout desirable targets. We’ll also delve into the when, where, and how of pursuing them. But that’s not all. We’ll also cover the rules and regulations surrounding your hunt, and provide you with some tips on how to land a brag-worthy Trout.

What are you interested in?

Trout Varieties

There are more than a dozen Trout varieties in North America and across the globe. We’ll give you a quick overview of the most popular species below but, to learn more about each Trout, how to differentiate between them, and how to fish for them, we recommend checking out these articles:

  • Rainbow Trout. These are probably the first Trout species that come to most anglers’ minds around the world. Beautiful and challenging, they’re on every freshwater enthusiast’s radar. Luckily, they’re quite widespread, so you won’t have any difficulties finding them.
  • Steelhead. Despite looking nothing like Rainbow Trout, Steelies are exactly that – Rainbows, just in different waters! What sets them apart is the fact that Steelhead are sea-run Rainbow Trout.
  • Cutthroat Trout. Just like Rainbows, Cutthroat Trout are also native to the Pacific Coast. But over the years, they’ve been introduced to northeastern parts of the country and spread in some parts of Alaska, too, growing big and putting up a strong fight.
  • Brown Trout. Brown Trout came from Europe and took to North America’s fisheries immediately. Nowadays, they’re among the top pursued Trout species on the continent.
  • Brook, Lake, and Dolly Varden Trout. We have to set the record straight here and tell you that Brook, Lake, and Dolly Varden Trout actually aren’t Trout at all! They’re all Chars – a close cousin of Trout and Salmon. Nonetheless, they rank high on the “Trout” fishing list.
  • Spotted Seatrout. To spice up the non-trout Trout line-up further, meet the Spotted Seatrout – also known as “Speckled Trout.” Specks inhabit the saline waters of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, and they actually belong to the Drum family. Consider them incredibly popular saltwater counterparts to their freshwater Trout friends.

Besides these VIPs, you may also come across subspecies such as Golden Trout and Redband, or hybrid ones like Tiger Trout and Splake. The lucky ones among you may even test your skills against the rare Gila and Apache Trout! All in all, there’s no doubt that the realm of Trout fishing is extremely vibrant.

Reasons to Fish for Trout

A photo featuring a wade angler while posing for the camera with a decent Brown Trout specimen in both hands above the river on a cold fall day
Photo taken by iGuideBCfishingco

If you ask a dozen Trout aficionados anglers why they love these fish, the chances are that each one will give you a unique response on why they’re obsessed with these baddies. Be it the thrill of pursuit or the challenge of outsmarting them, Trout won’t leave you indifferent. Here are the top reasons to fish for Trout:

  • Game Quality. Trout won’t go down without a fight. Regardless of their size, Trout put up a show. From their unpredictable moves to unexpected leaps, these fellas will make you break a sweat. And this is their biggest appeal. There isn’t a single secret recipe for luring Trout your way. You’ll have to experiment with bait, your approach, and equipment until you hit the jackpot.
  • Trophy Fish. Every fish with enviable game qualities deserves to be a trophy fish. This is particularly true for Trout. Outwitting and outpowering them isn’t easy, and, for that reason, they rank high on every angler’s prize list. The fact that there are endless Trout tournaments across the world only testifies to how fitting it is to call Trout “trophy fish.”
  • Adaptability. Trout are highly adaptable fish that can bloom in different environments. They mostly inhabit streams and rivers, but they can be found in deep lakes with cool waters, too. Speaking of temperatures, they usually prefer pools of water between 54°F and 65°F but can survive in conditions up to 75°F. There are even some Trout species that can tolerate high salinity levels.
  • Availability. Thanks to their ability to thrive in various conditions, Trout are among the most widespread species out there. While you won’t find them in every lake and stream, you most certainly won’t have any trouble finding premier Trout fisheries across North America, Asia, Europe, South America, Oceania, and Africa. That’s all the continents, if you hadn’t noticed!
  • Looks. Last but not least, Trout are gorgeous-looking fish, and this quality is rightfully one of their top allures. With different hues of brown and pink, colorful splotches and spots, and delicate bodies, Trout are truly beautiful creatures.

Trout Fishing Seasons

A photo of the mountains in the background and a fly fishing angler squatting in the riverwhile posing with a Trout caught during the fall fishing season
Photo by Amaazen Outdoors

Trout fishing is a year-round activity. However, this doesn’t mean that each month of the year will bless you with brag-worthy specimens and maxing out on bag limits. The part of the day you choose for your hunt also plays a significant role in whether you’ll be successful.

Spring and fall are by far the best seasons to fish for Trout. After a long winter, spring Trout are hungry, and they’re motivated to grab your bait. In fall, they aggressively attack the remaining hatches to ensure they gobble up enough calories for the winter.

