by Mike Bleech
Why Rainbows Are So Common
Brown trout, brook trout and rainbow trout are stocked into many streams and lakes. While the three have similarities, they also have important differences. One difference is eating habits. Since eating habits is what fishing is all about, different fishing tactics should be used for rainbow trout. That difference is greatest between rainbows and either brook trout or brown trout.
Odds are good that stocked trout in your favorite stream or lake are all rainbow trout, or include a large portion of rainbow trout because rainbow trout are particularly suited to fish culture. In other words, they fare better in hatcheries than other trout species.
Why Salmon Eggs Are So Effective
No other bait is more associated with fishing for rainbow trout than salmon eggs. Rainbow trout have been feeding on salmon eggs in their wild, native state for countless generations. Throughout the native range of rainbow trout – the portion that links with the Pacific Ocean – salmon spawn in the cool, rapid streams. Maybe some genetic link makes rainbows know that salmon eggs are food. Or maybe all of that is nonsense and rainbow trout just like the looks of salmon eggs.
The standard way to rig salmon eggs is to impale a single egg on a salmon egg hook. These hooks are especially sized and shaped to be hidden in an egg. Then add a split shot several inches up the line.
Why Rig Baits Differently in Cold Water
Early in trout season, rainbow trout are likely to be feeding mostly near bottom. The size of the split shot should be just enough to tick along bottom. What is less known is that at this time when the water is cold, the distance between egg and split should be only about six inches. This keeps the egg, which drifts above the split shot, near the bottom. Increase the distance as the water warms to as far as a couple of feet.
Of course every angler knows that one nasty thing is bound to happen quite often while ticking a split shot along bottom; the split shot is going to hang on the bottom. While fishing stretches of water with nearly constant depth, rig the egg and split shot under a small bobber. Adjust the amount of line between the split shot and the bobber so the split shot drifts just off bottom when the water is cold, then raise it a few inches as the water temperature climbs.
Why Your Bobber Makes a Difference
To be least obtrusive to trout, the best bobber has a light color on the bottom side, and a bright color on top. I prefer a light gray bottom and a bright red top. A bobber also should be small and torpedo-shaped so it exerts minimal buoyancy when a trout pulls it under.
Salmon eggs are available in varied sizes, colors and odors. Which one you use can make a big difference in success, so carry a few different types of salmon eggs.
Why to Try Grubs, Maggots & Corn
In a word, they work. Grubs, especially maggots, are excellent bait for rainbow trout. Rig them about as you would a salmon egg, except just impale the grub once without trying to hide the hook.
Some trout anglers will find this objectionable, but it is just plain fact that jumbo kernels of corn will sometimes catch rainbow trout when nothing else will. I have experienced this in streams far and wide. The first time was in a high mountain stream in Tennessee. After a couple hours of fishing with salmon eggs and spinners with absolutely no success, my fishing companion pulled out a jar of corn and impaled a kernel on a hook. In short order he had our first hard-bodied rainbow trout. When he offered to share the corn I accepted, starting a very fun afternoon of trout fishing.
Even large rainbow trout will take a kernel of corn, just as they will a salmon egg. Rig corn on a small, fine wire hook. From there rig it the same as other baits.
Why Rainbows Can Be Finicky
Rainbow trout tend to grow larger in larger streams, peaking in rivers. Try using half of a nightcrawler to target bigger rainbow trout. They are much more apt to take half of a ’crawler than a whole one. It follows with other baits – rainbow trout generally prefer smaller baits than brown trout or brook trout of similar size, likely because their mouths are relatively smaller.
Hook the half-nightcrawler in the middle just once. This gives it freedom to wiggle.
Recapping Mike’s Rainbow Tips:
- Rainbows do better in fish hatcheries – so your fishing strategy should aim for them.
- Rainbows have a long association with salmon eggs, and a clear affinity for them.
- When the water is cold, keep your splitshot about six inches from your hook to keep your bait down where the ’bows are feeding.
- To keep your bobber from being noticed by trout, use a light color on the bottom side so they don’t see it, and a bright color on top so you do see it. A small, torpedo-shape has less resistance to the water, so it’s less noticed when a trout pulls it under.
- Grubs, maggots, and even large kernels of corn rigged similar to a salmon egg are terrific rainbow baits.
- Rainbows have smaller mouths than other trout, so hook only half a nightcrawler and give him freedom to wiggle.
Mike has been a full-time freelance writer/photographer since 1980 with more than 5,000 articles published in more than 100 publications. He is the outdoors columnist for the Erie Times-News and the Warren Times Observer. Over the years he has become an expert at hunting the Allegheny National Forest and other public lands, and an accomplished trout fisherman.
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