How deep do trout live? (Do big trout live deeper?)

Have you ever wondered about the depths at which trout reside and feed in our lakes and rivers? Join us on an intriguing journey as we uncover the secrets on just how deep do trout feed.

Picture this, you are floating over the middle of the lake, you check the fish finder and see the bottom is 500ft away, it might even be so deep that the sounder can not even get a proper signal.

What actually lives at such depths, and is it worth dropping a jig down several hundred feet in the hopes of hooking a monster trout lurking in the dark depths?

In this article, I will answer these questions and more.

How Deep do Rainbow trout live

Rainbow trout, according to the Fishbase online database, are known to inhabit waters ranging from 0 to 200 meters (656 feet) deep. The maximum depth information is derived from the Catalog of marine and freshwater fishes of the northern part of the Sea of Okhotsk, published in Vladivostok: Dalnauka, 2003. However, due to the unavailability of this specific book, it is challenging to verify the accuracy of the maximum depth reported. Nevertheless, independent records suggest that rainbow trout have been caught at depths of up to 82 meters (270 feet), which still exceeds the typical fishing depths for anglers.

In general, rainbow trout exhibit a preference for feeding in the top 20 meters (65 feet) of the water column. This is because the upper layers receive more light and are biologically more active, providing a greater abundance of potential food sources for the trout.

The depth at which a rainbow trout is found is primarily determined by water temperature and oxygen levels. Rainbow trout thrive in water temperatures below 21 degrees Celsius and require oxygen levels greater than 2.5 grams per square meter. During the summer, water temperature usually determines the minimum depth at which rainbow trout can be found, while oxygen levels determine their maximum depth. As a result, their range is often limited to the upper layer of warm water and the lower layers with lower oxygen levels.

Do Bigger Trout Live Deeper?

The notion that bigger trout consistently live deeper in a lake is not well supported by evidence. In general, trout, regardless of their size, tend to coexist within the livable zone of the water column and follow the availability of food.

However, there have been intriguing stories that suggest exceptions to this pattern. For example, in Lake Lokvarsko in Croatia, a man-made reservoir formed by damming a small stream, an extraordinary discovery was made during a lake drainage for maintenance. Over 50 brown trout weighing over 10kg (22lb) were found stranded on the lake floor. Among them was a colossal trout weighing 25.50kg (56.22lb), surpassing the current world record. This discovery astounded the local community who had regularly fished the lake without any knowledge of such massive fish lurking in the depths.

Similar accounts of massive trout living deep in certain Austrian lakes have also been reported. These trout are said to primarily inhabit deeper waters and only venture into shallower areas during the spawning season. One notable instance involved a trout caught in a net that weighed a staggering 75lb.

These exceptional cases demonstrate that there can be instances where large trout may occupy deeper waters, potentially eluding the knowledge of anglers. It highlights the intriguing nature of trout behavior and the mysteries that lie beneath the surface of lakes.

While it cannot be generalized that bigger trout consistently live deeper, these anecdotes remind us that surprises may await beneath the depths of certain bodies of water, with remarkable specimens existing beyond our expectations.

How Deep Do Brown Trout Live

Brown trout (Salmo trutta) generally prefer to inhabit shallower waters, staying close to the surface. However, some individuals have been known to complete dives down to depths of around 90 feet (28 meters). It is worth noting that this figure is often quoted from a Norwegian study monitoring the movement of sea trout in a fjord, and its applicability to lake-dwelling brown trout is uncertain.

In specific cases, the Ferox strain of Brown Trout, found in deep glacier lakes across the British Isles, is known to be deep divers. Radio-tracked Ferox Trout have been recorded diving as deep as 100 feet (30 meters) while hunting Arctic Char. These instances demonstrate exceptions within the species.

Determining the maximum depth at which brown trout can be found is challenging due to limited information available. The survivability of brown trout at varying depths is heavily influenced by water temperature and oxygen levels.

When targeting brown trout, it is generally more effective to fish in shallower waters, such as along lake margins and shorelines. Even during the hotter summer months when brown trout seek out deeper water, they are typically found holding around the 30-foot mark.

It is important to note that within the broader species complex of brown trout, there are diverse populations with different behaviors and adaptations. For instance, one outlier species, Salmo carpio, can be found living between depths of 200 to 300 meters in Lake Garda, Northern Italy. This unique brown trout displays behavior reminiscent of lake trout, including spawning around deepwater fissures. Unfortunately, pollution and overfishing have critically endangered this distinct brown trout population.

