Trout Fishing In Reservoirs: 9 Expert Tips and Tactics

Trout Fishing In Reservoirs is great for big trout like this big brown trout I am holding
Trout Fishing In Reservoirs is great for big trout like this big brown trout I am holding

Mastering the art of trout fishing in reservoirs requires understanding the unique behaviors and habitats of the trout and their surroundings.

Whether you’re targeting stocked trout or wild trout populations, using the tactics and techniques that experienced anglers and trout guides employ will ensure you catch more trout.

Even simple things like using the right hook and the right size leader can make a significant difference.

In this guide, we’ll cover how to find trout in open water, where to concentrate your efforts and discover the most productive areas, and discuss various bait rigs, casting lures, and trolling methods that can enhance your chances of landing these elusive fish.

We’ll also provide tips for fishing stocked trout.

1. Locating Reservoir Trout In Open Water

Huge brown trout can be caught when Trout Fishing In Reservoirs

When fishing for trout in reservoirs of various sizes, the key to open-water fishing is to find their preferred habitats.

Unlike rivers and streams, trout in reservoirs tend to move freely rather than forming schools.

These solitary trout are often on the move, searching for cold, oxygen-rich water that offers ample food sources.

In spring and fall, reservoirs with active inflows and outflows, such as those connected to rivers or streams, become prime fishing spots. During these seasons, trout often patrol the near-shore transitions of reservoirs where drop-offs and ledges are accessible.

In summer, trout seek deeper water for cooler temperatures, usually holding close to the thermocline if there is one or near any spring upwellings. When fishing reservoirs, targeting the deepest basin year-round can also be a reliable strategy.

2. Concentrating Your Efforts On Specific Areas Of The Reservoir

Trout Fishing In Reservoirs is great for big brook trout like this one I am holding.

To maximize the chances of hooking trout in the reservoir, it’s essential to focus efforts in the right areas.

Here are some productive locations to consider:

  • Deeper areas: Trout prefer cooler water, so concentrate on fishing in the deeper sections of the reservoir.
  • Fish The Windy Side: The wind, especially strong winds, can create waves on the far side of the reservoir. The more waves, the more oxygen for the trout. Winds and waves can also stir up organisms from the bottom, such as bugs, which can be food for the trout. Bugs can also attract baitfish, which then attracts the trout.
  • Overhanging trees: Trees can provide shelter from the sun and predators. There is also a chance that falling insects from the trees will attract trout that feed on falling insects.
  • Underwater structures: Fallen trees, docks, rocky areas, and other structures offer protection and serve as hunting grounds for smaller fish, which in turn attract trout.
  • Mouths of streams: Highly oxygenated and cooler water near stream mouths can attract trout seeking floating food. Streams can also bring in drifting insects and other food.
  • Dams, weirs, and fountains: These areas bring in highly oxygenated water, making them appealing spots for trout.

3. Shoreline Bait Rigs For Trout In Reservoirs

A bobber rig for trout fishing ponds, lakes, and in reservoirs.
A bobber rig for trout fishing ponds, lakes, and in reservoirs.

When fishing for trout from the shoreline, using appropriate bait rigs can help reach various sections of the water column where trout are likely to be feeding.

Consider the following setups based on the prevailing conditions:

Slip Bobber Rig: Using a slip float rig is a great way to target trout in still water, especially if it’s deeper than 7 feet. By adjusting the depth of the bait using the slip bobber, I can present it at the desired level in the water column.

Depending on trout feeding preferences, bait options include worms, minnows, or leeches. Experiment with different depths to find the most productive range.

A bottom rig for trout fishing ponds, lakes, and in reservoirs.
A bottom rig for trout fishing ponds, lakes, and in reservoirs.

Bottom Rig: This rig works well with floating bait or live bait. Thread an egg sinker or pencil lead and a stopper bead onto the line, followed by a swivel.

Attach a 2-4 ft. leader with a hook and use floating bait or a float bead near the hook to keep the bait off the bottom and in the view of more trout.

The floating bottom rig is highly effective in open water, especially when targeting the thermocline. Once the rig is secure on the bottom, gently tighten the line without pulling and wait.

4. Best Baits For Trout In A Reservoir

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.

I highly recommend using the same effective baits that experienced anglers and trout guides use.

These baits have been proven to work under most conditions and consistently produce results.

The best baits for reservoir trout are:

  • Garden Worms – small to mid-sized worms from 2 to 4 inches are ideal.
  • Salmon Eggs and Trout Eggs – These are also known as spawn sacs or roe bags. They emit a scent and are natural and irresistible to most trout.
  • Grubs and Insects: Grubs and insects make excellent baits. These can include lawn grubs, maggots, mealworms, grasshoppers, crickets, and hellgramites.
  • Minnows and Baitfish: Live or dead minnows or other types of baitfish can be very effective. I find these at many tackle stores and bait shops.
  • Leeches: Trout are fond of leeches, making them a great bait for catching trout.
  • Artificial Baits: Artificial baits are my last choice since they are not always productive in still water, where trout have plenty of time to inspect the bait. However, the best artificial baits for reservoir trout include Berkley Gulp worms and grubs, Powerbaits, and Berkley Trout Dough.

