Sporting goods stores and tackle shops are full of glitzy high-tech lures promising a Moby Dick-sized catch every time, and while some of these lures may be effective, when it comes to catching trout, nothing beats good old live bait. Live bait has been used to catch fish since pre-historic times, and for very good reason: because it works!
There are several advantages of using live bait, especially when it comes to trout fishing. Live bait is easy to find; if your local tackle shop is closed, chances are you can find an ample supply of live bait simply by turning over rocks and logs. Live bait is also affordable, and this advantage comes in handy if you’re casting your line into snag-prone areas, such as under submerged logs, or into a stream filled with large rocks. Most anglers turn red with rage when their expensive lure gets snagged, but just about every angler can deal with losing a hook with a worm attached to it.
Perhaps the best live bait for trout fishing is the humble nightcrawler. The nightcrawler is larger than most garden variety worms and easy to distinguish because one end is more pointed and colored a dark shade of brown or reddish-brown, while the other end is more rounded and lighter in color. For best results, pinch the worm into two halves. Fishing with the darker end of the worm will yield more brook trout, while using the light-colored end will entice rainbow trout. Brown trout, on the other hand, aren’t very picky; they will happily consume either end of the nightcrawler.
An often overlooked choice of bait for trout fishing is the garden slug. These slimy little critters can be had for free; just look around wet leaves and logs early in the morning. One of the great things about fishing with garden slugs is that they stay in place on your hook. Garden slugs make exceptional bait for morning fishing trips, and are most effective in early spring.
Minnows are a favorite choice of live bait for catching trout. Although a greater quantity of trout can be landed other types of bait, minnows are usually responsible for catching those monster-sized trout. Fishing with minnows takes a certain amount of finesse, since the trout must be fooled into thinking that your bait is an injured fish. Minnows are great for experienced anglers, but the recreational fisherman will usually have more success with worms.
Finally, there are grasshoppers. Abundant in the summertime, these insects work well as bait when nothing else seems to do the trick. The hard part is getting them to stay on the hook. When using grasshoppers as bait, it is a good idea to hook the insect through its abdomen. This will keep the insect alive, allowing its natural movement to entice fish into striking.
The best part of using live bait to catch trout is that it’s fun to experiment with various insects to see just what a trout will eat. Simply stick an insect on your hook and see what happens. You just might discover that you’re “secret weapon” isn’t an expensive store-bought lure after all.