How To Catch Rainbow Trout In The Winter: 5 Ice Fishing Tips

by Julie | Last Updated:   November 14th, 2022
How To Catch Rainbow Trout In The Winter: 5 Ice Fishing Tips

You don’t have to stop fishing or slow down the search for more fish, especially rainbow trout, just because it’s winter. You’ll catch enough fish using the right method, even during chilly weather.

It is often difficult to get out of a warm house in winter to stand in a chilly river. During this period, fishing can be slow. You will probably get your hands wet sometimes, making it extra difficult. But the rewards can be worthwhile for those willing to take advantage of the weather.

Even though winter trout fishing may slack off a little in the colder months due to the change in water temperatures, it is still possible to catch them. Going to the river in the winter allows you to practice winter fly fishing.

If you are prepared to try fly fishing in the winter, modify your plans and get ready as necessary. This article will discuss how to catch rainbow trout in the winter, and the outcomes will surprise you!

What To Bear In Mind Before Going Winter Fly Fishing

Fishing for trout in the winter is quite different from other seasons. There are a few key things you’d do well to note:

Angler Behaviour

First, you will probably have the river to yourself. During the cold season, most anglers take a few months off to enjoy other hobbies. Some people do not want to deal with the cold. 

You will also have the opportunity to practice a more advanced fly fishing technique. You can also use the time to try out some techniques that you don’t get to use much during the summer.

Feeding Pattern and Behavior of Rainbow Trout

Understanding rainbow trout behavior and foraging patterns is essential for any angler’s success. Rainbow trout are most frequently found during the cold season in two areas. These are the open muddy flats and the submerged weed beds, especially along the edges. In the winter, these are the places where rainbow trout will find enough food and nourishment.

To get the best results when fly fishing, ensure nymphs, larvae, leeches, midges, snails, dry flies, small baitfish, and other insects make up most of the rainbow trout food. However, a dead drift is also an effective way to hit a trout in the face with a fly. But have some Griffith’s gnats and tiny blue wing olive on hand if there is ever a hatch.

Almost invariably, mud flats will contain nymphs and larvae. The rainbow trout will consequently search there as well. Small baitfish are frequently found near deep structures, such as drop-offs, or hidden among weeds.

Ice fishing Tackle For Rainbow Trout

When ice fishing for rainbow trout, the tackle is relatively simple. All you need is a 30 to 36 inches long rod with a light to medium light action, depending on the size of the fish in the lake or river.

The majority of fishermen load 4-pound test fluorocarbon lines into their reels. Many manufacturers sell lines made especially for fishermen who fish beneath the ice. In colder weather, these types of equipment produce better results.

Locating Rainbow Trout Under Ice

In general, broad, shallow flats and shoals are the most significant places to look for rainbow trout when trout fishing. In the winter, the most feed will be found in these vast expanses with muddy bottoms and weed beds. Although every lake is different, areas between 5 and 10 feet deep are ideal locations for rainbow trout.

Furthermore, winter trout can be seen cruising along the edges of weed beds when there is a moderate flow from dams. You can also find winter trout on the gravel bars above and below deep pools.

Also, the metabolism of winter trout slows down in the cold. They eat less and look for ways to save energy, like getting away from strong currents and into calmer waters. As a result, winter trout can also be found in back eddies, off-channel regions, and inside current seams.

Popular Winter Trout Fishing Techniques

How to catch rainbow trout in the winter

Adopt New Fishing Methods

Winter fishing for rainbow trout differs slightly from other species. They are frequently located in relatively shallow water. As an angler, you may have to restrategize your fish-catching methods.

Many successful rainbow trout anglers get on the water as soon as the sun comes up and begin drilling holes. They may move as gently as possible without making noise while drilling new holes. By the time it’s late morning, your prey may already be agitated and more difficult to reel in.

When ice fishing for rainbow trout, you should start with shallow holes and gradually work your way into deeper water. Anglers do not need to go any deeper once the outer border of weed beds or the steeper drop-off is found. Rainbow trout can frequently be caught in shallow water – a few feet below the ice.

Watch this video to learn the methods to catch rainbow trout in winter:

Focus On Shallow Water

When ice fishing for rainbow trout, it’s a good idea to start in shallow water early in the day. And go into deeper water as the sun rises higher in the sky. Rainbow trout are most active early in the morning.

