When fishing for trout over winter. It is best to use lures that have plenty of action on a slow retrieve. That is because trout are sluggish, and less likely to chase after fast moving prey. In winter, trout often hold towards the bottom of deeper pools. For this reason, I prefer to fish lures that sink, such as spoons, spinners, or deep-diving jerk baits.
This article is looking at lures that perform well over winter when the water is still flowing rather than lures for ice fishing. In saying that, many of these lures do perform well when the water is hard.
Can trout be caught over winter?
Many trout fishermen, pack away their rods over winter and take up other activities. Now, I will not claim that winter fishing is easy. In most places, it is certainly challenging, but trout certainly be caught over the winter months. In fact, one of my biggest brown trout was taken on a jerkbait on a miserable winter’s day.
When winter fishing, I generally only fish in the warmest part of the day. So the opposite of summer fishing. I rarely start fishing before 11 am, I want to give the sun time to raise and start warming the surface.
Dress warm when winter fishing
It is important to dress warm, nothing ruins a winter fishing trip faster than cold frozen hands. In winter, I always keep a change of clothing in the car. No matter how careful you are, there is always a chance of ending up in the drink.
I personally like to wear insulated jackets and I have discussed the pros and cons in this article. While layering might be safe. Insulated jackets are simply easier.
One winter morning, I was searching for trout in a small pool and decided to climb up onto a large flat rock to get a slightly better view. Unknown to me at the time, that rock was covered with a thin layer of ice. I instantly lost my footing, my back bounced off the rock, and before I knew I was a couple of feet below the surface. Falling in can happen when you less expect it and takes less than a second.
Luckily, I was wearing wool and was only a few minutes from the car.
I have fallen in more when fishing from the shore than while wading. Always take care, and plan accordingly.
Can I use my summer lures in winter?
The short answer is yes. Your favorite lures from over summer, will likely still work and catch fishing over the colder months.
But, there are some important differences to take into consideration.
When the water is very cold, trout become sluggish. They swim slower and are reluctant to give chase. While in the summer they might happily chase after a kastmaster speeding through the water, that same trout in winter will respond very slowly.
This means lures that have their most effective action at a slow retrieve are the most productive at catching trout over the winter months. When winter fishing, be prepared to retrieve extra slowly.
It is also worth noting. That many of the trout caught over summer are stock fish. In most areas, trout do not get stocked over the winter months. So the only trout which remains are wild fish or cunning holdovers. These trout do have different feeding preferences compared with recently released stockies.
So when selecting your lures, choose patterns that work best on resident fish. The stock trout will not be returning until the spring.
How cold is too cold for trout fishing?
In the summer, most fishermen know that when the water gets too warm. The trout become reluctant to feed, the opposite is true in winter. The optimum water temperature for trout feeding is around 60f. The more it deviates from that, the more difficult fishing becomes.
The lower limits for trout fishing is around 44F (6c), much colder and the fishing becomes difficult. If possible, the trout will seek out warmer waters, either heading deeper into the lake or might even head towards springs that typically flow warmer than lake and freestone rivers over winter.
Basically, the colder the water gets. The less active the trout become, require a slower, more precise presentation to catch them. Winter is not the time of year to be quickly jerking a popper across the surface. Slowing twitch a worm across the bottom works much better.
Where to find trout in winter?
Trout spend the winter months in deeper slower water. They try to stay at the edge of the current while trying to conserve as much energy as possible.
Read this article for more details on how to find trout in winter.
9 Best trout lures for cold water
Yakima Worden’s Flatfish
The flatfish might just be my favorite winter trout lure. The Wordens Flatfish does not get the attention it deserves, but it is one of the best lures when fishing is tough. It works extremely well over winter, because it has plenty of action even at the slowest of retrieves. It was even designed to be fished at a slow speed. A true cold water lure.
The Daredevle is a classic spoon, and just like the Kastmaster is works well jigging close to the bottom. Nice and slow. The more round design, allows it to sink slower, and flatter more than the more aerodynamic kastmaster.
If I want to cast and retrieve a spoon over winter, the Thomas Buoyant is my first choice. The Thomas Bouyant is a slow sinking spoon. This means it takes longer to flatter towards the bottom, increasing the chances a trout will grab it on the drop. The lightness means it can be retrieved slower than most comparable spoons.
Okay, this is a floating lure, but I still like them. I will explain why. I fish Rapalas more than any other trout lure, and the jointed Rapala has the most pronounced action at the slowest retrieve speed. This makes it a it perfect for catching the attention of a slow moving trout. Works well on lake flats, or in shallower water. Do not expect trout to raise to take it.
When winter fishing for trout, you need to play every trick in the book. Joe flies combine the attention grabbing vibration of a spinner, with the realistic appeal of a trailing fly. It is also made light, so good for slow presentations. Best fished in small streams or close to the shore where long casts are not a requirement.
The C.P Swing is a less-known inline spinner. It is also made out of relatively lightweight materials. This allows it to sink slower, which in turn allows for a much slower presentation. I do not fish C.P swings often, but I find they excel for fishing slow moving pools over the colder months.
Blue Fox Vibrax
While a slow presentation usually works best during the winter. Sometimes trout simply hot deep, and to reach them in fast flowing water requires a lure that sinks quickly. The Blue Fox Vibrax sinks fast and gives of plenty of flash. Making it excellent at getting a response from trout.
Inline Spinners are great at catching trout any time of the year.
I love fishing inline spinners for trout, but many of them work best at a slightly faster retrieve. The Mepps Marabou features a large Colorado style blade, which starts spinning at slower speeds than any other blade style. This makes the Mepps Marabou an excellent spinning for fishing slow to sluggish trout.
The Kastmaster is a very versatile lure, when winter fishing. I do not recommend casting and retrieving your kastmasters, but rather slow jig it along the bottom. Bouncing it slowly across the bottom can pick up trout laying low.