The fall season is upon us and there are way too many things to do, stuff like soccer games, football, yard work and hunting. In the midst of it all there are many fishing options with saltwater stripers, bass blitzes and panfish galore.
However, in recent years I have taken advantage of fall trout stocking from Maryland and Pennsylvania agencies and capitalized on both stream and still water environs to enjoy the fruits of hatchery-reared rainbow, brown and golden trout. The “golden” trout are actually a palomino trout and are popular with many anglers throughout the Mid Atlantic.
With fall stockings close to being finished in many of our regional waters there are numerous ways to catch them. Here are some of my favorite tactics…
Many freshly stocked trout will readily pounce on a variety of small spoons and spinners with their flash and appeal of a live bait fish. For spoons, we always like the classic Kast Masters, Swedish Pimples and Super Dupers that run from 1/12th to as large as one-quarter of an ounce. Many trout fans have their own favorite colors. But sticking with standard gold, silver and bronze or copper hues will cover most of the bases, most of the time.
The Super Duper line up of light weight spoons have a full array of color patterns including rainbow and two-toned patterns. Some days color will make a difference, so it pays to have a selection if the fish are discriminant.
Spinners such as the classic Mepps Aglias, Rooster Tails, and Panther Martin brands have been “go-to” hard ware for stocked trout for decades. Blade sizes from #0 to #2 are the preferred sizes and these small, rotating lures should be attached with a small snap swivel to minimize line twist and kinking in monofilament. Some anglers have utilized the lighter diameter braids on todays market to attain greater casting distance with increased strike indication.
Often, the use of a flourocarbon leader at 6-pound test can boost strikes from keen-eyed trout in clear water conditions. Ideally, Ultralight spinning gear is used for chucking these bantamweight lures during the fall.
I found out, quite by accident, that the standard “float and fly” tactic that is so popular for panfish and other species can be a dynamite tool for fall trout as well. The exception is that jig sizes and floats should be down-sized for most situations for trout. This is essentially the spin fisherman’s answer to the fly anglers “indicator nymph” efforts by suspending a tiny, generically accurate hair jig to trout that are feeding on any number of insects, stone flies or aquatics during the late fall/early winter period.
Trout jigs tend to be larger than most flies yet are still considered tiny by most spin fishermen. We have had great success with 1/64th and 1/80th ounce hair jigs with mostly dark patterns of black, brown and olive taking the majority of the fish. Recently, I have experimented with bead-head creations on #10 and #12 hooks that shine for panfish and are also deadly on hatchery trout as well.
Remember, these micro-jigs “generically” represent any number of food items on the fish’s menu and often exact duplication of a particular insect is not necessary. I tie most of mine from jigs I purchase from Chuck & Deb’s on the internet … a warehouse of lure components that have many tiny jig options, painted and unpainted, and with or without stronger hooks, which I favor.
One thing we like to do is bend down the barbs of the jig hook which aids in hook penetration on the set. Additionally, it makes unhooking the trout much easier and if by some chance you get a hook in your hand, well, it makes it easier unhooking you, too!
Floats styles can vary but keep them small. I like the Plasti-Lite oval float of ¾ inch in diameter. The Comal weighed floats at 1.25 inches are also a good choice. Some anglers use the classic Adjust-A-Bubble, fill it with water, and make long cast to insect-feeding trout in lakes and ponds where distance is needed for success.
Light weight braided lines can be used here and monofilament or fluorocarbon leaders attaches with a small barrel swivel to allow the longer casts and better hooksets. The bubble is threaded on the braided mainline and can be raised or lowered by twisting the rubber core.
Tipping jigs with bait is optional, and often not needed. However, items like mealworms, wax worms, Gulp! products or salmon eggs can be used as an enticement if the trout are finicky.
If you must, Power Bait
One of the largest selling local fishing items each year is the huge variety of Berkley Power Bait trout baits that come in a jar and practically every color and shade of the rainbow. Some are in the form of small, marshmallow-style nuggets but most are a gummy paste that can be formed into a small ball that you burry your hook into. Among the hatchery trout crowd, they are the mainstay and have likely accounted for more limits of stocked trout than any other bait or lure option.
Let’s face it — they work! And with most venues being put and take regulations the goal is to provide fun, sport, and a meal for the trout anglers in our region.
Most Power Bait items float, so you can put a couple split shots 16-inches up the line and they will hover just above the bottom where many trout roam. Hook sizes should be #10 or #12 and baits should cover the entire hook. The only drawback is that almost all Power Bait fish swallow the hooks, so when you are done catching your limit you need to stop. Catch and release areas traditionally do not permit any form of bait, live or commercially made, so always check the local regulations for each water you fish.