Stock trout are easy to catch on stocking day, often willing to feed, and will take a bait within minutes of leaving the truck. The best location to target stock trout on release day is at the release site.
For many anglers, stock trout are the bread and butter of trout fishing. Not only are they easy to catch, but they are usually stocked in very convenient locations such as urban ponds and lakes with excellent accessibility.
Best time on stocking day to catch a trout?
If you hope to catch a trout on stocking day, I suggest to arrive early. Stocking day is a very popular time to fish and lakes can quickly become crowded. It is not unheard that some fishermen wait at the hatchery to follow the stocking trout straight to the fishery.
So, on stocking day. It is best to arrive early to secure a spot close to the planned release site.
Ideally, I will aim to arrive even before the truck. This gives you the best chance of securing a prime spot. Once the truck arrives, and the hatchery fish released news travels fast, within minutes there can be a steady stream cars and trucks full of anglers hoping to catch a feed.
Stock trout are not fed prior to release meaning they are very hungry
Stock trout are not normally fed the day prior to release. That is to prevent them from messing up the water quality in the hatchery tanks. These trout are used to getting fed several times per day so are very hungry, and hence very easy to catch shortly after release.
There is also a myth that goes around, that stock trout prior to release are treated with an appetite suppression chemical to prevent them from feeding, commonly called ‘No bite’. This is not true and is just an urban legend.
Claim the best spot, but be prepared to move
It is usually the best idea to get a spot close to where the stocking is due to happen, and most of the time stock trout do stick around their release location for a while.
But stock trout are still living creatures, and while they might not seem like it at times. They still have minds of their own so sooner or later they are going to swim off and explore their new home.
If everyone around you suddenly stops catching, but people further around the shore start catching more suggests the main school is on the move. If this happens, it can be worthwhile packing up and moving to a spot much closer to where the school is currently holding.
But, I do not move too quickly. Wait a bit and just monitor the action, stock trout do swim around quite randomly at times and chances are within minutes they might return to the familiarity of the released site.
What happens on stocking day?
The exact method of stocking does differ somewhat based on the equipment used. The most common setup I have seen is that a hatchery truck parks close to the water edge, often at a boat ramp.
Then the staff will attach a large hose into the holding tank and the trout will pour out of the truck into the lake. Then they usually go crazy swimming and sometimes jumping all over the place for a few minutes until they adjust to their new home.
In some more difficult to access fisheries, the staff will carry net loads of fish to the water edge before throwing them.
In remote mountain lakes, small trout are sometimes dropped from a helicopter. Such flying trout are usually fingerlings and are much too small to catch on stocking day.
Here is a video showing trout getting stocked in Pennsylvania.
How fast and far do trout move from the stocking location?
This entirely depends on the fish, and if anything spooks the schools.
In my experience, a few trout always dart away and are gone. They could turn up miles away within a few hours. While, many, maybe the majority do stick around to explore their new home.
By the next morning, most of the trout have dispersed over a much wider area so some leg work might be required to find them.
Once, in my home town. The local fish and game stocked several hundred trout and jurvenile salmon for a kid’s fishing event. The night before, they released them into a netted-off section of a river. They had voluneeters there to make sure no one poached the fish overnight.
The next morning, every single trout and salmon were gone. They found a small opening and took the opportunity to escape into the main river and were off. I did walk the river bank a few times over the following week and there was no sign of them. I suspect they all rocketed miles downstream into a difficult access portion of the river. So, when stock trout want to, they can easily more signficant distance between themselves and the stocking site.
When is stocking day?
It is best to check the website of your local fish and game or fishery department. While they do always give specific times, they usually advertise a stocking schedule well in advance.
Failing that, the local fishing outfitters usually know when the stockings are planned. They are also a great place to gain some first hand knowledge on what lures or baits have been working.
Another great place to check is local fishing groups or Facebook pages. Often a helpful member will post when nearby stockings are about to occur.
Is it sporting to fish for stocked trout on release day?
Stock trout are bred to be caught and usually eaten. So it is not unsporting to target them on stocking day because that is what they are bred for.
What is the best bait to catch recently stocked trout?
The best bait to catch recently stock trout is fish pellets. Just like the ones they feed the trout in the hatcheries. It is the only food the stock trout are used to eating.
If you do not want to fish with pellets, then stock trout are rarely fussy. They are bred to be aggressive, hungry and not at all fussy. Some great alternatives to pellets are canned corn, bread, cheese, or if you want something which stays on the hook better check out some of the commercial trout fishing baits such as power baits.
If you want to fish something entirely natural, then a nice juicy worm, nightcrawler, maggot or even cricket are excellent bait that stock trout rarely turn down. Most trout baits can be purchased from local stores.
What is the best spinner for recently stock trout?
They are not fussy and are aggressive. So will often hit anything that grabs their attention. When it comes to lures, I suggest fishing a smaller size Mepps or Panther Martin inline spinner.
If you need slightly more distance then a kastmaster spoon is a great choice.
What are the best flies for catching recently stocked trout?
Again, they are not overly fussy and will hit just about anything. Do not be afraid of splashing the fly down hard, recently released trout are used to going after splashing pellets so they will dart towards any similar sounds.
I usually start with a small streamer and retrieve it slowly through where the schools are holding. Here are some suggestions, but they hit almost anything, with the possible exception of Bee patterns that seem to dominate budget bulk fly packs. I have never seen a trout go after them.
- #8 Squirmy Worm
- #8 Olive Woolly bugger
- #14 pheasant tails
- #14 Hares ear
- #12 Black Gnat
For more information advice on how to catch stock trout on the fly rod check my recent guide here.
Is chumming worthwhile on stocking day?
Chumming is when you throw handfuls of ‘bait’ and fish food into the water to get the trout excited and into a feeding frenzy. A handful of trout pellets can really grab the attention of any nearby trout and bring them into your casting range.
Chumming does work, but it is not a fishing practice I am a big fan of. It was actually illegal where I learned to trout fish, so it has never been a part of my trout fishing arsenal.
The main reason many places ban chumming is that it can be quite polluting to the water quality. Imagine if a few dozen fishermen start throwing handfuls of pellets, corn, or bread into the lake. It can get a bit messy.
Chumming with bread can also bring all the local ducks in that can get a bit annoying.