To many anglers, trout fishing in a recently stocked river or lake sounds like the easiest and most rewarding thing to do. But after the initial rush, what should you do if the freshly stocked trout are not biting?
When stocked trout shut down and don’t bite, try using different baits, such as nightcrawlers, power bait dough, or anything that resembles pellet feed. You’ll also need want to keep a close eye on the weather and target your fishing during stable barometric pressure and low-light conditions.
In this article, I’ll discuss in more detail why stocked trout don’t bite and share some fishing tips that will improve your chances of success.
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Tips & Tactics To Catch Freshly Stocked Trout
Fishing for hatchery trout can sometimes feel like ‘shooting fish in a barrel‘, that is, it can be too easy!
But ask any seasoned trout angler and they will tell you that hatchery trout can turn off, and respond very negatively to increased fishing pressure. Especially in populated and urban settings.
Below are a few tips on how you can catch stocked trout, even after the initial rush.
Know The Stocking Schedule
If you live in an area where trout stocking is common, reach out and find the exact stocking schedule for the lake, river, or creek you want to fish.
Fishery managers usually publish trout stocking schedules in advance. Contact your local biologist and ask when, and where the stocking will take place. Make this on your calendar and prepare!
The first few days after stocking will usually be the best…and many anglers will give up after that. But, trust me there is plenty of trout remaining and ready to be caught long after they’ve been stocked.
Use the Right Fishing Gear
What I mean by that is, choose your fishing gear wisely. Are you going to be trout fishing in a narrow creek with lots of trees? In that case, leave the fly rod at home and grab the ultralight spinner instead.
Are you fishing in a lake with marshy edges? Then you may want to bring a pair of hip waders to gain access to deeper water.
Understanding which gear to bring, and how to use your gear properly is a big component of fishing success.
Watch The Barometric Pressure
Some anglers swear by the effects of barometric pressure, and others dismiss it. I firmly believe it does affect the fish activity and therefore it’s very important when planning my trips.
If the pressure has dropped, the fish will be in deep water columns, hence, this may require you to use slower and highly scented bait.
The Trac Outdoor T3002 Fishing Barometer is easy to calibrate for local pressure, and it has an adjustable pressure change indicator. It has a color-coded dial that shows ‘poor, good & great’ times to go fishing.
You would be surprised at how accurate a tool like this can be!
Employ Different Strategies
Catching freshly stocked trout may require you to use several strategies. If the artificial lures won’t work, try different types of scented baits.
If you’re not getting any bites out deep, then try fishing shallow.
Not getting any bites near the crowds of people? Find a different area that no one is fishing in and give it a try… Mix it up, experiment, and don’t be afraid to try new tactics even if no one else is using them.
Avoid Being Seen
Hatchery trout may be used to seeing people, but that doesn’t mean they won’t respond negatively and shut down. Avoid being seen, use the cover to your advantage.
Something as small as watching your shadow, and planning your approach and cast can be the difference between getting a bite or going home empty-handed.
Go Early & Stay Late
Like all fish, trout are very active during dawn and dusk. Plan your fishing excursions to be on the water early, and if possible stay late.
We’ve all seen that guy walking back to his truck with a bucket full of fish at 7 am…Well, that’s because he was fishing while you were hitting the snooze button!
Best Baits for Stocked Trout
Stocked Trout have a reputation of responding best to certain types of baits. Let’s take a look at some of my favorites:
Worms, or nightcrawlers, are the cheapest, easiest to find, and use. They’re natural baits, and trout, like other fish, highly regard them.
Fresh nightcrawlers work great, but artificial nightcrawlers do very well all season long.
You can never go wrong with Powerbait Dough, as it’s one of the most convenient baits for stocked trout.
Since it’s moldable, you can make pellet-like shapes that will attract the trout. For example, Berkley’s Powerbait Natural Glitter Trout Dough has a bright color and appealing smell that grab the trout’s attention.
This bait is extremely popular because it often resembles the pellet-like feed hatchery trout are used to.
