Although Spring is quickly approaching, many of us are still enjoying the winter trout fishing season. Depending on where you live, you may be ice fishing or fishing in very cold water. Cold water means lethargic trout.
Some anglers are under the misconception that trout hibernate in winter when water temperatures drop below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. But this isn't true. The truth is that trout are generally holding in water to conserve energy during the cold winter months. You can still catch them - you just need to get your offering to them.
While trout aren't actively feeding in winter months, they still need eat to survive. Their feeding turns more to "maintenance" rather than eating everything nearby that appeals to them.
In rivers and streams, trout will usually be found hugging the bottom, where the water is warmer. They like deep pools of water, where the water is calmer. In lakes, trout will usually be found in shallower water, often times near shore. Again, they're looking for warmer water that has a good balance of dissolved oxygen.
Artificial lures are very effective on winter trout. Spoons and spinners often produce great results. When fished properly, these lures emit a flash and vibration that can entice non-feeding trout into striking. Often times, this is a defensive strike (trout trying to protect their territory). The flash helps trout to see the lure at a distance and can help wake them out of lethargic stupor. The vibration emits a frequency that sounds similar to baitfish.
Given the choice between a spinner of a spoon, choose spinners when fishing in calmer water and spoons when fishing in fast currents. This is because spinners tend to rise in fast moving water (which may not be where fish are). Likewise, faster moving currents help spoons move more erratically (making them more effective).
Some spoons are designed for jigging, meaning they're fished vertically in an up and down motion. Jigging spoons are typically used by ice fishers. Jigs are another popular ice fishing lure. There many variations to choose from , some with bucktails and some plain.
One way to make your lures more effective in winter is to add a mealworm or a piece of minnow or nightcrawler. Doing so will help appeal to a trout's sense of smell in addition to sight.
Just be sure to check your local fishing regulations ahead of time as some places have rules restricting the use of live bait and artificial lures.