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Thread: Trout Season 101

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Big Bear Lake

    Default Trout Season 101

    Trouting 101

    In anticipation of trout season....okay, really in anticipation of the deluge of Q&A and repeat inquiries ("What lb. test line do I need?, etc..) that comes with trout season I decided to come up with a mini-article regarding trouting. I'm also counting on other experienced trout anglers/FNN'rs to add to the content of the post. Share your basic tips, tackle and techniques.

    A trout by any name....

    First off, there are only a few species of trout that a Southern Californian will be dealing with if one fishes local. The most common being the Rainbow Trout. Named for the pinkish band and it's iridescent "finish", it's also the most common stocked species of trout in SoCal waters.

    Brown trout, or the "thinking angler's" trout are found in a few southland lakes. It's also found in some of the "local" river tributaries and basins. Brown trout are golden in color with spotted sides. The spots range from dark brown to red to whitish blue.

    Steelhead are anadromous trout (oceangoing). Not naturally found in Southern California, they are stocked in some pay lakes around the southland. While the true definition of steelhead are migratory saltwater traveling trout, they are planted for sport for their supposed stronger fight and as "superior" table fare.

    Lightning trout are hybridized rainbow trout. Planted in many SoCal pay lakes, they resemble trout with certain traits of albinism. Lightnings are not albinos and are reputed to have a strong fight and a great taste.

    Triploid trout, or "Lloyds" are genetically engineered sportfish. They are the non-reproducing (sterile) result of human manipulation of trout chromosomes. The triploid name comes from the three sets of chromosomes that each "lloyd" possesses. Triploids are stocked at many SoCal pay lakes and serve as a selling point for many of them. They are somewhat frowned upon by trout purists, but catching a double-digit weight trout on #2 line evens the playing field for many.

    The Troutfitter

    Gear for trout is one of the most asked questions during the autumn months on FNN. So we will "tackle" that here. Let's start with what will connect you to your catch most directly, your line...
    Two pound test is a staple for SoCal trouting. Get your hands on some quality two pound test and set your drag liberally. Not setting the drag loose will result in your frustration using the lightest (readily) available line on the market. Some of the more popular brands are Maxima (my favorite), Cuda, Izor and P-Line. You'll hear many, many opinions on line. Perceived visibility, stretch (if you are using mono), knot strength and castability are all factors that trout anglers will use to decide which one to take home from the tackle shop. You'll find what work for you.

    When it comes to reels, you'll want reliability, a good drag, good casting ability and a light weight. Another possible quality, depending on your budget, is value. Personally, I will spend three times as much on my trout rods than on my trout reels. However, you don't want to offset the quality of your rod with a bottom shelf plastic reel at Wal-Mart that will not perform. Balancing value with capability is another challenge for the discriminating trouter. For under $50 you can get a very capable spinning reel that will suit most of your needs for throwing lures and soaking bait. The Abu Garcia Cardinal 101, the Daiwa Regal 1000, the Pflueger Trion GX and the Shimano Sedona or Solstace are very popular, affordable and qualified choices. Some other, more pricey, popular choices are the Daiwa Exceler and Tierra, the Quantum Energy, the Penn Captiva and the ubiquitous Shimanos; the Sahara, Symetre and Stradic.