While not the go-to seasons for Trout, summer and winter have their own fan bases. Early summer, for example, sees Trout extremely active. The reason for this is the various insects that thrive in summer. Trout fishing in winter is more challenging but not impossible. Just make sure you choose the warmest part of the day for casting. Unlike winter, dusk and dawn are preferable times to fish for Trout in summer.

Best Trout Fishing Spots

If you’ve set your mind on chasing Trout, you’ll be thrilled to hear that Trout hotspots are numerous and scattered all over the world. You can find first-class fisheries anywhere from Canada to New Zealand. The whole of North America is dotted with superb Trout fishing spots. But where to start?

Since it isn’t possible to single out only one state, province, or place, we’ll provide you with a list of some of the best regions and locations below. Use them as a starting point to kick off your Trout angling journey.

Top Trout Countries, States, and Provinces

Top Trout Locations

Trout Fishing Tips

Fishing for Trout requires dedication and perseverance. You can’t expect to be a successful fly fishing Trout angler on the first try. But you most certainly can boost your odds of landing Trout by using tips and tricks from seasoned anglers. In the following two articles, you’ll find out more about what baits, lures, tackle, and equipment work best:

To master the art of Trout fishing, it’s essential that you understand their behavior as well as the conditions at any given moment. In other words, you have to pay attention to the fish’s habitat, seasonal feeding patterns, water temperature changes, etc. This will help you choose the right bait and increase the chances of luring Trout your way.

Speaking of baits, Trout love anything from small insects such as mayflies to small fish like minnows. The list goes on to include caddisflies, stoneflies, midges, nightcrawlers, and salmon eggs. As for lures, spoons and spinners that closely resemble their natural prey are the way to go. Popular brands like Mepps Aglia and Little Cleo are known to be effective.

When it comes to your angling approach, fly fishing is the most popular method. Over time, you’ll mix and match gear and baits until you find your perfect Trout combo. But for starters, you should give it a try with a 9′, 5 wt rod and matching reel. This setup is applicable for the majority of Trout species.

Trout Fishing Regulations

Trout are heavily regulated sport fish. We know this might not be the news you wanted to hear but, in order to preserve them for future generations, all anglers must respect a set of rules and regulations surrounding the hunt of these sought-after species. What’s more, each country, state, region, and even body of water has its own restrictions.

A photo of three anglers aboard a charter boat on the river; one angler is sitting in the background while two anglers are posing in front with their catch and a net
Photo taken by Shallow Water Drift Co.

Here’s a quick overview of what differences in terms of regulations you can expect in top Trout states such as Alaska, Michigan, Missouri, and Ontario:

  • Trout Bag Limits. Alaska allows keeping between two and five Trout depending on the fishery and species, while Ontario takes into account the type of fishing license you have as well. Ontario’s Sportfishing Licence may bless you with up to five Trout and Salmon in total during a day, whereas a Conservation Fishing Licence limits your daily keep to two fish. Michigan, on the other hand, focuses heavily on the fishery, so don’t be surprised if the Lake Trout limit on Lake Huron and Lake Michigan is three fish, while the limit on the same species on Lake Superior is five fish.
  • Trout Size Limit. With bag restrictions come size limits. You caught a Rainbow and Cutthroat Trout in Alaska, but they’re smaller than 11 inches or bigger than 22 inches? Well, you can’t keep them. The same goes for all Steelheads smaller than 36 inches. At the same time, Dolly Varden and Brook Trout don’t have any size limits. Consult with your local authority if looking to harvest Trout.
  • Trout Season. The general open season for Trout in Alaska runs from May through October, but you’ll see guides offering early-, mid-, and late-season trips depending on when the spawning takes place. Meanwhile, Missouri offers year-round Trout angling in designated Trout Areas but limited angling in all Trout Parks (March-October), along with a strict catch-and-release season for Maramec Spring Park, Bennett Spring State Park, Montauk State Park, and Roaring River State Park (November–February).
  • Trout Fishing Permit. Besides a regular fishing license for the state or country where you plan to fish, you might have to obtain additional permits, tags, or stamps. Missouri, for example, requires a daily Trout tag for Trout Parks and a Trout permit for waters outside of those parks – all along with a fishing license. Similarly, the state of Alaska will ask you to possess a Trout Stamp with your fishing license. So, always double-check what additional documents you must have before you go after Trout.

By now, you realize that Trout fishing regulations aren’t simple or straightforward. For this reason, we recommend visiting the official website of the fish and wildlife agency for the state where you plan to fish and getting familiar with its angling laws:

Trout Fishing FAQs

Author profile picture

Tanya is a Content Creator at FishingBooker and a secret admirer of all things weird and wonderful beneath the waves. The waves, however, are her archnemeses (#seasickness). But she got hooked on angling in 2016 and there was simply no way back. Fishing became her reel passion, and she hasn't stopped casting lines and spinning tales about it ever since.

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