When I first became interested in fishing for trout, it was summertime in the south. Turns out, this was bad news for me. I soon found out that rainbow trout in Texas get stocked from December to March and most are caught within the first few weeks. So, I had to wait. But while waiting, I decided to find out more about trout, including which months were the best to start fishing for them across the US (and parts of Canada). Here’s what I found.
Trout can be active year-round, but it all depends on where you live. In the eastern US, the best months are from March to June. For the western US, it’s from July to September. For the south, December to March. And for the northern US, the best month is June.
The best months to catch trout across the US
|Location||Best Months||Average Temperature|
|Eastern US||Mid-March to June||73ºF|
|Western US||July to Early-September||68ºF|
|Southern US||December to March||51ºF|
In the majority of regions across the US (and parts of Canada), trout are caught mostly in the springtime and can be found moving from the deeper water to the shallows. This remains the best overall time to go in most climates. In the spring months, you can take advantage of the trout’s spawning season, if you choose. Trout will be at their most aggressive and will strike at just about anything that crosses their path.
However, not all regions have the same ideal months for trout fishing. In the north, the summer months have some of the best fishing days. In the south, it’s the winter months. And in the west, most states have year-round trout fishing.
If you’d like a further breakdown of regions in the US and the best months to go trout fishing, read on.
In the eastern US, the best months to go fishing are generally around springtime, or mid-March to mid-June to be exact. The weather during these months is well suited for many animals’ metabolisms to start back up. Insects become less dormant, the water warms up, and the trout start biting.
It’s also when most species of trout start to spawn. While there is some controversy over if fishing during the spawning season is sporting, it definitely yields results.
In the spawning season, trout are more active and aggressive and will strike at almost anything in their range. Overall, this isn’t because they’re hungry, but because they’re protective. During this time, it’s best to use spoons, spinners, or anything bright or flashing to entice their aggression. There’s also quite a bit of competition between trout. They often eat other trout’s eggs and offspring, so using baits that resemble eggs or lures that look like trout can also be a good method during spawning season.
Outside of spawning season, some states, like Virginia, have year-round trout fishing. Depending on the state, there are different regulations on which gear, waters, and bait you use, so make sure to check before you travel.
Stocked and wild trout should be highly active most of the year, but from June leading into September, streams have less water and the hot weather can warm the water temperature too much. Fishing during these summer months can be difficult, but some experienced anglers find success.
Overall, if you’re fishing for trout in the eastern US, your best bet is to stick to mid-March to June.
Western US (year-round)
The western US has some of the best trout fishing around. It’s also year-round in most areas. Normally, the best months to target trout are July to Early September when the waters are at their warmest and many insects are hatching. Because of this, dry fly fishing becomes incredibly effective.
Here’s a monthly breakdown of what trout fishing looks like in the western US:
April to mid-May
During April and May, water temperatures begin to warm up and both trout and insects are coming to life. Many different varieties of insects hatch at this time, which means dry fly fishing is biggest in these months.
Most days, temperatures range between 50-60ºF, and the water temperature also reaches somewhere in the mid-50s.
Because of the good weather and the young, naive trout, fishing from April to mid-May is considered to be some of the best for the western US.
May to June
In some areas of the west, snow begins to melt in May and June, which means the runoff swells and dirties the rivers. While you can fish these rivers on some days, other days the visibility simply isn’t there. Depending on the environment, snow runoff typically lasts 1-2 months.
There are still many days you can fish, even if the water isn’t all that clear. Since the rivers swell from the runoff, the increased flow pushes trout closer to the banks of the river. Even with the lack of visibility, trouts’ line of sight is around three feet and will still hit many baits and lures.
The good news is, as amazing as trout’s eyesight can be, the lower visibility means lines and leaders are more difficult to spot. If you find yourself fishing in the western US in these months, consider taking advantage of this and pack some stronger line and leaders if you’d like. You can also use some heavier duty lures and bait to make the most of it and increase the chances that they’re seen. If you’re fly fishing, you may want to use bigger flies to help compensate for this and get within the trouts’ line of sight.
Still, many rivers and lakes aren’t affected by snow runoff as much and can prove to be a better option if you’re looking for clear waters. Dry fly fishing becomes much easier in these conditions. You can choose from a wide variety of fly shapes and sizes and have plenty of luck.
July to early-September
July to early-September is the peak season for most of the western US and this is when the majority book their fishing trips. Because of the ideal and consistent weather, air pressure, and good fishing, most states have an influx of visitors. Many states also have large populations of flies hatching, so it’s some of the most perfect time to start getting into fly fishing. As a bonus, if you prefer throwing flies you can see on the water, this is a great time of year to go.
However, a downside to fishing during these months is the level of competition you’ll face. Since the weather, fly hatchings, and activity of trout are all near perfect, many fishermen will visit from all around for the experience. Fishing in many parks such as Yellowstone has become a big attraction, inviting fishermen from across the US. While it may be crowded and inconvenient at times, there is still plenty of fishing that can be done and it shouldn’t stop you from considering paying a visit.