Powerbait Mice Tails
Berkley PowerBait Floating Mice Tails, a combination of a worm-shaped lure and an egg-like head, is a fantastic bait.
The tails are scented and have ridges, making them dance in the water. For great results, use the brightly colored ones and a slip sinker rig.
If you prefer lures or fish in a lake that does not allow artificial or live bait, Fishing spoons are a great way to locate and catch stocked trout.
Inline spinners are the perfect type of lures for stocked trout. Apart from its visual appeal, the spinning blade also produces sounds and vibrations that trigger an instinctive predatory response.
These lures work exceptionally well anywhere there is current, such as creeks, rivers or even stormwater drains, culverts, etc.
You simply cannot beat the effectiveness of good old-fashioned corn. It’s inexpensive, easy to fish with and trout absolutely love it. Pick up a can of whole kernel corn from the grocery store, or try an artificial corn substitute- both are extremely effective.
NOTE: Always check the trout fishing regulations in your area.
So Why Don’t Stocked Trout Bite?
Fishing immediately after stocking has its share of challenges. Consider these trout being raised in crowded hatchery tanks, transported, and then deposited into a lake or creek…it’s not surprising that sometimes those same trout appear stunned, or stop biting altogether.
But why does this happen?
Stocked trout may not bite or be as active due to several external factors, including: How they are transported, changes in their feeding habits, the type of bait used by anglers, barometric pressure, and water temperature shock.
Have you found the best trout fishing spot, but you can’t seem to catch anything? The trout’s feeding behavior is one of the main reasons they aren’t biting very well. It all has to do with what they are used to eating.
Hatchery-reared trout initially have a different feeding behavior from wild trout. They are accustomed to feeding on aquatic pellets, unlike wild trout that fend for themselves. So, stocked trout may not bite some types of bait, including traditional fly lures.
Stocked trout take time to adapt to new environments.
While they may not be suspicious of anglers’ fishing tactics, hatchery trout aren’t used to fending for themselves. Therefore, they will often turn away from conventional baits, especially if it doesn’t grab their attention.
One study on the behavior and survival of freshly stocked trout in several rivers in Wales revealed that trout have poor feeding habits after stocking. For instance, the trout took several weeks to start feeding, and most of them were not feeding well after 40 to 50 days of stocking.
Types of Bait Used
Even though stocked trout are easy to catch, using the wrong bait will diminish your efforts. Freshly stocked trout will not interpret everything as food since they may not have developed preying tactics.
Water temperature significantly affects a stocked trout’s feeding habits. Trout thrive in cool freshwater environments, but when the temperatures rise above 22°C (71.6°F), the water warms up, and oxygen levels decrease.
Therefore, the trout may appear slow and lethargic and will not bite anything.
Temperatures below 10°C (50°F) are also not ideal for feeding. In such cold waters, the trout’s body system slows down, and they will have no energy to feed. In such a situation, even the best bait may seem unappealing to the fish.
Like water temperature, the air pressure (or barometric pressure) impacts fishing.
Barometric pressure refers to the weight that atmospheric air exerts on the earth. Changes in this pressure result in variations in the feeding habits of fish.
So, how does barometric pressure affect a stocked trout’s feeding behavior?
Like other fish, trout will feed heavily under high barometric pressure (during clear weather). The lateral line along their bodies helps them to detect even the slightest change in air pressure.
Therefore, when the barometric pressure suddenly drops, they feel uncomfortable due to the expansion of some organs and dive into the deep waters.
You’ll notice that the stocked trout have stopped biting if the weather suddenly changes and clouds appear. Also, even after the unfavorable weather has passed, the fish will still be slow to eat as they take some time to recover. Hence, you might have to wait longer or use alternative bait.
Fishing in freshly stocked trout lakes is a great way to introduce new and young anglers to the world of fishing.
Heck, it’s a great way for anyone to catch some fish and bring home dinner!
I hope the tips in this article bring you a little luck and make your next fishing trip a success.
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