5. Casting Lures For Trout In Reservoirs

An assortment of my lures that I use when trout fishing ponds, lakes, and in reservoirs.
An assortment of my lures that I use when trout fishing ponds, lakes, and in reservoirs.

Casting lures is an effective technique for covering a larger area and exploring different depths of the reservoir. During cooler months, when trout are actively feeding, lures can be particularly successful.

Here are some recommendations:

  • Trout Spinners & Spoons: Casting spinners and spoons allows me to cover the water and quickly locate active trout. Retrieve the lure at a steady pace to mimic baitfish movements. Vary the depth by counting seconds to let the lure sink before retrieval. If I am not getting bites, I will try a rip, twitch, pause-type retrieve to add more action and make the lure resemble an injured baitfish.
  • Trout Crankbaits: Shallow-running and deep-diving crankbaits are great options for targeting trout in reservoirs. Pause the crankbait to suspend it in place or rise slowly, enticing the trout to strike. A rip, twitch, pause retrieve is also effective in attracting more bites. This retrieval technique is similar to how bass fishermen entice more bites from bass and works well for trout too.
  • Soft Plastics and Jigs: Soft plastics can effectively imitate wounded baitfish. Use a quick snap of the line to twitch the bait, simulating a struggling minnow. Add a heavier jig head to achieve more depth and hop and drop the jig off the bottom. Soft plastic lures, such as jigs and grubs, can be worked through the water column with different retrieves, including swimming, jigging, or yo-yo-ing.

Be sure to check out Best Lures For Trout.

6. Trolling for Trout In Reservoirs

Trolling is a useful method for covering large areas of water at different depths in a systematic manner.

This can be done on a motorboat, a canoe, or other small boats. All that is required for trolling is a vessel that can drag the lures at a consistent speed, usually between 1-2 mph.

Here are some tips for successful trolling: Choose the Right Lures: Select spinners, spoons, and crankbaits when trout are actively feeding.

I will change my lure selection based on the trout’s preferences and the prevailing conditions.

Depth Control: Without specialized equipment, trolling close to the surface is most effective. Use lures that run 1-3 ft. below the surface by removing any additional weight. To troll deeper, use deep-diving crankbaits or add split shots spaced 1 ft. apart on your line. Around 3-4 split shots should help your lure reach a depth of 5-8 ft.

Advanced trolling equipment and techniques are necessary for targeting deeper areas, typically during warmer months or in winter when trout reside at greater depths.

7. Fishing Stocked Trout In Reservoirs

Stocked trout act a little differently than wild trout. In many cases, they are easier to catch especially if you know my methods and tactics for fishing stocked trout.

To increase my chances of success, I arrive early at the reservoir that has recently been stocked with trout. After stocking, trout tend to congregate before dispersing, so being among the first to fish gives me an advantage.

Additionally, newly stocked trout take time to adjust to their new surroundings and are more likely to bite on baits that resemble their familiar food sources.

8. Best Time Of Day To Fish Trout In Reservoirs

As for the best time of day, dawn and the hours surrounding it are ideal for trout fishing. Trout are most active during these periods when the water is cooler and the sun’s intensity is lower.

Cloudy days can also improve fishing conditions as trout are less wary of the bright sunlight. Towards the end of the day, as temperatures cool down again, trout resume their feeding activity, making evenings another productive fishing time.

9. Gear Recommendations Catching Trout In Reservoirs

When fishing in reservoirs, it’s crucial to have the right gear.

Here’s a list of equipment:

  • Light or ultralight spinning rod and reel combo: Look for quality brands like Ugly Stik, which offer good value for money.
  • Fishing Line: Opt for lighter lines, around 4 to 6-pound test, to minimize visibility and increase the chances of success. When trolling, a good fluorocarbon line of 8 pounds or a reliable braided line is best.
  • Hooks: Use wide-gape hooks like the Raven Specimen Hook. Avoid bait holder hooks, as they have proven to be less effective at hooking and holding trout securely. Pay attention to the hooks you use, as experienced trout guides do, for better results.
  • Barrel swivels (size 12 or 14): These prevent line twists and tangles and are great for attaching a fluorocarbon leader.
  • Egg sinkers and Pencil Lead (1/4 oz.): Use these to add weight to your rigs when needed.
  • Brightly-colored bobbers: Select bobbers that are easily visible in the water to help detect bites. Pencil-style bobbers used for river fishing, also known as floats, work well in reservoirs.
  • Rod holder: A rod holder that can be placed into the ground can be useful when fishing from the shore. It allows me to secure a rod and keep my hands free.
  • Release Gear: Get a decent trout net, a set of hemostats or long nose pliers, and something to cut the line like nippers.
  • Baits and Lures: Additionally, consider bringing a few lures with you and an assortment of baits. In many places, regulations allow for multiple lines in the water simultaneously, but be sure to check local fishing regulations for any specific guidelines.

Remember, investing in quality trout fishing gear and equipment can greatly enhance your fishing experience. While budget-friendly options are available, choosing reliable and durable tackle will make your fishing trip more enjoyable and increase your chances of landing that prized trout.

By applying these tips and techniques for trout fishing in reservoirs, you can improve your angling skills and increase your chances of success.

Tight Lines,