    "What kind of rod should I get?". Possibly the most asked trout gear question. Many, many opinions will be offered and many are correct. Sensitivity is possibly the number one quality you will want in a trout rod. Your shopping will also depend on what type of technique you will be using the most often. Are you "baiting and waiting"? Are you jigging trout worms? Are you throwing light spinners or spoons? Are you going to be doing all three on the same rod?
    My opinion on how to handle the trout rod question is to set a budget and go from there. Spend as much as you allow yourself (or someone else allows you to :wink: ) without missing your next car payment. A G. Loomis IMX or St. Croix Avid will boost your trouting karma, but if you are eating ramen (and trout) for the next month, is it worth it? :wink:
    After your budget is set and you've checked the sales circulars (for some reason, a good savings will sometimes sway your choice), start whittling down your choices. Start by looking at ultralights. G. Loomis, Shimano, Kencor, Daiwa, St. Croix, Fenwick and the rugged Ugly Stik are great brands to compare and contrast. If you are casting from shore, you'll want a longer rod (6'+) to provide distance to your presentation. If you are on a boat/tube/toon, a shorter rod will suffice and provides a fun "bendo" factor to your catch. (I have a 4'6 Berkley Powerbait rod, a discontinued model, that I absolutely love catching trout on because it will fold in half while reeling in a twelve incher).
    If you are a part-time trouter, I would recommend setting yourself up with a multipurpose rod like a Shimano Compre, Daiwa Heartland, St. Croix Triumph or Ugly Lite to start. All of these rods are under $100 and will still give you enough change for a few jars of powerbait and a Mepps or two. If you are going for the gusto and are going to be trouting many times during the "season" and using more finesse-type techniques, set yourself up with a Kencor PAC, St. Croix Premier or Avid, Lamiglas, Fenwick or, the Cadillac; the G. Loomis.

    Tactics, technique and tradecraft

    One of the first terminal tackle applications you will learn when targeting trout is the Carolina Rig. It's a proven way to catch trout while using doughbaits and other floating presentations. First step is to take your main line and thread a sliding sinker on, then follow that with a bead. The bead is used to separate the sinker from the next element, the swivel. After tying your main line to a swivel, tie you leader to it and clip your leader line anywhere between 12" to 18". Conditions will dictate your leader length, but 12"-18" is a good range to begin. At the end of your leader, tie your hook. This setup allows your bait to separate itself from the bottom and into the trout's feeding zone. Here is a cheap-o MSPaint C-Rig diagram:

    Many a trout angler's favorite technique are those shiny, shiny lures. :) Spinners like Mepps, Panther Martins, Roostertails and Blue Fox are very effective for trout. Spoons like Super Dupers, Jake's Spin-a-Lure and Kastmasters are equally effective. Even traditional bass lures, like crankbaits will work when angling for trout. Copper, bronze, gold and silver are consistent producers. Traditional trout patterns like firetiger, cop car, frog, rainbow trout and perch are also standbys that will put fish on your stringer.

    Mepps Aglia Spinners

    Panther Martin Spinners

    Jake's Spin-a-Lure

    Rapala minnows

    One of the most often asked questions is "how do I cast light lures?" The answer lies in your gear. If you need to cast far, as mentioned before, a longer rod will aid your casting distance. Light line, once again, is a must. Your rod is key to the light lure going any appreciable distance. Make sure you are using a fast action or better rod, it will "load" better in the backcast and propel the light lure farther. Also, practice makes perfect, don't give up if your mechanics aren't perfect at first, you'll get there.

    Jigging trout worms is another very worthwhile technique to learn. Powerworms, Lip Ripperz, T-Fisherman worms and the like are basically small, wormlike plastics that have a lifelike action in the water when jigged gently. The best way is to "straight-line" them. Tying your line directly to the hook with no weight. Bounce the rod tip while retrieving very slowly. The bite will feel like a bump, you have to be quick to set the hook. The sensitivity of your rod comes into play greatly here. A heavy stout rod will not yield as many fish. Another way of fishing troutworms is to use a jighead to give the worm some sink. Small splitshots as well as bobbers are employed in troutworm fishing as well. Setting the hook requires the same sensitivity, awareness and agility.

    Trout will often hit topwater for food. "Matching the hatch", to borrow a flyfishing motto, is also applicable when you are using spinning gear. The "float & fly" technique allows you to entice trout to a fly without the "A River Runs Through It" skills or equipment. Attaching a float bubble about 18" above your fly will put the fly on topwater. Retrieving slowly or softly jigging will give the fly action and attract more strikes.

    Here fishy, fishy...

    Sometimes a trout angler doesn't want to play the finesse game. Sometimes you just want to go out, catch a fish while drinking a beer and take home something to fry up with some fritters. The "Bait and Wait" tactic is possibly the most popular way of fishing for trout. Powerbait on a size 18 treble is the mainstay. There are many other just as productive doughbaits, Zeke's, P-Line Strike, Yum, Gulp! and Nitro are all common on SoCal's tackle shelves. So what color do you use? First off, it's different by condition and it's also personal preference. I would recommend getting Rainbow Glitter, Chartreuse, Corn and Orange in your tackle box to start. After that, you can move to other colors and flavors. Some people swear by Fl. Red and others Salmon Peach. Some may work at some lakes and get skunked at others.

