Now that I’ve been spending more time trout fishing, but still very much an amateur, I get asked a lot of interesting questions about trout. The one question that I did not know the answer to on the spot was what do trout eat and if trout only eat meat.
So are trout carnivores?
Trout are exclusively carnivores. Trout naturally eat insects, worms, smaller fish, crustaceans and other living things. Trout will even eat artificial lures that imitate a prey they would naturally hunt such as minnows. The minor exception is that stocked trout will eat Powerbait and other ball shaped bait since they are fed fish pellets in the hatchery.
Lets dig into this deeper and see what gets a trout biting so that you can land a big fish on your next fishing trip.
Bait Fishing for Trout
Now that we know trout are only carnivorous fish, we can use the best bait when trout fishing. The best bait that I have used for trout fishing are nightcrawlers, salmon eggs, Powerbait, and corn.
But wait a minute… Powerbait is artifical and corn is a vegetable so why do these work?
Well stocked trout are fed fish pellets in the hatchery which are a blend of ground up fish, wheat, shrimp, crab, and other dried foods. As you can see below these fish pellets are shaped like a small ball or a corn kernel.
So stocked trout will bite things that are shaped similar to a fish pellet since that’s what they’ve eaten their entire lives. This is why stocked trout will eat Powerbait and corn even though trout are carnivorous fish.
Keep in mind this works well for stocked trout but wild trout will not jump for joy at seeing Powerbait or corn. These wild trout grow up eating insects, smaller fish, and crustaceans so will not look at a small ball and instinctively think to bite.
Best Trout Fishing Bait
Below are some of the most common and best baits to use when trout fishing. Keep in mind that Powerbait dough and corn may work better on stocked trout.
Worms and powerbait mice tails will work better on wild trout that have not been fed hatchery pellets.
Powerbait is the most common and strangest bait to see work if you’ve never gone trout fishing before.
These come in a variety of colors from bright pink, neon green, yellow with sparkles, and more. You would think that this is some child’s Playdough mislabeled as bait. But this stuff simply works.
Powerbait is a moldable bait that you can roll into a ball and place over a treble or single hook. Remember we are trying to replicate a fish pellet that the stocked trout are used to eating in the hatchery.
Powerbait also floats which means if you put enough of it on your hook then your hook and bait will float. This is perfect for fishing off the bottom by putting a weight 1-3 feet above your hook.
You can also attach a bobber above your weight or leader so that the powerbait is suspended in the water. This will allow you to see when the fish start biting.
Powerbait Mice Tails
Berkley not only came out with Powerbait but also Floating Mice Tails which are incredibly effective at catching trout.
This bait combines two common trout foods, the egg and the worm into one single bait. These artificial worms are scented which draws the trout in since trout can smell.
They also have ridges along the worm body which causes these to dance in the moving water.
Similar to the original Powerbait we listed above, the mice tails come in a huge variety of colors as well.
I can personally vouch for the White/Bubblegum color which is the white egg and pink worm. The Chartreuse/Fluorescent Orange color which is the green egg and orange worm is another popular combination.
One thing is for certain, Powerbait mice tails work and are highly visible in the water.
The ole trusty nightcrawler lives up to the adage “if it ain’t broke then don’t fix it.” This is arguable the best bait on the list but I placed the Powerbaits higher due to convenience.
You will need to get fresh nightcrawlers each time you go out fishing since these worms will die if not properly stored in a cool area.
The huge benefits of using a worm is that these are cheap, easy to find, and will always work. All you need to do is use a single hook, place the worm through or on the hook depending on the worm length, use a bobber, and cast out.
This will cause your worm to be suspended in the water from the surface by the length of the bobber to your hook.
Worms do not float on their own so you should use a bobber when fishing with a worm. You can use an air pump to get the worm to float if you want to fish your worm off the bottom without a bobber.
Worms are just one option for live bait. There is a long list of other live baits that you can use including minnows, eggs, insects, frogs, crayfish, and so on.
Check with your state and local fishing authorities to see which live bait is legal to use.
Powerbait Power Eggs (Salmon Eggs)
I know you’re probably thinking I’m some sort of Powerbait fan boy seeing a third one show up on this list. I promise it’s only because Powerbait Power Eggs are the most available salmon egg online.
