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Best Water Temperature For Trout Fishing

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Fishing is a sport and being prepared to play your opponent is key to winning. Having an awareness of the trout habitat, behavior and diet will give you the advantage in the game. When you have an epic day of trout fishing, other anglers will often ask “what did you catch them with”? While gear and bait are obviously important, another relevant question may be “what was the water temperature”? Trout activity and feeding are greatly effected by their surroundings. So, knowing the current water temperature (where you are fishing) is an important tool. To help you win the game, this article will cover the best water temperature needed for prime trout fishing.

Water Temperature For Trout Matters Because?

Water temperatures for trout vary and are important to survival feeding spawning
Yellowstone Grand Prism Spring

Temperature tolerance for trout isn’t only about comfort it’s about survival. The colder the water temperature, the more oxygen it will hold. Trout is a cold water fish that requires more dissolved oxygen than other trout species. They are cold blooded and their body temperature is equal to their current surrounding water temperature. So, even the smallest fluctuations can alter their activity and feeding. As with humans, ample amounts of oxygen are critical for proper respiration. Also, oxygen breaks down harmful ammonia found in water to non toxic levels of nitrates. The levels of oxygenation in the water is a clear sign of the quality of the water, health of the fish and other aquatic life.

Water Temperature To Hot For Trout

Summer Trout Fishing Warm Water Temperatures
Warm Water Trout Fishing

When water temperatures become to warm it will deplete the dissolved oxygen. For trout, depletion of dissolved oxygen causes breathing problems, loss of energy, decrease in feeding and spawning. Insect activity, including hatching, also decreases with increased water temperatures. When bodies of water become too warm, trout will concentrate more on conserving energy to survive rather than eating. Changes in water temperature, even small, will alter their ability to catch and process food. Still bodies of water (or lack of moving water) also affects the oxygen levels.

Water Temperature To Cold For Trout

Optimal Temperatures Trout Fishing Cold Water
Cold Water Trout Fishing

When the water temperature becomes to low the trout metabolism decreases which will result in less feeding, conservation of energy and a halted growth. Water temperatures to cold will cause the enzymes that digest their food to slow down making it harder for them to process food. So, this will result in trout feeding less often when they are in water that is too cold. During the winter months trout will migrate to deeper pools and slow moving waters in search of slightly warmer temperatures.

Optimal Water Temperatures For Trout Fishing

The optimal water temperature for trout fishing depends on the specific species, their geographical location and their current body of water. However, regardless of species or location, if the water is too hot or too cold trout will become sluggish and stressed. On average, the overall ideal water temperature for trout ranges from 46 – 60 degrees. Trout will still feed outside of this range but they will become more active when it falls inside this range. Some bodies of water can fluctuate up to 12 degrees in a single day. So, for successful trout fishing, know the current water temperature.

Rainbow And Brown Trout

Brown Trout Water Ideal Water Temperatures Fishing
Brown Trout

Rainbow and Brown Trout are more tolerant of higher water temperatures and fluctuations than other species. Their ability to adapt is a main reason why they are stocked throughout the U.S.. The ideal water temperature ranges from 45 to 67 with stress levels beginning at 68 degrees. They are a hardy fish but once the water rises above 68 degrees their stress level will increase rapidly. Water temperatures of 79 degrees and higher can be lethal after a sustained duration of 48 hours.

Brook Trout

Brook Trout Photo by rigel on Unsplash

A Brook Trout requires a lower water temperature that also creates higher oxygen levels versus the Rainbow and Brown Trout. This is why Brook Trout live in the higher elevations and exclusively in cold waters. The sweet spot range for Brook Trout feeding is between 50 and 56 degrees. Brook will begin to reach stress levels when water temperatures reach 65 degrees and it will become lethal levels at 70 degrees. Spawning begins in mid October and the optimal water temperature is between 40 – 49 degrees.

Cutthroat Trout

Cutthroat Trout Water Optimal Temperatures Needed To Survive
Cutthroat Trout

A Cutthroat Trout requires very low water temperatures with high oxygenation. The optimal water temp for a Cutthroat is between 40 and 60 degrees. They will begin to stress once the water reaches 60 degrees and will die in temperatures above 70 degrees. An adult Cutthroat cruises for its food. To catch a Cutthroat, you need to fish during optimal feeding water temperatures. So, to eliminate a non productive day, only fish for Cutthroats when the water temperature is below 60 degrees. They will spawn in May and prefer a water temperature that falls in the range of 42 – 48 degrees.

Tips, Tools And Techniques

It is essential to have a game plan when you decide to fish for trout. Just like other sport playbooks, strategy matters. Whether you are fishing in the winter or during the summer there are tips, tools and techniques that will give you the winning edge.

Time Of Day Based On Temperature

Time of day trout fishing tips based on weather and water temperature
Best Water Temperature And Time Of Day To Fish For Trout

During the summer months, fish during the early morning hours when the water temperature is lower and trout are feeding. Cloudy days will lower the water temperature and is a green light to go fishing for trout. When water temperatures are too warm the trout become sluggish. Since they slow down, your presentation of bait should also slow down. Stay informed with local announcements and regulations. When the water becomes too warm the state agencies may restrict anglers from fishing to protect the trout.

During the winter months, fish during the hottest part of the day. When the sun warms the water (even slightly) trout will begin to feed. However, trout will become sluggish when the water temperatures become too cold. And, just like warm water temperatures, you will need to slow your bait presentation. Match the hatch by offering a smaller bait that is easier to digest. Trout feed primarily on midges in the winter.

Follow The Fish

Rainbow Trout School
Rainbow Tout School

During the summer, find the colder water and you will find the trout. During the warmer months, spring fed tributaries will carry cool oxygenated water into the lakes, rivers and streams. Moving water helps to keep the temperatures lower. So, fish upstream sections (less temperature fluctuations) of streams and rivers. Target areas of shade and deeper pools because they will naturally have cooler water temperatures. Because it holds the deeper water, dams are a great location to find summer trout. Remember, the deeper the water the colder the waters temperature. In lakes, trout tend to hold up near the thermocline. This is where water temperatures decrease rapidly based on depth and sunlight penetration.

Trout metabolism will slow in cold water. To conserve their energy they will look for calmer warmer waters. During the winter months, trout will hold in deep pools and long runs. They instinctively find areas with slow currents and stable ice conditions. Trout will seek groundwater inputs that provide access to warmer water. They will look for backwaters and side channels to escape surface ice. Fish the tailwaters (waterways downstream from a dam) since the water temperature will be generally warmer.

Use A Fishing Thermometer

Add a fishing thermometer to your tackle box. Knowing the waters correct temperature will help you find the spot where the trout are likely to be feeding. As mentioned above, trout will not feed when the water temperature is too warm or too cold. You can avoid wasted time by having this valuable information. Increase your bite action by knowing the current water temperatures. We recommend the SAMSFX Anglers Fishing Thermometer.

Summary Of The Best Water Temperature For Trout Fishing

The warmer the water temperature the less oxygen it contains. All species of trout thrive in cold clear water with good oxygenation. The colder the water the slower their metabolism. This will cause their feeding to slow down and then, so will the bite. Most trout actively feed when the water temperature is between 46 and 60 degrees. Depending on the trout species, anything outside this range will require some strategy. When water temperatures exceed 68 degrees, your best option is to fish for something other than trout.

Featured image courtesy of Infographic vector created by vectorjuice –

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