    Using a Carolina Rig, mold a small pebble of doughbait around your treble. Some anglers will shape a small worm out of the doughbait. Some even "wacky rig" (hook in the midpoint of the "worm") the doughbait and fish it while jigging. Powerbait is malleable and versatile. Some even use it in conjuction with other

    Nightcrawlers. Those everpresent styrofoam cups in the cooler at your tackle store. Pick some up, for they are deadly on trout. One of the best ways to fish for trout is using the "threaded crawler" method. Get yourself a worm threader and a worm blower. With these two tools, you can turn those wriggly garden dwellers into superbait. Taking the threader, slide the crawler (or half a crawler) onto it until the end of the threader emerges from the end of the worm. Insert your baitholder hook into the sleeve on the end of the threader and slide the worm onto the hook. Gently poke the point of the hook outside the worm. Taking your worm blower, carefully insert the needle into the midpoint of the crawler or into the "collar". Inflate the worm with a small bubble of air. This will cause the crawler to float, like doughbaits, in the trout's strike zone. Adding scents to the worm enhance the presentation.

    Worm Threader

    Speaking of scents, many anglers swear by them for trout. Garlic, anise, nightcrawler and corn are the most popular. Applying them to crawlers and doughbaits are a good way to get hooked up. Many anglers also apply them to lures. Berkley even makes a lure that is manufactured to hold and disperse trout scent, the "Scent Vent" spinner.

    Yet one more favorite, and effective, "bait & wait"presentation is the use of salmon eggs or a close imitation. Jars of Pautzke's, Atlas-Mike's or even Berkley's Powereggs are good things to add to a trouter's tackle box. Placing a single salmon egg on a mosquito hook then adding a split shot 18" up the line is a very productive way of catching trout. Another great way to apply eggs is to cover two tines of a treble hook with doughbait and adding a single salmon egg on the third. "Trout Candy" has put many trout on a few stringers.

    Catch, Celebrate, Take a Few Pictures, Brag to Your Buddies and Release.

    Okay, don't take that long to put that trout back in the lake! If you're fishing for sport or if you pull up a fish that is a bit too dinky for the stringer, there's a proper way to handle that parolee. First off, before touching the trout, wet your hands. Trout have a slime that protects them from infection and disease. If you "rough hand" them, you'll wipe this slime off and expose them to all sorts of nasties in the water. Just as important as your hands, is, if you use a net, make sure it is a soft, preferably knotless one. A plastic net will do the same thing as "rough handing" them.

    Never put your hands in it's gills, never yank or rip at the hook and don't let that trout flip-flop all over the ground if you plan on sending him back to his friends. If you are having a problem getting the hook out, flip the trout belly-side up in your hand and perform the surgery. Turtlesided trout will calm down and you'll be able to delicately remove that hook. When releasing the fish back into the water, gently support the trout with your hand until it decides to swim away on it's own.

    If the trout goes belly-up in your hand you'll need to resuscitate it. No, you don't need to go mouth to mouth, but you do need to perform a little CPR. Again, support the trout's midsection with your hand in the water. Gently move the trout back and forth in the water until you get a tail kick. Try to release again and repeat if necessary.

    Catch, Celebrate, Take a Few Pictures, Brag to Your Buddies and Serve With Taters.

    Trout is good food. So how do you clean and prepare your catch for the table? There are two basic ways of dressing your catch to prepare for cooking. The first, and most widely used, is the gut clean. Taking your sharp, I emphasize sharp!, fillet knife, insert the point into the trout's anal opening. Slice upwards towards the trout's chin. Do NOT cut all the way to the jaw. Stop right before you get to the "horseshoe" shaped chin tab you'll see that is under the trout's mouth. Then insert your knife into the tab and separate it from the chin.

