Are Trout Bottom Feeders? (Answered)

Are Trout Bottom Feeders_

When people think of trout fishing we first picture the fly fisherman that’s catching a trout leaping out of the water. This implies that trout are surface feeders which they are. However, trout also eat in other areas of the water.

So are trout bottom feeders?

Trout living in large lakes and oceans are bottom feeders and eat mollusks, crustaceans, and worms. Trout living in shallow streams and rivers are surface feeders and eat insects, fish eggs, and minnows.

A good rule of thumb when fishing for trout is to fish near the surface in rivers and near the bottom in lakes.

In a study, wild brown trout were observed for three years in central Pennsylvania to track their eating behavior. The study found that wild trout consume less than 15% of their food from the bottom.

Keep in mind that they were observing wild trout in a shallow stream. Stocked trout in a deep lake may behave differently.

In order to figure out if the trout you’re fishing for are near the surface or the bottom, we need to cover what causes a trout to change water depth.

Where Trout Live And Hunt In A Lake

Lake trout act and feed differently than trout that live in moving water such as a river. Given that most stocked trout fishing is done in a lake, let’s cover this first.

Anglers will often catch lake trout near the bottom or middle of the water column because lake trout will hang out underneath and by underwater structures. This means you can frequently catch trout near the bottom of a lake similar to other bottom feeding fish.

trout underwater near the bottom

Trout are timid predators so expect them to be near som coverage when they’re in a lake. Although these fish typically roam around and swim in current, they might hang by the area where they were stocked.

In fact, stocked trout will remain in the stocked area for 3-10 days depending on the trout species. So fish that area whether it’s shallow or deep.

Weather and Water Temperature Effects on Trout Eating

Trout are cold water fish so they tend to like cooler water which can be found near the middle and bottom water columns of lakes.

This means if you are fishing for trout in a cold region then they will be closer to the surface. Whereas if you’re in a warm region then the trout will likely be closer to the bottom.

So trout might be “bottom feeders” if the air temperature is warm causing the only cool water to be near the bottom of the lake.

How To Fish For Trout Near The Bottom

So if the trout are near the bottom then you need to setup your fishing rig to fish near the bottom. Luckily this is a simple rig to setup for any type of bait fishing.

The best bottom fishing setup for trout is the Carolina Rig also known as the Egg Sinker Rig.

Carolina Rig (Egg Sinker Method)

Setting up your trout rig is where the real magic of bait fishing is.

I have fished between two groups of people and caught my limit while they never got a bite. We all were using Powerbait and fishing off the bottom.

The only difference was that I had figured out where the trout were biting.

In my example, I had found where the trout were biting which is also referred to as the “strike zone.”

The trick was that I had a long enough leader so that my Powerbait was suspended from the bottom enough that the trout could bite it.

When I looked at the nearby fisherman’s setups, they were using shorter leaders and kept reeling in seaweed. This meant their bait was hidden in the seaweed at the bottom which meant the trout were never going to even see their bait.

Below is an example of the Carolina Rig setup for Powerbait trout fishing.

All you need is an egg sinker attached above a barrel swivel with a 1-2 foot leader.

You can use a treble hook or single bait hook and use whichever bait you prefer.

Make sure you are using a bait that floats with the hook. Otherwise your bait will sit on the bottom and the trout will never see it.

Egg Sinker Trout Fishing Rig

The main benefit of this rig is that you can cast far out with the weight of the egg sinker. For casting out further use larger egg sinker weights. Typically people use 1/4 to 1/2 ounce egg sinker weights when trout fishing.

This is a great setup if you are trout fishing from shore and need to cast out to the deeper waters.

When Do Trout Eat Near The Surface?

So if warm weather causes trout to feed near the bottom then when do trout eat near the surface? Simply put – when the weather is cold.

Trout will eat near the surface of a lake when the air temperature is cold. This is usually caused by cloudy or raining days which make for great trout fishing days.

After all, most lake anglers will leave when it starts raining so there’s less fisherman AND the trout will be on a feeding frenzy meaning you will catch more. Personally, these are my favorite days to go trout fishing.

River trout will almost always feed near the surface since most rivers are not deeper than a few feet. However, you will notice that these rivers tend to have cold water running through them. Such as rivers that are fed by melting ice at the top of a mountain.

How To Fish For Trout Near The Surface

The most popular and photogenic way of fishing for trout near the surface is to fly fish. This is a great method for both lake and river trout since they will all target a fly that lands on the water’s surface.

For the rest of us folks who don’t know or own a fly fishing reel, we get to use lures or a bobber instead.

Bobber Fishing For Trout

The classic bobber fishing is the most recognized form of fishing where you fish from the surface waiting for that bobber to get pulled beneath the water.