September to October
As we approach fall, September to October still provides some great trout fishing in the western US. In fact, it can be a great time to go as most families are back home and going back to school.
At this point in the year, the runoff from the snow begins to subside, which means the waters start to clear up a bit. There are still plenty of fly populations still hatching during this time, which means it’s still a great opportunity to fly fish.
Some trout, like brown trout, also start preparing for spawning season. Because of this, you’ll likely find they’re feeding much more actively and are a bit less picky when it comes to lures and presentation.
November to March
Trout fishing is done year-round in most areas in the western US, so fishing in the winter months of November to March is still possible and makes for some good catches.
The ideal conditions to look for is for weather that’s above freezing (32ºF) and also a day that’s not too windy. Because it’s still winter, focusing on the hottest part of the day will allow the waters to warm enough and get the trout moving. The time of day to aim for is about 10am-2pm.
There are still some insects hatching during this time, so if you’re fly fishing, consider mimicking the flies hatching in your area for best results. Nymphing is a good practice and likely the best technique to use for these months.
The advantages of trout fishing in the west between November and March are reduced tourism and a good opportunity for some nice catches. You’ll often find less competition and can enjoy a relaxing day fishing for trout.
Overall, if you’re in the western US, your best bet for catching trout is to go in July to Early-September when the air temperature is averaging 68ºF. Although you can’t go wrong with the year-round availability.
March to May is when springtime usually hits and the snow starts melting, but overall, June is the best month to aim for. You can catch lake trout that are at a ridiculous size.
Just to give you an idea, the average lake trout is around 20 inches long, while the record is 59 inches! As far as weight, you have a good chance of landing one that’s 40 pounds, and even upwards of 50 pounds.
However, in colder temperatures, trout are at their most lazy state. They often won’t chase lures or go after bait as they once did in the warmer months. If you’re fishing when it’s colder out, expect to bring your best bait and lures to entice them to strike. With lures, it’s important not to reel too fast as trout won’t want to exert themselves for a chase that doesn’t seem worth it for them.
If you’re fly fishing in colder weather, it’s important to try your best to mimic any bugs or flies that might be active at the time. Same as if you were bait or spin-casting, keep the movements slow and try your best to land the rig as close to the trout as you can.
Depending on your specific climate, you can go fishing year-round in the northern Us and Canada, although during March through May you can start to expect catching more brook, brown, lake, rainbow, and tiger trout. At this time of year, expect temperatures to range around 70ºF (20ºC) in most areas.
Depending on your state, the best months for trout fishing in the south are December to March. During most other months, the water temperature simply gets too hot, and many trout either head to deeper water, or they die off from the heat.
Here in Texas, rainbow trout get stocked in these four months, and some other states, like Tennessee and North Carolina, also stock trout in the winter.
Most areas get too hot to support trout populations year-round, but some mountainous areas can provide better shelter from the heat. The higher altitude and the shorter sunrise and sunset times mean the sun isn’t beating down on the water as long.
Remember that deep water has an opposite effect in the winter. Trout that normally would seek the cooler, deep water in the summer months are now seeking that same depth as it’s warmer than the shallows.
Almost all of the trout in the south will be from a stocked population. Little to no trout are wild due to the excessive heat. For this reason, many prefer to move to bass fishing for the rest of the year. If you’re interested in fishing for bass during the summer months, I recently looked into and listed some of the differences between trout and bass fishing.
Ideal water temperature for trout
Trout are highly sensitive to the temperature of the water. Mostly, when it’s too hot, they’ll head for deeper water and try to wait out the heat. You can still catch them if you’re fishing in deep water, but they’re a bit more sluggish and tend to rest instead of actively searching for food.
Here in the south, the summer months get hot enough to kill some populations off, which explains why we have to fish for trout in the winter. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep the water temperature in mind when you’re out fishing or planning a trip.
|Water Temperature||Effect||Best Time of Day|
|75ºF and up||Lethal||–|
|70ºF||Nearly lethal||Early morning|
|65ºF||Slow, heading for deep water||Early morning or night|
|60ºF||Ideal temperature||Most times of day|
|55ºF||Ideal temperature||Most times of day|
|50ºF||Starting to actively feed||10am-2pm|
|45ºF and Below||Resting and slow||10am-2pm|
Water temperature is a bit harder to measure than the air temperature, so if you’d like to confirm what yours is, consider carrying a small water thermometer with you. I’ll include below from Amazon.
In the end, no matter where you live in the US, springtime is probably a great time for catching trout. Unless you live in the south of course.
Is it good to fish for trout after rain?
While fishing during the rain can have mixed results, fishing after rainfall can provide good results. Trout often wait out the rain and allow it to raise the water levels and carry new critters into the lake or river. Most times, they’ll hunt aggressively after the rain.
Is trout fishing at night any good?
Fishing for trout at night is usually a good idea. If it was a hot day, and the water had time to cool, trout will be highly active and searching for food. While trout cannot see in color at night, by using bait or a lure with high contrast, you can get their attention and get them to strike.