In conclusion, while brown trout are capable of diving to depths of 90 feet, it is not the typical depth to find them. They primarily reside and feed within the first few feet of the surface, with variations observed within specific populations and environmental conditions.

How deep do Lake Trout live?

The deepest living trout in North America is the Siscowet variation of Lake Trout. In scientific studies they have been caught as deep as 1300ft (405m), although in Lake Superior they seem most abundant between 300 to 600 feet (90-180m).

Lake trout, specifically the Siscowet variation, are known to inhabit some of the deepest waters in North America. Scientific studies have captured Siscowet lake trout at astonishing depths of up to 1300 feet (405 meters). However, in Lake Superior, where they are most abundant, they tend to be found within the range of 300 to 600 feet (90-180 meters). These depths present a significant challenge for recreational anglers, as they are well beyond the typical fishing ranges.

Lake Superior and the Great Slave Lake are notable for harboring populations of lake trout that occupy these extreme depths. The unique characteristics of these lakes, including their immense size and profound depths, provide the ideal habitat for lake trout to thrive in such deep waters.

When targeting lake trout, fishermen often employ specialized techniques to reach these depths. Trolling heavy spoons, such as large flutter spoons or deep-diving crankbaits, is a common approach. These lures are designed to reach and maintain depths where lake trout are likely to be feeding. Downriggers are frequently utilized to precisely control the depth at which the lures are presented, allowing anglers to effectively target lake trout at specific depths.

Jigging is another popular technique for lake trout fishing. Anglers use heavy jigs, often equipped with soft plastic or feathered trailers, and work them vertically to imitate baitfish or trigger the predatory instincts of lake trout. This method is particularly effective when fishing around underwater structures such as drop-offs, rocky points, or submerged reefs where lake trout are known to congregate.

It’s worth noting that lake trout behavior can vary depending on factors such as water temperature, time of year, and prey availability. Understanding the specific patterns and preferences of lake trout in a particular body of water can greatly enhance the angler’s success.

Do bigger Lake Trout live deeper?

When it comes to Lake Trout, there is evidence to suggest that larger individuals can be caught throughout their depth range. These fish are known to exhibit movement up and down the water column in search of food, as long as temperature and oxygen levels are suitable.

Interestingly, studies have found terrestrial insects in the stomachs of Lake Trout caught in even the deepest parts of lakes. This indicates that these deep-water fish are capable of ascending towards the surface to feed. It suggests that Lake Trout, regardless of their size, are not restricted to residing solely in deep waters.

While it is true that smaller fish tend to be less abundant at extreme depths, there isn’t necessarily a corresponding increase in the number of larger Lake Trout. This suggests that the presence of larger Lake Trout is not solely determined by the depth they inhabit.

How deep do trout typically feed?

Trout typically feed within a few feet of the surface in the upper part of the water column, where their primary food sources are concentrated.

Renowned fisheries biologist Dr. Robert J. Behnke, in his book “Trout and Salmon of North America,” stated that trout in lakes and rivers typically feed in the upper regions of the water column, where most of their prey is found. This suggests that trout prioritize areas where food availability is highest.

According to Richard W. Brooks’ book “Trout Stream Insects,” trout often feed in the top few feet of the water column, targeting areas where aquatic insects and other food organisms are concentrated. This highlights their propensity to focus their feeding activities in the shallower regions of their habitat, where an abundance of prey can be found.

Fly fishing expert Gary Borger, in his book “Presentation: A Guide to Fly Fishing,” emphasizes the significance of surface feeding behavior in trout. He notes that trout take most of their food from the surface film, particularly in rivers. This underscores the fact that trout frequently target insects and other food sources near or on the water’s surface.

In addition to trout’s tendency to feed in the top few feet of the water column, it’s worth noting that they also spend significant time at deeper depths, particularly when seeking shelter or resting in the bottom of deep pools. While these trout may not be actively feeding, they can still be enticed to strike with the right presentation and angling techniques. When selecting a lure, try and select one which will trigger the trout’s aggression rather than feeding instinct.


Here is the maximum depth where various species of trout have been found.

Trout SpeciesMaximum depth
Rainbow trout656ft
Brown trout90ft*
Lake trout1300ft
Maximum reported depths of trout species

*One very localized species of brown trout have been reported to live close to 1000ft. Salmo trutta the most common brown trout live relatively shallower.

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