Like other game fish, they are also active late in the afternoon and even at night. Fish may spend the entire day in shallow water on cloudy days. By midday, most fish are found cruising in 15 to 20 feet of water along the deeper edges. The trend will change as nightfall draws near, and fish migrate to shallow waters to feed once more.

Be Patient

When ice fishing, moving around frequently is essential to success. However, this is less true when hunting rainbow trout.

Naturally, the best strategy is to wait patiently in one place and either tempt the fish. Generally, it is not productive to keep hopping from hole to hole.

This does not imply, however, that when you are ice fishing for rainbow trout, you should remain stationary for the day.

Generally, a good strategy for winter trout fishing is to start in 3 to 5 feet of water early in the day and then gradually move deeper. Fishing is a different activity every day, so you must keep in mind that you’re fishing in the winter with a cooler water temperature.

Use Live Bait

Use live bait when ice fishing for rainbow trout. Mealworms, wax worms, spikes, and small live minnows are the ideal live baits for fishermen ice fishing for rainbow trout.

All of these are easily accessible at tackle stores that equip ice fishermen. Using a little hook, you can offer live bait to rainbow trout. To lower the bait to the required depth, use a tiny split shot.

While artificial lures are great, you’d also benefit from using live bait. This is because it includes the benefits of both types of bait. The head or tail of a minnow, waxes, mealworm, or tiny jigs can all be used as tips. A little minnow on the end of a small spoon is a compelling combination to catch rainbow trout in winter.

Use A Spoon

Use lures when ice fishing for rainbow trout. Rainbow trout can be caught using the same fundamental lures used by fishermen when ice fishing for other species. Tiny jigs can be quite productive when fishing slightly off the bottom or just above the tops of submerged weed beds. 

If necessary, anglers can place a little split shot 18 inches above the jig. Using spoons as lures when ice fishing for rainbow trout is quite effective. Even though jigs are the most common ice fishing lure, spoons work better on rainbow trout for several reasons.

Since they are more active than most other species, rainbow trout will react favorably when a larger lure is used forcefully. Furthermore, they frequently desire larger food, which the spoon symbolizes. 

What’s more? In the middle of the day, when rainbow trout are cruising in deeper water, spoons are highly effective. Anglers should place the spoon about 5 feet below their ice fishing hole.

A few feet of the line can be released, and the process can be repeated after vigorously jigging it for several minutes. The spoon should be aggressively bounced against the bottom multiple times before being raised about a foot above before an angler quits on the fishing hole. Occasionally, agitating the bottom will stir up forage and draw rainbow trout.

Watch this video to learn how to catch rainbow trout with spoon:

Key Insights & Takeaways

Winter trout fishing is often considered slow fishing. This is because learning how to catch rainbow trout in the winter can be quite challenging. You only need to understand the factors that will influence your success. When you apply your knowledge of these factors, you will get the best fishing experience.

Winter trout fishing is about being outside. So, make sure to enjoy the solitude and challenge your fishing skills. It’s not always about catching a lot of trout. There’s still plenty of time to catch loads of fish later in the year.

Furthermore, you’ll need to be aware of everything your prey does. This will include their habits, behaviors, foods, location, tackle, etc. To catch more rainbow trout in winter, or anytime you visit the rivers, focus on slow, clear water to get your best fly fishing results.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best bait for trout in the winter?

There are several baits an angler can use when fishing rainbow trout in the cold season. However, rainbow trout are more likely to eat fish eggs, minnows, crayfish, crane fly larvae, wax worms, and other insect larvae.

What is the best time to catch winter trout?

If you wish to catch rainbow trout in the winter, the best time to do so is in the morning. You may also enjoy some luck by fishing late in the evening or at night.

Do Rainbow trout eat in the winter?

Rainbow trout will feed in the winter, especially in temperatures below 40 degrees. However, they’d the found in areas with an abundance of food supply.

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I was fishing before I could walk and it's been a family tradition for centuries. Fishing is my life, or at least as long as I can remember. In the Lake Champlain International Fathers Day Fishing Derby, not only have I won first place twice but also third place! Also, in addition to majoring in Wilderness Recreation Leadership, I also happen to be a licensed camping, hiking, and hunting guide for NY.