Can You Catch Trout in Winter?

It’s the frosty season, but the fishing game is still on. Prepare to change some tactics you’ve done all year round. Though catching trout in winter won’t be as easy, it’s possible. Here is a complete guide on trout fishing in winter.

Can You Catch Trout in Winter? 

The answer is yes. If you’re planning to do winter trout fishing in California or other areas, know that it won’t be easy, but it will be just as rewarding. With the right knowledge and technique, partnered with patience, you’ll be carrying quite a catch back to shore. 

Nonetheless, it is still a good mindset to lower your expectations. Since you’ll be expecting less activity, some rainbow trouts and brown trouts just can’t be disturbed. Take a moment to enjoy nature, sip a hot cup of coffee and look forward to catching them when the ice begins to melt.

Tips in Trout Fishing during Winter

To get the most out of your day’s trip, read all about these trout fishing in winter tips from experienced anglers.

1. Slow it down

You will have your patience tested because you’ll have to slow down your techniques. Brook trouts, brown trouts, and the like will lay low and become sluggish. Adjusting to the fish will raise your chances of a catch.

Though it is possible, using aggressive techniques like streamers and swinging may only scare the trout. It won’t be great because it stops them from feeding for 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Use smaller equipment

Steelheads and their siblings know that plenty of insects won’t be hatching during this time, so the goal is to imitate the natural food chain. Make your lines less obvious since the clear water will only make thick lines more obvious and demotivate the trout.

3. Get into slow waters

The tailwaters of a dam or anywhere with stable waters will most likely contain those brook and rainbow trouts. Due to their slow metabolism, they will eat less, spend less energy, and avoid strong currents altogether. In short, they will be camping around calm waters till the end of the season.

4. Settle in

Start your trout hunting late in the morning till mid-afternoon, where it will be warmest. Choose to set out by these times. Don’t be worried about missing out since your prey will take time to warm up and get moving. In the meantime, go ahead and get some coffee or fry some eggs. It’s going to be a long cold day.

5. Pick the warmer days for trout fishing

You don’t want to be on the water when it’s bitter cold. The same goes for the fish. There are days where it will be warmer than usual so watch out for weather forecasts. Monitor the thermostats and watch out for warmer temperatures. If possible, higher than three degrees celsius.

Some have also found it helpful to move from different fishing spots since some areas are warmer than others. Get your equipment always ready in the car and if your selected spot isn’t bringing you results, pack up and move to the next destination. You never know where you might hit the jackpot.

6. Scan through the area

You won’t just be fishing slowly but thoroughly. Be prepared to fish multiple spots since they might be staying stationary in one spot. Your target is to get the bait in front of them as close as possible without hitting them on the face. 

It may take a couple of tries, but as you work your way through, you’re bound to catch that brook trout’s attention. From time to time, it’ll also do you good to look up and observe the waters. Some trouts rise to the surface for some flies, so take advantage of that and prepare an extra rig just in case.

Trout Fishing in California Lakes vs. Rivers during Winter

If you’ve picked out a lake around California, pick the edges where the water will be shallow. When the temperatures drop, it is where rainbow trouts, steelheads, and other species will most likely gather. However, if you’ve fished here during the summer, avoid the area where you got only a few touches.

Assuming the sun is out, fish where the light hits the surface most. Doing so will put you in warmer waters and, therefore, more fish. Plus, you won’t be freezing as much.

For those fishing in California rivers and canals, a high urban density will most likely mean warmer waters. Those near homes or harbors have good potential as well. Do note that ports may have bigger fish that prey on trout, so just in case, be prepared with your casting rod.

What Is the Best Bait for Trout Fishing in Winter?

Different strategies mean different bait as well. These are some supplies you should stock on.

  1. Prepare your Nymphs

Nymphing usually peaks up during these cold months. Double up on these and take a double-nymph rig with a weight that can help it sink to the bottom.

  1. Reserve your Dry Flies

Getting your dry flies ready will save you the hassle of taking down your setup for nymphing. When some brook trout start popping their head up the surface, pop open your fly box and go for the smallest one you have. 

  1. Natural Baits

Include a variety of these in your box if you want to go a little extra. Red worms, crayfish, minnows, fish eggs, flies, and larvae are your best bet. This will be an attractive meal to any brown trout chilling around your boat.

4.  Settle for a Light Tippet

Try setting the switch to 5X to mimic the movement of real flies. Again, we don’t want to spook them out, especially if they’re just about to rise. The slower the presentation, the more time they have to spot and contemplate on nabbing your fly.

Techniques for Winter Trout Fishing in California

It’s a serious game for winter trout fishing. If the tips don’t cut it, learn more about the actual techniques you can try out on the spot.

  1. Try dead drifting

You can start doing this by using a streamer plus indicator and tug it like a nymph. This will appear like a big meal they won’t have to rush to take down. Cast it in the water and let it float a few feet down. Slowly but surely.

  1. Fan casting

Probably the best way to cast your lures or baits is by fan casting. To do so, pick out a location on the water on your right or left. Begin to cast the lure very close to you, then gradually start casting farther and farther. This way, you avoid hitting any rainbow trout and steelhead in the area. 

Plus, they may be right below you, and scanning through the water can land you more bites.

  1. Sink your lures to the bottom

The waters are warmer down below, and this would be a perfect place to catch the trout’s attention. To do so, cast your bait close to the bottom and float it up back to you very slowly. Pause every once in a while to let the fish check it out. 

Pulling it quick won’t be attractive since they wouldn’t want to move around, so reel it at a slow but steady pace. Feel free to use a bobber for shallow waters and attach your bait six to 12 inches beneath it. Wiggle it from time to time. If this won’t work, most likely, many of them are deep in the waters.

Safety Tips for Winter Trout Fishing in California

Here is safety for trout fishing for winter steelhead and rainbow trout fishing: 

  • Travel with care

Call a buddy to go with you and let your friends or family know where you’re going. Think ahead but bring only what is necessary. Function first, then comes everything else. The Winter season makes for bad roads and bad weather, so be prepared and tread carefully.

  • Take a wading staff with you

A wading staff is great for keeping balance and probing the depth of the waters. This will come in handy with any ice and snow blocking your way. After all, falling in icy water is no joke.

  • Protect yourself from hypothermia

From our heads to our hands and feet, our body’s extremities react quickly to the cold. Protect yourself from hypothermia by wearing a hat, gloves, and whatever else is necessary. Just be sure you’re comfortable, and it does not interfere with your movement.

Final Thoughts on Trout Fishing in Winter

No weather is too cold for trout fishing. This is because the surface gets solid, but the water underneath stays the same. Holes, eddies, and the lake’s bottom are warm enough to sustain the fish and all sorts of trout. It’s a matter of the angler himself on what temperature he can stand.

To be safe, don’t force yourself to fish when it drops below freezing and your body can’t take it. Layering and wearing a warm cap is a must. If at all possible, don’t get your hands and feet wet. Those steelheads may be out there, but you’re not as tough as they are when the water hits you.