With the arrival of warmer weather, families across Connecticut are excitedly returning to their outdoor activities, and one great way to pass the time with your kids before beach season is by fishing for freshly stocked trout! Lucky for us, one doesn’t have to travel far for a great day on the water, as Connecticut offers a prolific hatchery program, stocking over 800,000 trout per year in the 308 rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds across the state.
Because trout have a highly varied diet, they will respond to and eat a wide selection of artificial lures and bait, making them a perfect fish for beginners. Depending on the stocking date and the body of water, one can fine-tune their presentation to have consistent action that will be fun for the whole family.
Using bait to catch fish is many people’s preferred method, as it is straightforward and the materials are cheap and easy to find. It’s also a great way to teach younger kids the basics of fishing because the rigging is very simple and you can help them along with the steps. For trout, all you need is a light-medium action rod between 6’6” and 8’ and a reel that can hold at least 150 yards of eight-pound test fluorocarbon line. As for bait, PowerBait is a great option when the trout are freshly stocked in colder, still water like a lake or pond, due to its bright fluorescent color and pungent smell. It also resembles the feed pellets on which many of the trout are raised. Tie on a small baitholder hook and twelve inches above that put a 1/8 oz. bullet weight with two rubber stoppers. Simply mold the PowerBait onto the hook and take a nice long cast. Trout tend to cruise the shallow areas where they are first stocked for at least two weeks before spreading out, so don’t worry about not getting your bait deep enough. This type of fishing is all about patience, so keep your rod close by in either a rod holder or just between your legs in a folding chair. Trout will be pretty aggressive when they pick the bait up off the bottom, so when the line moves or the rod tip starts to bend, reel up your slack line and set the hook.
Another good bait option is the classic worm and bobber. Nightcrawlers will attract all sorts of fish beyond trout, so this method is a lot of fun to use in the warmer months when fish are dispersed throughout the water column. All you need is a small J hook, some store-bought worms or worms you have dug up, and a bobber. The same theory applies to this form of fishing as it does with PowerBait. Take a long cast and keep an eye on the bobber. When it moves, you move. Set the hook and reel in!
Most trout lures are simple to use and typically pretty cheap. I prefer slender-bodied metal spoons like Kastmasters as they only require a steady retrieve to have good action in the water. Plus, they come in almost every imaginable size as they are used in both fresh and saltwater, but I prefer the 1/8th or 1/4th oz. option for the smaller profile. One tip for using metal spoons is to let them sink all the way to the bottom and work them back slowly. Trout will be attracted by the flashing metal and the back and forth wiggle of the body. Don’t worry about seeing or feeling a bite, trout hit with enthusiasm, so you will know when you have a fish on the line. Spoons are also great for kids learning how to cast, as they tend to be heavy, streamlined, and lacking multiple sharp hooks. They also cut through wind and work well in rougher water.
Another great lure to use on trout at all times of the year are rooster tails. These lures tend to be lighter so they don’t cast that well, but you can always remedy that by adding a small split shot to the line about six inches above the lure.
If you are interested in getting your kid into fly fishing, going for stocked trout is a perfect place to start. There are numerous rivers and streams across the state that offer breathtaking scenery and the chance took hook into some seriously big fish.
Obviously, fly fishing is a sport that prides itself on being highly selective when it comes to presentation, but stocked trout don’t tend to be as picky as some of their native brethren. This being the case, I think you can get away with having three flies in your box, as long as you know how to use them properly. For cold water, I would choose a size #16-20 bead head nymph. Let it sink low in a deep pool and use a strike indicator to let you know when a fish is nosing around the fly. A small split shot can be placed on the leader to get the fly down in to the strike zone quicker if the water is moving too quickly. For warmer shallower water, I love using streamers. They are simple to cast, easy to strip in, and fun to fish. My third, more universal fly would be a small wooly bugger, preferably in a dark color like brown or black. This fly resembles a multitude of local forage, whether it’s a drowned bug or a small baitfish, and they can be stripped in like a streamer or suspended like a nymph.
If you go
If you are interested in planning a fishing trip, consult the DEEP website (ct.gov/deep) for information regarding fishing regulations and licenses. Also, check out their interactive trout stocking map. This wonderful tool will give you day to day updates on which bodies of water are stocked when, so you can time your trip around the movement of the fish.
Some recent stocking sites include:
• Rogers Lake in Lyme/Old Lyme
• Chatfield Hollow/Schreeder Pond in Killingworth
• Long Pond in North Stonington/Ledyard
• Mohegan Park Pond in Norwich
• Day Pond in Colchester
• Gardner Lake in Salem/Bozrah
• Quonnipaug Lake in Guilford
• Wauregan Reservoir in Killingly
• Cedar Lake in Chester
• Beach Pond and Green Fall Reservoir in Voluntown
• Wyassup Lake in North Stonington
• Billings Lake in North Stonington
• Horse Pond in Salem
• Uncas Lake in Lyme
• Lake Wintergreen in Hamden
• Bashan Lake in East Haddam
• Roseland Lake in Woodstock
• Keach Pond/Peck Pond in Thompson
• Scholfield Pond in Montville
• Beaver Brook Park Ponds in Windham
• Angus Park Pond in Glastonbury