Trout Fishing At Night: 9 Best Guide Tips And Tactics

a brown trout caught while trout fishing at night
My dog investigating a brown trout caught while trout fishing at night.

I used to offer guided trips to all anglers that wanted to experience the thrill of trout fishing at night, however, it became very clear that there are issues and potential hazards associated with fishing for trout at night. These issues make it very difficult for anglers to land trout in the dark.

I was able to figure out how to make things easier for my clients and I was able to increase the amount of trout they caught after dark. I’ll share my tips and advice with you here.

Trout do bite at night, and after dark can be the best time of day to catch trout if you use the write methods, baits, or lures. It’s also important to consider safety when fishing dark nights.

Do Trout Bite at Night?

a brook trout caught while trout fishing at night
A brook trout caught while trout fishing at night, a good camera with night mode or a good flash is a must have for taking pictures like this.

Often, especially during the warmer months of the year, trout do bite at night and they can even feed more at night than they do during the day. Although they feed at night, night fishing for trout can be more difficult for many anglers.

I’ll try to shed some light on fishing for trout in the dark.

Are Trout More Active at Night?

A brown trout caught while trout fishing at night, a good camera with night mode or a good flash is a must have for taking pictures like this.
A brown trout caught while trout fishing at night, a good camera with night mode or a good flash is a must have for taking pictures like this.

There are so many factors that determine if trout are more active at night. In some cases trout will be more active, in other cases trout will be less active, and in some cases, trout can be equally active at night time as they are during the day.

There are times when trout will be more active one night, but not active the next night.

Best Time To Fish For Trout At Night

The best time to fish for trout at night is during the full moon, or the 4 nights before and 4 nights after the moon is full. Trout seem to be more aggressive during this time and the extra moonlight creates better night vision.

Moonless night fishing can also be good but it’s much harder for anglers to see.

Cloudy nights are also tough and will make it darker and harder to fish.

Why Do Trout Bite More At Night?

The 3 primary reasons trout bite more at night are:

  1. More Food: Just before dark, it’s common to have increased insect activity. Moths, crickets, mosquitos, and even mayflies can be active and all of these insects can end up in the river. This can also increase feeding from baitfish and smaller trout which can then turn on the big trout. It’s also common to have more worms around at night, hence the name Nightcrawler worms.
  2. Daytime Pressure From Anglers: on some rivers where the angler pressure is high, trout will stop feeding or feed less during the day and they will become more nocturnal and feed mostly at night. It’s often the largest and wisest trout that will feed more at night when pressured.
  3. Cooler Water Temperature: During the heat of the summer, the most suitable water temperature for trout activity and feeding will occur the last hour before dark, through the night, and into the first three to four hours after sunrise. This can mean trout will feed more through the night.

The Downside To Night Fishing For Trout

A nice trout river with wood along the banks
Rivers with a lot of wood in the water and along the banks, and with overhanging tress are very tough to fish in the dark. It’s best to fish wide open rivers at night.

There are some downsides to night fishing you should seriously consider before you decide to make a fishing trip after dark:

  • Vision: You can’t see crap at night, and it’s even darker when you are in forested areas. You are more likely to fall which includes falling down banks, falling in holes or depressions on the trail or in the river, getting jabbed by branches in the face is more likely, you can get lost or losing the trail easier, you are more likely to hook things like trees, logs, the bank, yourself.
  • Casting and Targeting Trout: If you can’t see the bank or the river, it’s much harder to cover the water properly and this makes fishing harder.
  • Strike Detection: It is much harder to see your line or your float so detecting bites when bait fishing is very difficult.
  • Tangles: This is one of the toughest things, especially for less experienced anglers. Tangles are much more prevalent when you can’t see a thing and they are much harder to fix in the dark.

Tips For Night Fishing For Trout

After many trips on the water, I figured out how to make things easier and how to catch more nighttime trout.

  • Fish Known Water: I highly suggest primarily going to a fishing spot or areas where you already fish frequently. Going to new water is a big mistake and dangerous since you can more easily get lost on the way in or out, and you risk getting in over your head in water if you don’t know the deep spots, where to cross safely, or even where the trou hold.
  • Head Lamp and Extra Batteries: There are some really good and really bright headlamps that you can use for fishing in the dark. These are a must for walking on the trails, crossing the river, netting, and releasing fish, have extra batteries because trying to find your way back in the pitch black can be tough and dangerous. Some anglers like red light headlamps which are good while fishing if you plan to leave the light on the entire time. However, a bright light is best on the trails.
  • Move Slower: Slow down both on the trail and when in the river. Trout can still get spooked at night.
  • Tell A Freind: Be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you will be back in case of an emergency or you get into some trouble.

Where To Locate Trout At Night

An image diagram showing all the potential holding spots for fish to hold in a river.
Learn the river well during the day so you know where to locate trout at night, and so you can be safer.

