Rainbow trout is one of the most commonly found trout species in lakes, ponds, and rivers. From stocked lake trout to wild river trout, you are likely to run into a rainbow trout when trout fishing.
Let’s run through how to find and catch rainbow trout so your next fishing trip is a successful one.
Pro tip: Do a quick online search to find where rainbow trout are stocked near you so that you can increase your odds of catching some trout.
So how do you catch rainbow trout? The most effective way of catching stocked rainbow trout is to use a worm or Powerbait. These stocked trout are used to being fed in a hatchery so they will not think twice about eating any bait. Wild rainbow trout including Steelhead are more difficult to catch. Flies, lures, salmon eggs, and coon shrimp are commonly used bait to catch wild rainbow trout.
First we will cover stocked rainbow trout since this is likely the trout you will be fishing for.
What Do Stocked Rainbow Trout Eat?
Stocked rainbow trout are fish that have grown up in a hatchery and have been fed fish pellets their entire lives. This is important to know since stocked trout act and eat differently than wild trout.
Below is what a typical fish pellet looks like that gets fed to rainbow trout at the hatcheries:
The important thing to understand is that stocked trout have been fed by humans their entire lives. They are used to eating pellets or small balls of food when they are hungry.
You will catch stocked rainbow trout if you use a bait that looks like a pellet or small ball.
How Far Do Stocked Rainbow Trout Move?
Stocked rainbow trout will remain in the stocked area for ~3 days. This means your best chance of catching a stocked trout is to fish where they were stocked.
Most lakes, ponds, and rivers are stocked at the boat ramp since the truck carrying the fish needs a safe place by the water to unload the fish. Boat ramps and the surrounding areas are the best place to fish ~3 days after the rainbow trout are stocked.
You can still find rainbow trout that hang out by the stocked area beyond the first 3 days if there’s underwater structures or moving water nearby.
Where are Stocked Rainbow Trout in a Lake?
First fish near the boat ramp or the area that the trout were stocked at. If you missed the stocking weekend, then you need to find the spots where the trout are likely to be roaming around at.
Trout tend to hang around inlet and outlets of water since these bring nutrients into the water. Trout also like to swim up and down moving water since they are naturally swimming in rivers and creeks.
Make sure to locate all areas where the water is coming into and out of the lake. Those areas are the best spots to fish for trout. Some lakes get water pumped from a river which is exactly where the trout love to hang out.
Next look for areas where the water tends to move at a steady pace. Lakes tend to have areas where the current moves a little more rapidly and trout love those areas.
Finally fish near fallen trees, rocks, and any other submerged cover. Trout are like any other fish where they enjoy having structures nearby to hide under. These spots will be home to trout and a variety of other fish such as bass so be prepared to catch something.
Best Stocked Rainbow Trout Bait
Stocked trout respond very well to a variety of trout bait. My list of the best bait for stocked trout are:
- Powerbait Dough
- Powerbait Mice Tails
- Salmon Eggs
Powerbait dough is the most used trout bait when fishing for stocked trout. The simple reason is that Powerbait will always work for catching stocked rainbow trout.
Powerbait dough is moldable so it is easy to create a small ball or pellet which is what the fish are used to eating as food in the hatchery. Simply mold the ball over a single or treble hook and then you’re ready to catch some trout.
Read the Best Powerbait for Trout article to see all the different Powerbait options and how to use each one. Personally, these are my top 3 Powerbait dough options to catch stocked trout in any condition. Checkout these top 3 options on Amazon:
You can either use an Egg Sinker / Carolina Rig setup so that you are fishing off the bottom which allows your Powerbait dough to float in the middle of the water column. The other option is to use a bobber and fish from the surface. Both work great depending on where the trout are.
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.
Worms are a natural fish bait that work for all types of fish. This option is great if you’re looking to catch trout, bluegill, crappie, bass, and other types of fish all on one fishing trip.
Powerbait Mice Tails
Powerbait Mice Tails 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.
Simply use a bobber and fish these Mice Tails suspended in the water column. The trout will come biting when they see and smell this bait.
Salmon Eggs are a great option when fishing for trout since this will also work on wild trout and other fish. Real salmon eggs need to be refrigerated and can spoil over time. Luckily, we can use Powerbait’s Power Eggs which are artificial and can last in our tackle box until we run out of them.
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
Best Stocked Rainbow Trout Lures
Fishing lures are a whole different fishing method compared to bait fishing. Bait fishing is passive where you wait for the trout to bite and reel them in. Lures involve actively casting out and hunting for the fish based on what you see and feel.
I recommend sticking to bait when first starting off so you have a higher chance of catching some stocked rainbow trout. However, you can checkout the Best Trout Fishing Lures article that lists the top 10 trout lures and how to fish each one.
Here are the top 3 fishing lures I recommend when fishing for stocked trout. Remember, you need variety with trout since what works one day may not work the next.
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.
Bonus Pro Tip: Garlic Scent for Bait and Lures
The pro tip when fishing for rainbow trout is to dip your bait and lures in garlic scent before casting out. If you can soak your bait overnight in the garlic scent then you will have much better results.
When researching trout scents I noticed all of them are heavy on garlic. So much so that someone wrote in a review:
Below is one of the most popular garlic scented dips for your bait. These garlic scents will also work on your fishing lures. See what other anglers have to say about this scent on Amazon.
Frequently Asked Questions About Catching Stocked Rainbow Trout
Q: Can rainbow trout smell bait?
A:Yes trout can smell your bait in the water, along with see it, and even taste it. They can be a picky fish which is why you should read through this article on bait.
Q: Does trout bait work for other fish? Does trout bait work for bass?
A: Although trout bait is best suited for catching stocked trout, it can also work very well for small bass, wild trout, catfish, and panfish such as crappie, bluegill, and yellow perch. Keep in mind you will need to change your hook size if you’re fishing for a larger fish such as large mouth bass.
Q: What trout bait should I use?
A: It depends on the conditions. Sunny days you should be fish off the bottom so use a bait that will float. Around sunrise and sunset you should use bait that closer to the surface so anything with a bobber. If a bait is not working that day then change it up! It’s called fishing not catching.
Q: Where can I find rainbow trout fishing near me?
A: If you are fishing for stocked rainbow trout then be sure to research in advance how to find trout near you using that guide.