Is Trout Fishing Good in Winter? – Winter Trout Fundamentals

Last Updated on October 2, 2023 by Kyle Whitley

is trout fishing good in winter

Trout fishing is great any time of year, but especially during the spring and summer months. However, many anglers complain that it’s “too cold” to fish in the wintertime. So is trout fishing good in winter?

In fact, it’s not too cold to fish in the winter. It just depends on where you live. Some places have warmer winters than others. Winter fishing is also a great time to avoid the crowds of the spring and summer months.

Tips for Successful Winter Trout Fishing

It’s hard to get out of bed to stand in a freezing stream in the middle of winter, but we do it anyway because we know that the rewards can be worth the effort.  The fishing could be slow in the colder months, and you will probably have to get yourself a little wet with the lures and fish in the freezing water.

With all that said you can still catch trout in the winter months.  Is trout fishing good in the winter?

Fishing aside, there are other advantages to fishing in the winter. You’ll probably have the river all to yourself. Some people take a break from work or school to enjoy other activities like skiing or tying flies.

Others just don’t want to deal with the cold. If you go far enough into the woods, you won’t see any other anglers.

You’ll be able to use a rod and reel to catch fish in the winter. This is a great opportunity to try out new techniques and see what works well in the cold weather.

Winter fly fishing is an activity that requires patience, skill, and knowledge. You should be prepared before going out into the cold weather.

Slow Down

Trout are cold-blooded fish that don’t move around much during the winter. They’re not as hungry in the winter because they’re not moving around.

When trout see food coming towards them, they’ll try to eat it, but if it doesn’t come close enough, they’ll ignore it. Trout are mostly opportunistic hunters in the winter months.

The name-of-the-game throughout the winter is to dead drift.  This is the best way to get a trout to eat your fly or bait. A fly should be served to a trout on a silver platter, ensuring they have to expend minimal effort to eat.

Trout are much more likely to take a fly or bait if they don’t have to expend much energy to catch it.

Slow Deep Water

Trout prefer slow-moving water because it allows them to conserve energy. In the winter, they won’t want to go into the fast water, since they need to conserve energy.

You will want to fish your flies or baits in deep in slower waters.  Try to fish calm waters that are near faster-moving water.  This will allow food to drift by the trout, but they can still conserve energy while waiting on the bait to drift by.

You should avoid fishing fast-moving water because it makes them tired. Slow-moving water allows them to conserve energy.

Size Down – Line and Lures

Midges and stoneflies are very effective flies to through during the colder months. They are usually smaller than flies.

When fishing for trout in winter, it’s better to use smaller flies and baits that are small.  Smaller lures are more appetizing for fish wanting to conserve energy. Fish won’t be as hungry and will be more likely to bite if you give them something smaller than what they normally eat.

Sizing down also applies to line and strike indicators as well.  You are more than likely going to be fishing some clear water and don’t want spook fish with larger line. 

For those fly fishing, you should consider light tippets and indicators.   Big lines or huge indicators will spook and scare off fish. If you are using spinning tackle consider using a braid and a fluorocarbon leader.

Fishing Tailwaters of Dams

Tailwaters are great places to catch fish in the winter. Tailwaters tend to have more consistent temps because of the water being routinely released from dams.

They are close to summer conditions, so you won’t have to change much about your fly selection, mostly just sizing down to take advantage of sluggish trout.

Since the tailwaters are generally the most consistent in temperature and are often locations where you are more likely to catch a good number of fish, you will more than likely see more anglers. Pressure on these fish will in turn be more, so catching fish might be more difficult.

Don’t Rush to Get Out of Bed

Fishing in the winter is great because you can sleep in, enjoy that extra cup of coffee, and then go fishing later in the day. Trout are sluggish during the cold weather, but they are especially sluggish in the mornings.

Give them time to warm up and become active before you start fishing. Fishing later in the morning or early afternoon is the prime time during the winter months. You’ll be more likely to stay out and continue fishing when you aren’t freezing.

Warm Days Mean Better Fishing

Summertime is great for fishing because you can fish more easily. Wintertime is great for fishing as well, but you are going to want to target warmer days after cold fronts.

Trout are more sluggish during colder temperatures, but they’re also more active during warm periods. You should pick your fishing days carefully to target fish that are feeding during the warmer periods.

Cold snaps mean less activity, but warmer periods mean more activity.

fishing for trout in stream in winter

Tips on Where to Locate Trout in the Winter

Trout won’t be available everywhere, but they will likely be concentrated in just a handful of locations. Look for Trout in areas like:

  • Look for logjams. Trout will use rocks for cover during winter, but because there is usually less turbulence around rocks, log jams offer better ambush spots.
  • Look for water that is deeper than 3 feet.  
  • Not stagnant, but slow. If water is almost completely still, it doesn’t bring food to the fish because they need movement to eat.
  • Look for springs along the stream banks. During the winter, groundwater is usually warmer than surface water. Usually, springs show themselves by patches of vegetation growing in the warmer water You can also look for small patches of fog along the banks of rivers on very cold mornings.

 Summing it Up

In conclusion, I believe that trout fishing is good in winter because of its cold temperatures. It may not be enjoyable when the weather is colder, but the fish will still be active and feeding.

The trout are a little more sluggish during these times but they tend to congregate in the same areas and can be easier to target if you can brave the cold winter weather and chilly waters.


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