Small trout do not move far from their daytime locations when they feed at night simply because a wandering smaller fish can easily become prey to a larger fish.

Little trout tend to stay out of big fish water. Even small minnows tend to stay put at night when big trout are on the prowl.

Big trout feed differently at night. What I have noticed is that big trout that are held up and resting in deep holes during the day begin moving shallower and will cruise to other spots of the river in search of food. These large trout know where to locate prey, and often, the prey stays out of the deep holes where the trout tend to be during the day.

Large trout tend to move into shallower water, even as shallow as 6 inches of water in search of smaller fish, small minnows, crawfish, and anything else they can eat.

Bigger fish tend to start moving out of hard to fish spots like undercut banks starting with low light conditions at dusk and throughout the night.

How To Fish For Trout At Night

I fish at night using all methods of trout fishing however it is important to adjust those methods so they are still productive for night fishing when the trout can’t see as well.

The methods you should use when trout fishing at night are:

  • Float Fishing: Drifting bait slowly down the river under a float is one of the best methods of catching trout at night.
  • Fly Fishing At Night: Fly fishing can also be very good at night, however, you really need o know your surroundings or your fly will end up in more trees and bushes than in the mouths of trout.
  • Lure Fishing: Lure fishing at night is also a great way to catch big trout in the dark. It is best to use lures that trout will see, hear, and be able to grab in the dark.
  • Drift Fishing and Bottom Bouncing: Drift fishing and bottom bouncing are very good methods for drifting baits without a float and these methods can be very effective at night, however, it can be very difficult to detect bites in the dark.

Check Out: Best Trout Fishing Rigs.

Bait Fishing Tips and Advice For Night Fishing

The bottom fishing rig for trout fishing at night or during the day.
Trout can be roaming at night so still fishing can be a good option. This bottom fishing rig for trout fishing at night or during the day is good.

Bait fishing at night might be the most effective method for browns and other trout species.

This is because the bait moves slowly and the bait might also have a scent that the trout can detect in the dark.

Using a good river-style float is the best way to bait fish for trout at night and will help you catch more fish.

Pay more attention to slower deeper water where your bait will move slower past the fish and be seen easier.

Best Bait for Trout Fishing at Night

The Worm Is A Great Trout Bait
The worm is a great trout bait but only if it’s the right size and it’s presented well.

The best bait for trout fishing and night are baits that are live or organic that omit a scent. Trout have a keen sense of smell, especially at night when their sight is impaired.

The best baits that work for me are small to medium-sized worms, spawn sacs, grubs, maggots, leeches, crayfish, and minnows.

Try to focus your efforts on slower water where the trout will have more opportunity to see the bait.

Trout Fishing At Night With Worms

A worm on a rock about to fall into the river

Live worms are often my go-to bait for trout night fishing. Be sure you don’t make the rookie mistake of balling your worm up on the hook.

This looks natural to the trout and will often be ignored by larger smarter trout.

Instead, hook the live worm once or twice through the body of the worm so the worm still has movement and stays alive. This creates a larger profile that can be detected by trout easier. This more natural presentation will get more trout to bite.

Check out my article on Fishing With Worms for more details on the best hooks, hook sizes, and effective rigging.

Lure Fishing For Trout At Night

An assortment of my best trout lures.
Lures with rattles like these crankbaits or spinner that produce vibration are the best lures for trout fishing at night.

Lure fishing for trout at night can be very effective if you follow a few simple rules.

  1. Straight Lures: Use lures that move straight, and don’t jerk or twitch your lures. Straight-moving lures are easier for trout to key in on and grab.
  2. Use Noisy Lures: Noisy lures like spinners that have a lot of vibration or lures with rattles will often get more trout to bite. The reason is they can sense the lure through their lateral line and this will enable them to grab the lure even if they can barely see it. trout have sensitive lateral lines so even non-noisy lures can be detected, just not as easily.
  3. Go Slow: Slow-moving lures, or lures you can retrieve supper slow are best. The slow movement allows the fish to spot and grab the lure.
  4. Go Big: Bigger lures are easier for the trout to detect, therefore I will upsize my lure by 1 to 2 inches. Also, since night fishing is a good time for the biggest trout, don’t be afraid to go as big as 6 inches long.

Best Lures For Trout Fishing At Night

A rainbow trout with a lure in its mouth.
Spinners are one of the best lures for night fishing for trout.

Some lures are much more effective for trout fishing at night.

Slow-moving lures like Kwickfish that still have an enticing wobble and some have a rattle, lures like crankbaits, and in-line spinners like Mepps and Vibrax spinners are all good options.

Some anglers will add a stinger hook to their lure but I have not found this to be any more effective. Check out: Best Lures For Trout.

Topwater Lures For Night Time Trout Fishing

Topwater lures are a great option at night, not only are they easier for the angler to detect and use, but they are also easier for trout to detect and bite.