    Put your knife down and insert your thumb into the "tab" opening. Gripping the trout's head with your other hand, push the tab back into the gill plate and then pull down the cut, the entrails will follow the gills and you be left holding a cleaned trout. The only thing left to do is scrape out the blood vein on the underside of the spine. Many people do not do this, it's your own preference.

    Filleting a trout is a bit more tricky. I recommend the first time you try it, you try it on a larger (20" or longer) specimen. Again, taking your SHARP fillet knife, make a perpendicular cut behind the gill plate, cutting down until you feel resistance from the spine.

    Then gently turn your filet knife until the blade edge is leading towards the tail.

    Place your hand (preferably sheathed in a fillet glove if you have one) firmly on top of the trout. Slide your fillet knife along the spine and cut towards the tail until your knife edge emerges near the tail.

    Take the fillet off of the trout, flip and repeat!

    And, to close the "article" I'll post one of the easiest and best ways to cook up your catch. Taking either your gut cleaned catch, lay it down on a sheet of aluminum foil. Season to taste, inside and out. Some seasonings compliment trout better that others; dill, rosemary, garlic and tarragon come to mind. Some spice companies make seafood blends, those are easy and tasty. After seasoning, wrap the trout in the foil and place on a medium heat grill. Cook each side ten minutes. Serve straight from the grill with your favorite side dishes. This super-simple recipe will not disappoint and has many, many variations. Some of my favorite are stuffing sauteed onions and bacon in the cavity or adding a single drop of liquid smoke to the tail.

    Good luck this trout season!

    If I forgot to cover any essentials, feel free to post it!!!!
    Yes, I did leave flyfishing and trolling out of this article on purpose. This is a basic trouting article, didn't want to write a book. 8)


  2. #2


    :notworthy: :appl:
    That is a great write-up BBL, I wish there was something like this when I started. I vote for a sticky...and maybe placing on the tips section.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    reeferside -951-


    ya great info dude! here's a picture of the big ol trout I caught out of corona lake.. the fish weighed in at 10 1/2 pounds! by PB! caught on 4lb test and a 5' UL pole!

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    SkunkSum's Guide Service


    If it wasnt for the picture with a photo of your hand shown over the side of the fish to show how to hold it while filleting, I would have hated this thread................good thing for that photo Scott! :wink:

    otherwise...useless information! Everybody knows catching trout is best done in the middle of a hot summer day with a 1/0 baitholder hook with carne asada on it. :thumb:

  5. #5


    Dana, this thread should be made a sticky IMO.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Norwalk, CA


    Quote Originally Posted by Troutman65
    I had another reply to this post deleated . What up with that?
    Perhaps you angered the FNN gods? ;) JK bro, I have no idea.

    Great write up Scott! Since I'm a FW newb, this helps ALOT.

    I do have a question said:

    "Stop right before you get to the "horseshoe" shaped chin tab you'll see that is under the trout's mouth. Then insert your knife into the tab and separate it from the chin. Put your knife down and insert your thumb into the "tab" opening. Gripping the trout's head with your other hand, push the tab back into the gill plate and then pull down the cut, the entrails will follow the gills and you be left holding a cleaned trout."

    Is there someway you could demonstrate this with a series of pics?? So the head is still connected to the spine, right?

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Funky Town!


    :appl: Bravo :appl: Great info!!!!! This should become a sticky. :thumb:

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Big Bear Lake


    Rich (Sansou) posted a few minor tweaks and fixes that I meant to include yesterday but then the posts were deleted and I can't, for the life of me, remember what the fixes were. Oh well.... :roll:

    As for cleaning trout, the next time I catch one to clean, I will post pics. Looking at the underside of a trout's chin, the horseshoe shaped tab is quite apparent. Separating it from the chin will allow you to insert your thumb into the hole. Then just pull back over the belly slice. It's almost like unzipping, only the pull tab is that small "chin horseshoe". It's a technique that makes trout cleaning quick and a lot less messy. Once you get it down, you'll be able to clean a limit stringer in less than six or seven minutes.


  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2007


    Nice post! Thanks... can't wait to catch some trout now.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Dec 2006


    Nice post man, and will someone plz tell me why a bunch of posts got deleted?

    Just makes me sick....

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