If you want more variety then you can grab regular salmon eggs at your local tackle shop for bait.
Either option is great and both look, smell, and feel like the tasty salmon eggs that trout love to eat.
In order to rig salmon eggs properly you should use a smaller single hook such as a size 10-14. Place however many eggs you want on the hook. I recommend placing three just in case one falls off then your hook is still baited.
Much like the other bait options, you can either fish off the bottom using weights or by using a bobber to suspend it in the water.
Corn might be another one of those surprise baits that you wouldn’t normally think fish would love but they do.
Now this one on Amazon is an artificial corn which is great since it will not go bad. However, you can grab a can of sweet corn from the grocery store and use that as bait.
Both are great options when it comes to fishing with corn.
Similar to fishing with salmon eggs you will want to use a single hook and place a kernel on it. Since the corn is larger you will want to use a size 8 or 10 hook.
Place one kernel of corn on the hook and test to make sure it floats. All you need to do now is add weights about 1-3 feet above the hook to fish off the bottom.
Add a bobber above the weights and then you will be fishing suspended from the surface.
Why Do Trout Lures Work?
So if trout are carnivorous then why would an artificial lure work? Especially when you consider that trout have a great sense of smell so they should know your lure isn’t real.
Thankfully, trout also have great eyesight which makes lure fishing a great and fun method for trout fishing. Trout are opportunistic predators so if they think they can ambush a small fish then they’ll strike without smelling
Ultimately lures work when trout fishing since you are tricking the fish into thinking that your artificial lure is a real creature. So this is why these lures work knowing that trout are carnivorous fish.
Best Trout Fishing Lures
Here are three trout fishing lures that I highly recommend. These three are all different lure styles so that you can have variety of lures while fishing for trout.
I’ve noticed that the trout will go crazy for a specific lure one day and then not even bite it the next. There’s really no rhyme or reason behind why a lure crushes it one day and does poorly the next. So be prepared and bring variety for trout since they are known to be picky eaters.
ACME Kastermaster Spoon
You will find these lures on almost every top trout fishing list and for good reason.
Use the 1/8 ounce or 1/4 ounce sizes since those have the best balance of enough weight to cast from shore yet still small enough to fit in a trout’s mouth. See the huge variety of sizes and color combinations of Kastermasters on Amazon.
I have caught and seen people catch bass, trout, and even bluegill with the smaller sizes. This all-purpose lure is a must have since it wobbles through the water imitating a bait fish and the solid brass material lets this lure fly on every cast.
These lures sink fast so be sure to have a steady reel in when fishing from shore.
Panther Martin Spinner
These lures are legendary in the trout fishing scene and you will almost always find one of these lures in an angler’s tackle box.
Go with the 1/8 ounce or 1/4 ounce spinners.
Just cast and reel in which causes the blade to spin and produce a thumping noise. This lure will earn the nickname ole reliable once you start getting more casts in.
Try different colors based on the weather and water visibility. See the huge selection of colors on Amazon and find your new favorite one.
In darker waters the brighter colors tend to perform better while clear water the silver colors tend to get me more strikes.
Rapala Original Floater
This is another lure that shows up on every top lure list for any fresh waster fish including trout.
The Rapala Original Floater is a simple reel and jerk type lure that causes them to wobble and hover that drives fish nuts.
Start off with the size 7 lure and adjust based on the fish size. Select the color that most resembles the native fish in your area since that’s what the trout are looking to hunt and eat. See all the color options on Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Trout Being Carnivorous
Q: Are trout cannibals?
A: Trout are cannibals since they will eat smaller fish including their own kind. Any smaller, vulnerable, or injured fish is the ideal prey for any larger trout hunting for food.
Q: Are trout omnivores?
A: Stocked trout CAN be omnivores in the sense they will eat things shaped similarly to a fish pellet. This means stocked trout will eat corn or a ball of Powerbait. However, stocked and wild trout will both eat worms, smaller fish, insects, and other small living creatures as they are primarily carnivores.
Q: Are trout vegetarians?
A: Trout are not vegetarians. There are very few fish that only eat vegetation and trout are not one of those fish species.