Trout are also less weary in the dark and large trout that would not rise or break the water surface and give away their location in the daylight will often smash a lure on the surface in the dark.

Topwater lure fishing at night for trout can be very exciting and rewarding.

Lure Colors For Fishing Trout at Night

My best color for fishing trout at night is solid black, but the problem is that it’s hard to find solid black lures. I’ve been known to spray paint some of the lures black and I use them for night fishing. FYI, black works in the daytime too.

Since black lures are hard to obtain, if you are using noisy lures, any color will work in the dark, however, my experience is that dark colors and even solid black tend to work best at night. At night it’s more about a dark silhouette that gets their attention.

Fly Fishing At Night

I have done plenty of fly fishing at nighttime trout fishing so let me be clear, I do not recommend it for newer fly fishermen.

My experience with newer anglers is that they end up with their flies in trees behind them or beside them, they tangle a lot more, and they really struggle to catch fish due to the darkness and not being able to see their surrounding.

All of this and that is with a guide like me pointing out the issues and directing them. A new angler fly fishing at night is usually a disaster with no fish and a bad experience.

If you are experienced, fishing nymphs, dry flies, and streamers can be very effective.

Best Flies for Night Fishing

Mouse patterns are many fly anglers go to flies for big fish after the sun sets or just before dark. The reason is that it’s a topwater fly that is easier for the angler and the fish to see which makes it easier to use and the hits you get are about as exciting as it gets.

Mouse fly fishing can bring up some of the largest trout in the river.

I mentioned earlier about using red lights which is a good artificial light that can help you keep your eye on the fly.

Nymphs like big stoneflies or mayflies are another good option.

Dry flies can be very effective especially if there was a hatch at dusk.

I also tend to use larger flies at nighttime fishing for the same reason, bigger is seen better.

Colors That Trout See Best at Night

What might go against most trout anglers would belief or understanding is that I tend to fish darker patterns at night. Most anglers would think bright flies would be best, but dark or even black flies are often better at night because the trout can see the silhouette of the fly better.

Do Stocked Trout Bite at Night?

Stocked trout will often bite at night but only after they have spent a few weeks acclimating themselves to their new surroundings. Daylight hours tend to be best for first-year stocked trout, but if the trout have survived two or more years they will start to act more like wild trout.

Can You Catch Trout at Night With PowerBait?

Catching trout at night with Powerbait is possible, but the only reason I’ve added this is that I get asked this all the time, and although it won’t be the answer that many fishermen want to hear, I will tell you the same thing I tell my best clients.

Powerbait is my least favorite bait during the nighttime and also during the daytime however some anglers like it, and at times the trout want it. Some Powerbaits are better than others. I highly recommend using a high-percentage good bait only and sticking with live bait or organic natural bait.

There is a reason why most top guides DO NOT use Powerbait for trout, if it was really as good as they say it is, most guides would use it.

Brown Trout At Night

Brown trout are likely the most cautious trout of all species of trout, and because of this they are the most likely to stop feeding during the day due to angling pressure and they are most likely to feed more at nighttime.

Rainbow Trout At Night

Rainbow trout will also be active and feed at night time. I tend to do best the first 3 hours after dark and then find the rainbows seem to stop feeding. Now, if there is a major hatch, the rainbow trout bite at night can continue all night long.

Brook Trout At Night

Brook trout are one of my favorite trout to fish for at night. The big brookies that seem to disappear will start wandering into shallow water in search of food. This is when a slowly presented streamer fly will work well.

Trout Fishing At Night Q&A

If you have any questions or want to share some advice on trout fishing at night, let us know in the comment section below.

Tight Lines

Graham

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4 Comments

  1. Dear Graham,
    Hi,
    Thank you for sharing your valuable tips. i go fish mountain lake and night is very active time i bring earth worm and power bait with myself maybe interesting to know how effective is BERKLEY GULP during night !! its water base and spread garlic taste very well sometime can not wait just after draw bait bite and bite! try for lake i bet you never disappointed !

    Regards,
    Reza

    1. Hey Reza,

      I can’t say i have a lot of experience night fishing with powerbait and gulp, especially on lakes or ponds. They do work on streams. I should have 3 new articles on Powerbait fishing for trout, steelhead, and salmon, in the next few days. Please let me know how you do, good luck

      Graham

      1. Dear Graham,

        Thank you for your time and reply. I’m spinner fisherman in fact, but what attracted me within past years, was efficiency of berkley in night fishing at least in mountain lake which i go most. It has both wild brown and rainbow species and after dark in summer is most productive time. I tried ground worm as well but frankly, powerbait works for me much more better. I use simple runner rig with slider sinker , triple hook #14 that’s it.I use garlic candy gulp right after dark as it is water base spread better taste but less longer compare with powerbait which is oil base. I renew it every 20 minutes.

        Regards,
        Reaz