A Window For Stream Brown Trout

A Window For Stream Brown Trout

Frost covers the ground before day break. A history of air temperatures and the recent disappearance of snow tells the story: It hasn't started yet.

"It" is a migration. Brown trout begin migrating away from winter sites as water temperatures climb above 44°F or so. If recent air temperatures have averaged 45°F or less throughout the previous week, chances are good browns are just nosing out of wintering holes in the mother ship.

The mother ship is a bigger river, a lake, or a reservoir below the streams where they spend the summer. Browns spawn on gravel in those streams in October, November, sometimes later, then they migrate down to slower, deeper, wider pools or lakes, especially in the North. Sometimes those wintering pools are in the same stream browns spend the summer in. Sometimes not.

Big browns save energy. They don't fight a lot of current during the winter months, which are stressful and generally represent a time of stasis, or zero growth. Lakes, Great Lakes, and reservoirs offer the best strategies for growing monstrous browns.

I like it when "it" hasn't happened yet. Browns are down in areas most trout fishermen don't even think of as "trout water" It's slow. It's cloudy. Smallmouths, walleyes, and pike take turns ruling there in summer.

By the time water temperatures reach 60°F or so, browns are close to the areas where they'll spend the remainder of summer and early fall, hiding under impossible tangles of wood. So everything between 44°F and 60°F in spring tends to define a time of transition.

Most trout seasons open during early April in the North. In the past, I could count on snow-covered banks keeping water temperatures below 40°F for a week or three after the opener in Northern Michigan, meaning the biggest browns would be in slow water uncharacteristic of trout way downstream of the maddening crowds that insist trout be where they "always are."

Waxworms on a small jig under a stream float or a well-tied nymph under a strike indicator can be extremely effective for cold-water trout. I tend to use small, sensitive floats on light line with thin fluorocarbon leaders beneath them in slow water. I use an 11-foot ultralight G. Loomis float rod designed to protect 4-pound leaders. I tie jigs or hooks to a 3- to 4-foot segment of 4-pound Raven Fluorocarbon beneath the float.

Cold mornings are a good thing. And this year, we've got snow all over the banks on my favorite trout streams. Whoopee!

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You


Pecan-Crusted Catfish Fillets Recipe

By: Emilie Bailey

This is not your run-of-the-mill fish recipe! Buttery, savory pecans are seasoned up to make...


Navionics adds SonarChart Shading to its Platinum+ and HotMaps Platinum cartography

In-Fisherman - April 29, 2019

Navionics adds SonarChart Shading and HotMaps Platinum.


Blackened Fish Recipe

Tommy Thompson

Blackened fish ready to serve with a side of okra and cucumber-red onion salad. This recipe is...

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor Hoody

John Frazier of Simms Fishing Products helps OSG's Lynn Burkhead understand the new features of the new Simms' Solarflex Ultra Cool Armor sun protection hoody.

Awesome Spoon Bluegill System

Check out this deadly spoon system for big bluegills introduced by one of In-Fisherman's readers.

Bait Choices from Skeet Reese

Pro angler Skeet Reese is a Major League Fishing champion and a winner of the Bassmaster Classic and BASS Angler of the Year titles. Throughout his years of bass catching success, as he tells World Fishing Network personality Chad LaChance, Berkley baits like the Deal and Straight Money have played a key role in what he has accomplished out on the water.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


Walleye Length To Weight Conversion Chart

Dr. Rob Neumann - January 03, 2017

Several methods are available to estimate the weight of a fish. Some use length as well as...

Boats & Motors

2- Vs. 4-Cycle Outboard Motors

Dan Johnson - April 16, 2018

Now more than ever, understanding each category's strong suits is critical to choosing a...


Understanding Spring Walleye Migrations

Gord Pyzer - June 02, 2018

'Walleyes spawn in spring and understanding spring walleye migrations, whether you live north...

See More Stories

More Trout & Salmon

Trout & Salmon

Hawg Nation Lake Trout

Jeff Simpson - August 09, 2016

The In-Fisherman staff takes you on a mission for monsters, as they cast for shallow...

Trout & Salmon

Matching The Hatch For Selective Trout

Cathy Beck - May 05, 2015

We can spend a lot of money on a fine fly rod and reel, but in the end it's the fly that...

Trout & Salmon

Western King Salmon

In-Fisherman - January 25, 2016

How many king salmon run the Columbia & Snake rivers and their tributaries varies each

See More Trout & Salmon

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.