Alternative tactics for trout can even produce trophy-class fish such as this 8-pound plus rainbow I caught and released recently. The fish hit a tiny hair jig.
Alternative tactics for trout can even produce trophy-class fish such as this 8-pound plus rainbow I caught and released recently. The fish hit a tiny hair jig. (Jim Gronaw)

To the vast majority of trout fans locally, we tend to wait anxiously for the put-and-take options of spring and fall and the stocking of 10 to 14 inch class fish in our local streams and ponds along the Mason Dixon and beyond. And to be perfectly honest, both Maryland and Pennsylvania have done a great job of supplying hatchery-reared trout in the fall in many local waters, with few anglers taking advantage of the bounty. But even with fly-fishing, tossing hardware and still-fishing with PowerBait there are a few other tactics that can be utilized once the hatchery fish start to catch-on and adapt to a more natural menu after being in the streams and ponds for a while. Here are a few of my favorite "alternative" tips for trout:

Crank Baits


This may come as a surprise to many, but I have actually had great days, including the most trout I ever caught in a single outing, 19, on mini-sized crank baits that imitate minnows or crayfish. It just makes sense that small, wobbling lures would serve well on fairly un-educated hatchery fish. Typically, Rapala, Rebel and Yo Zuri minnow baits can cover most of the bases here.

Usually, floating minnows do better, especially in shallower streams or community lakes where stocker rainbows are almost always looking up. One of my favorites is the Rapala floating baits from 1.5 to 2 inches in length in silver or gold with a black back. At times, a small perch pattern minnow can out fish them. The smallest Bagley minnow baits can score well, too. And a much overlooked stream option is the classic Rebel Teeny Wee Crayfish. I have seen several large, predatory brown trout over the years that couldn't resist the pulsating action of this crawdad look-a-like.

Sometimes the hooks on some of today's mini-cranks are too small and need to be replaced. I like to put #6 trebles on the back of the lures and then completely remove the center set of hooks. That way, if you are fishing a shallow area of a stream with rocks and debris you can virtually eliminate snagged lures and still maintain a high "hook-up" ratio with the larger treble. Additionally, some stocked rainbow and brown trout can be the occasional trophy class fish in the 20 to 24 inch range. The larger hooks tend to hold better.

Artificial Worms

The entire realm of using artificial worms is not just a bass fishing exclusive…trout like them, too! Yet few anglers take advantage of these smaller versions when pursuing trout. Most tiny store-bought worm products are specifically designed for the panfish crowd and measure one to three inches long. Some are plastic and others are biodegradable options like the Berkley Gulp! Angleworms or the PowerBait Trout Worms. There are many others, and several companies are producing baits that are geared for the ice fishermen of the mid-west and northern states, many of which can adapt nicely to the trout angler. Most of these baits have some type of scent impregnated in the bait itself or it is emersed in a solution that gives it an appeal to the fish's sense of smell. Fished properly, they can at times out produce live bait.

Taking a page from the bass anglers book, you can easily fish these tiny worms on a #8 Aberdeen wire hook on 4 to 6 pound line and hook them in the middle of the worm…wacky-style. Pinch a few small split shots 12 to 16 inches above the hook and you're ready to fish them in both stream and pond environs. These require a slower, natural presentation and often allowing them to drift into a deep undercut bank or deeper run in the stream is the ticket for success. Trout tend to pick them up and inhale them, so no long pause is needed to allow the fish to get the lure in it's mouth. Set hooks quickly and try to get them out of harms way if there are logs, overhangs or other obstructions in the fish's lair.

These smaller worms can be effectively fished below a small bobber or plastic bubble, which can also aid in casting distance when fishing larger ponds or lakes. And even though you wouldn't think it would matter, sometimes the fish will show preference to a particular color one day and then another hue the next. It often pays to have a couple different color options in hand, with pink, natural and chartreuse being favorites.

Micro Jigs

Few anglers routinely throw micro jigs for trout, yet they remain my favorite lure option, by far, than any other artificial for either stream or pond stocked fish. They are small, imitate many different food items and can be fished in a variety of ways. Every trout I have caught over the 20-inch mark has been a victim of either a 1/80th or a 1/64th-ounce micro-jig that I have tied. You can fish them below a bobber or swim them enticingly through the stream currents. They can be tied to imitate scuds, grass shrimp, minnows, midge larva, chironomids or a variety of insect stages. My favorite colors tend to be darker, natural hues like browns and olives. But lighter colored jigs will take trout when they will ignore other options.

Nope ... it's not all spinners, fly rods or Power Bait. Give these bench-warming baits a try this fall and see if your trout score doesn't improve.