Hatchery Trout Fishing
By: Brett D.
When anglers think of trout they think of clear cool water mountain streams in secluded beautiful terrain. While taking such adventures will always hold fond memories you can have great success fishing trout in most all states. In Illinois we have some of the best hatcheries the world has to offer. Twice every year the state will stock trout in about 50+ lakes/ponds. Chances are there is one near you and you should jump on the opportunity to wet your line. The areas and facilities offer a lot to aide you in taking out the kids or grandpa for a wonderful day of fishing.
Quite a few of the sites are handicap accessible. Make sure to get your trout stamp when you get your license this year. To learn more about the Illinois “Catch able Trout Program”, times and the locations visit www.ifishillinois.org/
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You should know the hatchery trout you will be seeking will require different methods than their wild brothers and sisters. These fish have been fed pellets all their life and do not know much about what bugs are hatching or that a minnow is tasty. You don’t need a lot of expensive tackle or knowledge. The following paragraphs we will discuss techniques, equipment, baits and riggings.
You will need to know what depth the fish are at. They prefer water temps in the mid fifties. If it is in the upper fifties or higher they will be on the bottom in deeper water. If it is in the lower fifties or lower they will be seeking shallow sunny water. They will generally school up and stick together as they roam the water. They will roam around the waters in search of food and comfortable water temps. I will have two poles rigged one for the bottom and one for the top. If you don’t have two poles just be prepared to change your rigging. Once they find a comfortable depth the will roam that area. They generally will not stay in one place to long, but they will stay at the same depth. So if you are fishing and the person 20 yards away is catching fish don’t get discouraged because they could be coming your way. Generally these fish will hug to the bottom. Whether you are fishing deep or the shallow you should always try to keep your hook approximately four inches from the bottom.
I like to use a basic spin casting reel and a light to ultra light pole. I use eight pound mono line. The fish are not generally leader shy, but if you suspect they are then just tie on a 4lb leader using a blood knot or a uni-knot to uni-knot. You can have just as much success with a cane pole so there is no special set up you will need to purchase. Use what you have and tie a leader on if necessary.
A Size 6 fine wire offset (tru-turn or similar) hooks or a jig head with a size 6 hook are what I use, but if you have numbers 4, 6 or 8 in any style you will be fine. The most important thing is to keep them sharp. If you buy anything buy a good quality hook sharpener or have plenty of hooks. Trout have tough jaws and it takes a sharp hook and a good hook set to catch them. The hook set can be difficult for some. You must feel the fish on the line before you set the hook. Don’t jerk so hard that you hook yourself or someone else but harder than you would on a bluegill. It is important not to get frustrated if you miss a few. Just keep trying and you will get the hang of it.
Fishing under a float is the most common method and I have a few tips to help you be successful. Any rigging you use to catch Panfish will work, but my favorite setup is a 1/32 ounce jig head with a #6 hook, a glass bead, 8 pound or less mono line, and a slip bobber. The bobber balance is the critical part. I like to use the cheaper Styrofoam bobbers with the plastic straw type centers. I will buy #10 stainless washers and #8 “O” rings from the hardware store. I then fill a cup up with water. I put four washers on the bottom of the float and hold them on with the “O” ring. I then set the float in the cup and keep adding or removing washers until the float stands on its own with the water level at the center of the float. Once you have balanced the float start your line in the top of the float and feed it through the float. Next feed your line through the glass bead and tie on your jig head using a polymer knot. The final step is taking a piece of mono line and tying a uni-knot above the float and trimming the tag ends. The piece of line you just tied will be the depth stop and should slide up and down the line to adjust your bait depth. This setup is particular good with kids. It keeps the hook very close to the float, which makes it safer, easier to cast and less likely to get tangled. This is a great rig to fish small pockets with because it is easier to cast you can be more accurate and hit small pockets in brush or weeds. It also brings the hook up to the bobber when you reel it in and this helps prevent snags. The main thing is to keep it light. You can use any bobber style as long as it is for light baits.
To fish the bottom I like to use a Carolina rig. I think there are plenty of names for this and this method has been around a long time. You simply slip a line through a ¼ ounce sinker or less and use a swivel for a stop. Then on the other side of the swivel you put on a 6 inch leader with a number 6 or similar hooks as described earlier. By putting the line through the sinker and not securing it the fish will take line through the sinker and not feel the weight. Floating type baits are best suited for this method and smaller treble hooks can aide you with dough type bait's.
The types of baits are numerous and you will find many anglers have a favorite. I will try to cover them all and my favorites too. You must always keep in mind that all fish are like people when it comes to their diet. Some people like carrots and other don’t. Try ordering sweet tea or grits in Montana. Some days you may crave a pizza or a burger and other days you won’t. The point here is to have different baits to try every day. What works one day may not work the next. Most good anglers will try and use a something that simulates a natural occurring prey to the area. Matching the hatch or forage to the end of their line. This practice is the best practice except for hatchery fish that have been recently released. During the opening days I prefer corn. Not just any corn a good quality sweet canned or frozen corn like Allen, Green Giant, Birdseye, Wes-pack etc. Many anglers will chum a little out in front of them to lure in a feeding trout. As the days go by the corn bite will go away. I think there are two reasons for this. One all the fish that crave the corn have been caught and two they have had plenty of corn and it does not digest well. I will then switch to pre-made trout dough baits (crave, power bait, etc.), Salmon eggs, worms (live, power honey worms, food source etc.) or Carp baits. Other baits that work well are marshmallows, meal worms, wax worms, or minnows. On days when the bite is slow I will toss white marabou jigs, inline spinners, small spoons and beetle spins. Often this will work better then any other baits a couple of weeks after opening day. The fish start adapting fairly quickly but they will most likely never be like their wild cousins. This is when fly anglers will have some space and can work out some winter rust. My number one choice is a white bead head wooly bugger. It seems you will be better off to get down to them and it is unlikely that you will be able to get them to rise but you never know I have seen it happen. One little trick to releasing these slippery beautiful fish is to hold them belly up in the water. They tend to calm down this way. If you plan on keeping them then do the same thing in a bucket of water.
If you happen to struggle don’t be afraid to ask for help especially from our great conservation officers. They are very willing and happy to offer you good advice as long as you have your trout stamp. I wish you great luck and hope to see you on the water soon. Keep sharp hooks and tight lines.
GOD BLESS & GOOD FISHING !
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