Trout are classified as cold-water fish so when water temperatures turn frigid they stay more active than warm water fish such as bass and crappie.
Trout do slow down in the winter, but the fish still eat whatever is available in the fishery they inhabit. Food becomes scarcer for trout in the winter but there are still small insects in the nymph stage and a variety of baitfish for trout to eat.
Here is a look at seven lures you can rely on to catch trout throughout the winter.
Matching the hatch becomes critical when the insects are small in the wintertime so a midge is the best small insect imitator you can choose for fly fishing. Trout tend to stay closer to the bottom during the winter so a subsurface nymph will produce more bites than a dry fly. The best colors to choose in the winter are dark hues such as olive, brown, and black.
Fly fishing with a streamer can be effective for catching lunker trout in the wintertime. The big fish tend to be deeper in the water column so use a sink-tip leader with your streamer or tie weight on your streamer to make sure the lure gets down to the fish’s strike zone. Slowly move the fly across the bottom and stop it occasionally to trigger strikes.
A marabou jig can be used for winter trout either on a fly rod or spinning gear. Fly rod anglers use either 1/80- or 1/100-ounce jigs set below a strike indicator and drift the rig downstream with the current. I favor throwing 1/16- or 1/8-ounce jigs on spinning gear with 2- to 4-pound test line. I usually cast my jig upstream, let it drift down and bounce it along the bottom to get bites.
Spoons such as the Little Cleo are one of my top choices for throwing in off-colored water for wintertime trout. The flash and vibration of the spoon as it wobbles through the water makes it easier for trout to hone in on the lure in the dirty water. I either retrieve the spoon with a slow steady wind or by slowly lifting it and letting it fall to the bottom.
5) Inline Spinners
Spinners such as the Mepps Aglia are also great for pursuing trout in dirty water or deeper water where these is reduced visibility because these lures generate plenty of flash and vibration. After casting your spinner, let it sink for a few seconds so you can retrieve the lure deeper in the water column where most of the winter trout are swimming. Reel the lure slow, but at a steady pace so the lure’s blade is constantly spinning for the best results.
6) Suspending Jerkbaits
When fishing in heavy current I like to jerk a suspending jerkbait for lunker trout in the wintertime. Last winter this tactic produced a 13-pound brown trout for me at Lake Taneycomo. Choose a 3- to 5-inch jerkbait in rainbow trout or shad colors and jerk it steadily on 8- to 10-pound test line to entice big trout.
Drifting a crankbait during heavy flow below dams is another effective wintertime tactic I employ for catching bigger rainbow and brown trout during the winter. I cast a medium-diving crankbait such as a Bandit 300 Series and crank it fast until I feel the lure banging into the bottom. Then I let the drift of the boat pull the crankbait and make sure the lure keeps banging bottom, which is the key to triggering strikes.
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