Trout is a beautiful freshwater species that belongs to the genus Salmonidae. They are closely related to the char and salmon. Targeting them is a wonderful way to spend some needed downtime, with the possibility of a tasty meal at the end of the day.
Due to the popularity of fly fishing, one would be forgiven for thinking that this is the only way to target these beautiful fish. They can, however, be targeted with several baits, so what is the best live bait for trout?
Night-Crawlers and Worms
Night-crawlers are great live bait and can be used to target a wide variety of fish. A night-crawler is typically known as a common earthworm. They are called night-crawlers because they are nocturnal and tend to surface at night.
Most species of fish love them, and trout are no exception. They are reasonably hardy and can survive for extended periods underwater. Night-crawlers can be fished in many different ways, but my favorite is in a shallow, fast-moving stream.
I tie a single small 2/0 hook directly to my leader without a weight. I then allow my bait to flow downstream in the fast-moving water, which offers some action on and just below the surface.
There are numerous other types of worms that one could use to catch trout, like mealworm, red worm, and wax worm. They are all easily accessible and can also be purchased from most local tackle shops for a small amount.
Mealworms work well in the summer months but are also highly effective when ice fishing in the heart of winter. Although they are hardy and quite chunky, they don’t offer much scent or action when in the water. Depending on their size, put one or two on a small-sized jighead, and you’re good to go.
- Red Worm
Red Worm is a red earthworm or red night-crawler but is also commonly known as red wriggler, trout worm, tiger worm, manure worm, panfish worm, and brandling worm. These worms are excellent bait for targeting trout and can be fished in the same manner as the common night-crawler.
- Wax Worms
Wax Worms are the delicious and nutritious larvae of the Greater Wax Moth. This moth has the tendency to lay its eggs in beehives, which results in these larvae feeding mostly on beeswax and honey.
If we truly are what we eat, it is understandable why these worms are so effective for targeting large trout and other freshwater fish species. I always try to ensure that I have these in my bait box. They are often one of the first bait I will try when I start fishing.
Smelt is an extremely underrated live bait and I’m surprised that they aren’t used to target trout more often. They are related to trout and salmon and inhabit the same environments. Smelt are strong, hardy fish and when pinned to your hook will create loads of disturbance and action under the water.
I recommend that you pin them through the lip with a 4/0 hook. There is no need for weights, but they can also be fished using a float system with about three to four feet of line.
Crayfish and Shrimp
Crayfish are plentiful in most natural water systems and waterways and are a favorite meal for trout. They can easily be caught in streams and rivers, and are usually located underneath rocks or large pebbles. Although trout are in no way fussy eaters, they do seem to prefer juvenile and molted crayfish, which have significantly softer shells.
Fishing with crayfish is simple and all you need to do is hook the crayfish through the firmer tail section with a small #2/0 sized hook. Remember, you don’t need large bait to catch trophy-sized trout, they are known to feed on all size bait, including tiny sprats.
Shrimp is another one of trout’s favorite meals, and in some cases can make up the entirety of their diet. They can easily be caught using a cast net or can also be purchased from select tackle shops.
Creek Chubs make up a small portion of a trout’s diet so it shouldn’t be a surprise that they make for decent trout bait. They don’t grow very big, maybe six to ten inches at most, and when mature can closely resemble a grass carp. Creek Chubs are easy to catch, and this can be done using a cast net or with a conventional hook and line.
Although Creek Chubs are not as popular as other types of live bait, they are worth a shot, particularly if the bite is slow. Again, don’t go too big on your live bait, a Creek Chub of around two to three inches is perfect for catching large trout.
Grubs are popular amongst most species of freshwater predators and can be excellent bait for targeting trout. They can get quite large and are soft and tender. Grubs are easy to come by, and with a little searching and digging around, there should be more than enough to keep all anglers fishing.
They can be located in loose decomposing leaves and dirt, under large rocks, and often in rotting logs and branches. Fishing with Grubs is simple, slide it onto your 2/0 or 4/0 hook with a single slingshot to keep it floating in the current.
Sculpins are in no way popular trout bait, but they are known to get large trout and other types of freshwater fish. They can be caught in streams and shallow areas but they can be elusive, you may need a net to work a little harder for these guys. They resemble an algae sucker that you might find stuck to the side of a fish tank, but with a dark brown, intimidating coloration.
Sculpins are almost always found under rocks, so when using one as live bait, it is advisable to use a float system, this will keep it in the strike zone and keep it from hiding under rocks.
Crickets and Grasshoppers
Cricket and Grasshoppers are fantastic live bait for targeting trout. You might be surprised at how many of these creatures trout eat. They are delicate so should be handled with care. It is better to allow for natural floating action, so no slip shot or float is needed. Like most live bait, a 2/0 or 4/0 hook is ideal. Unfortunately, they don’t last very long underwater so it’s best to check your hook regularly.
Shiner is an extremely hardy fish and survives for extended periods on your hook. That combined with availability, makes them a popular choice for trout anglers. They can be purchased from most tackle shops and are affordable too. Shiner is particularly effective when ice-fishing, and is known to catch numerous types of freshwater fish.
I recommend that you put a three-four inch Shiner on a 2/0 or 4/0 hook. It is best to hook it through the lip, with a single slip shot to keep it in the strike zone. If you aren’t getting any action, try suspending it from a float or bobber, about three feet from the surface.
Fishing with Hellgrammites is not for the faint-hearted. As their name suggests, they are nasty characters that need to be handled with care. They look like oversized centipedes but are the larvae of the infamous Dobsonfly.
They have powerful jaws and can give you a painful bite if you drop your guard. They are, however, a fantastic bait for targeting trout and well worth the risk. Hellgrammites can be found under large rocks and decomposing logs, and tend to inhabit fast-moving water in rivers and streams.
Pin the Hellgrammite just behind the head with a 2/0 or 4/0 hook, and allow the current to assist with a natural swimming or floating action. No floats or weights are needed.
And here we have, in my personal opinion (and experience), saved the best for last. But it’s not only my opinion that matters, fishermen all over the globe agree. Minnows are renowned for being one of the best live baits in the world. Artificial Lure manufacturers’ have invested a large amount of cash to perfectly replicate this extraordinary baitfish.
When it comes to targeting trout, there is no better live bait. They are plentiful, extremely easy to catch and keep. Minnows are hardy, will survive for a long time on your hook, and are ideal for all types of trout fishing, regardless of the weather or conditions.
Trout are incredible fish to target, they are extremely powerful for their size, and offer memorable fights. They can be targeted using artificial lures, flies, and live bait.
Trout can make a good meal too as they are good to eat with numerous health benefits. The best live bait for targeting trout is the popular Minnow, they are plentiful, easy to catch, and trout love eating them.
Minnow is also hardy fish and can survive for extended periods while pinned to your hook. They are not only great bait for trout but can be used to target numerous species of fresh and saltwater fish.