I have seen this method work well when the weather is cold and the trout are near the surface. This method also works well around sunrise and sunset as the trout are actively hunting bugs near the surface.

The bobber fishing rig will only work if this method allows you to place your bait in the trout’s strike zone.

This means if the trout are near the bottom then this method will not work very well. Your bait will be floating near the top while the trout are swimming at the bottom.

There are ways to setup your rig so that you can fish deeper in the water column while using a bobber.

This is called a sliding slip bobber rig which you can see below:

Sliding Slip Bobber Rig

The most critical aspect is having a split shot weight beneath the bobber so that it pulls your bait and hook down. This will allow your bait to slowly descent towards the bottom which should allow you to present your bait in the trout’s strike zone.

If you have a general sense of how deep the trout are then you can have a stop knot so that your bait will not descend any deeper than the length you allow.

I highly recommend using a bobber when bait fishing for trout near the surface so you can see when you’re getting bites. You can also adjust the stop knot so that your bait will sit near the surface or middle of the water column.

Jig Fishing For Trout

Another way of fishing for trout near the surface or in shallow waters is to use a worm and start jigging. Bass fisherman will be familiar with jig fishing and the same can be done for trout.

Typically trout that are in deeper waters will not be as active and water visibility will be an important factor that may make this method more difficult.

However, trout near the surface or in shallow waters will be intrigued by a jigging powerbait worm attached to a jig head. See this video for a quick run through on how to setup a wacky rig for trout:

Lure Fishing

Finally lures will work for trout if they are near the surface or middle of the water column, depending which lure you use. Most lures are a simple cast out and reel in at a steady pace which makes this a great option.

Here are the top 3 fishing lures I recommend when fishing for trout. Remember, you need a variety of lures with trout since what works one day may not work the next.

ACME Kastermaster Spoon

You will find these lures on almost every top trout fishing list and for good reason.

Use the 1/8 ounce or 1/4 ounce sizes since those have the best balance of enough weight to cast from shore yet still small enough to fit in a trout’s mouth. See the huge variety of sizes and color combinations of Kastermasters on Amazon.

I have caught and seen people catch bass, trout, and even bluegill with the smaller sizes. This all-purpose lure is a must have since it wobbles through the water imitating a bait fish and the solid brass material lets this lure fly on every cast.

These lures sink fast so be sure to have a steady reel in when fishing from shore.

Panther Martin Spinner

These lures are legendary in the trout fishing scene and you will almost always find one of these lures in an angler’s tackle box.

Go with the 1/8 ounce or 1/4 ounce spinners.

Just cast and reel in which causes the blade to spin and produce a thumping noise. This lure will earn the nickname ole reliable once you start getting more casts in.

Try different colors based on the weather and water visibility. See the huge selection of colors on Amazon and find your new favorite one.

In darker waters the brighter colors tend to perform better while clear water the silver colors tend to get me more strikes.

Rapala Original Floater

This is another lure that shows up on every top lure list for any fresh waster fish including trout.

The Rapala Original Floater is a simple reel and jerk type lure that causes them to wobble and hover that drives fish nuts.

Start off with the size 7 lure and adjust based on the fish size. Select the color that most resembles the native fish in your area since that’s what the trout are looking to hunt and eat. See all the color options on Amazon.

Frequently Asked Question About Trout

Q: Are trout bottom feeders?

A: Trout can be bottom feeders but they do not only eat off the bottom. Typically they will eat from the surface and middle of the water column. All of this is based on the water and weather conditions as trout prefer cold water.

Q: Where do trout live and hide in a lake?

A: If the trout are stocked in the lake then the trout will typically hang by the stocked area for 3-10 days depending on the species. Trout are known to hang by inlets/outlets of the lake since they naturally prefer moving water. Trout will also hang by underwater structures where they feel protected and can eat smaller insects and fish.

Q: What depth do trout feed at?

A: Trout are opportunistic eaters meaning they will eat from any depth. Typically trout will eat near the surface on cold, cloudy, or rainy days since the air temperature will be cool. On sunny days you can expect to find the trout near the bottom of the lake. So trout will eat from any depth, you just need to make sure you’re fishing where the trout are.

Q: What is the best time to catch trout?

A: The mornings and evenings are the best and most consistent times to catch trout. The reason is that mornings and evenings are cooler so the trout will be actively hunting near the surface. Trout will be eating smaller fish, crustaceans, and bugs that are near the surface. This means your bait or lure will be presented at the right time for trout to bite it.

Q: Do Trout Bite When Its Raining?

A: Yes trout bite when it’s raining. In fact, you will usually not find trout near the bottom when it rains since the trout will come closer to the surface to feed. Rain washes a lot of nutrients into the water which get the trout excited. So typically during a rain the trout will be on a feeding frenzy.


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