By Nick Simonson
With the cooling waters of autumn, trout are on the rise in those stocked lakes which were deep enough to sustain them throughout summer. With significant warm stretches lacking in the past season, it is likely these cold-water fish survived well and opportunities for sizeable stockers are better than average this time of year. Feeding on the last of the season’s insects, the crop of small baitfish, and other aquatic edibles in preparation for winter makes trout, like most other fall fish, an easy target with aggressive tactics. By focusing on key locations and hitting them hard and fast with the forceful flinging of classic offerings, connecting with big ‘bows, browns and other stocked species of trout helps add even more color to fall.
Think Up in Fall
Where warmer water temperatures limited their access to the bounty of prey items that resided in the summer shallows of many lakes stocked with trout in the region, the cooling air of September has alleviated some of the heat and allowed for continuous forays into that feeding zone. Therefore, expect to find stocked trout making their moves into these skinnier stretches and offer up a variety of lures that either imitate the prey they’re feeding on or will produce a reaction strike.
Additionally, as waters cool, focus on the top of the water column, even out over deeper areas of the main lake. Traditionally, those stocked trout lakes with maximum depths of 35 to 40 feet or more are deep enough to sustain stocked trout through the summer. As the upper strata of the water cools and turnover approaches, it is likely that even if fish aren’t up along the shallow rim of the basin, they will be in the top portion of the main lake. Keep this in mind if there is no immediate connection near shore and back out in a boat or cast further from the edge to find fish staging over the depths. Heavier lures will help cover more water.
Casting spoons and larger spinners is a great way to cover the water of stocked trout lakes and provide the wobble and vibration to draw aggressive fall trout in for a look and a strike. With their weight, these lures can typically be accurately counted down and retrieved throughout the water column to pinpoint where trout are holding this time of year, with a one-second count equaling about a foot of drop in the water. Vary the retrieve speed to find the rate that sets fish off and allows them a solid strike. Add in twitches and pauses to set off trailing fish and further agitate them into biting. Small Daredevles and other casting spoons in lengths of two or three inches will work best for catching this year’s stockers, and Mepps Aglia, Blue Fox Vibrax or Worden’s Roostertail spinners with bigger blades will pound out a pulse that draws in fish. In those lakes where there are known survivors from multiple years, bigger offerings may be the ticket to connecting with a 20-inch or better fish.
More erratic options can prove effective for fall trout as well, with jigging spoons providing added flash and castable weight which can be worked through the depths with an attractive rise-and-fall pattern. Retrieve lures like Kastmasters or Swedish Pimples a bit slower than a standard casting spoon, and rip and pause them as they come in to set trout off. Experiment with various hues, but keep a handful of gold, copper and silver options with favorite accent colors at hand for late-season fishing.
Preserve the Resource
Stocked fish that have made it to fall have survived the throngs of anglers that pursue them just after they are placed in spring and have made it through the warmer temperatures of fall. Those rainbows and browns that are caught now will most likely make it through winter and become the beasts encountered in the same waters next spring or the year after. To keep the great fishing going, consider utilizing lures with barbless hooks or single hooks instead of trebles to help make the release process move faster and limit the twisting and tweaking required with a pliers to get them out of the trout’s mouth. Additionally, utilize a rubber net or a soft mesh model to help limit the loss of their sensitive slime coat and prevent damage to fins, eyes and gills. With a rubber net, spoons and other lures are more easily removed from the webbing, allowing for a quicker return to the fast fishing action this time of year.
On those sunny days where a reprieve from the shifting autumn wind occurs, get out to a nearby trout water for some exciting action with relatively simple tackle. In addition to those fat stockers from this spring, it could be that big trout from seasons before are on the bite, adding size to the numbers which can be caught.
Featured Photo: Along with blaze orange, trout like browns and rainbows, can color up an autumn. Target these fish with fast moving and flashy lures now in shallow stretches or up higher in the column for success. Simonson Photo.