Illinois spring catchable trout program opens in April. It opens in other areas at different dates but the scene is still the same. During the season Illinois anglers have a chance to catch this great tasting cold water species.

Under a program funded by the Inland Trout Stamp required of participants in the program, The IDNR stocks hatchery raised trout in the 10 or 11-inch class.

Rainbow trout prefer water that remains below 72-degrees. Most of our Illinois waters do not stay that cool all year. Trout like to stay within 4 feet of the surface when stocked. Later they move to the bottom except to feed. This cold-water denizen survives in spring-fed lakes and ponds. Baring these conditions, they are stocked in colder waters surviving until late spring.

This hardy fish and aggressive eater eats commercial fish pellets at the hatchery prior to transfer to other waters. On opening day, the rush to catch some trout results in many locations having crowds of anglers elbow to elbow along the shore.   After the first day fishing tends to return more to normal levels of anglers.

Once in the water at a site location, trout take a variety of bait, artificial or natural.

In the first few days of survival in stocked ponds, trout attack in-line spinners, casting spoons, chunks of cheese and marshmallows. Even Velveeta cheese spread placed on a very small hook catches fish. Other grocery store baits include corn and shrimp. Place the baits on a hook suspended beneath a bobber about 18 inches.

After the first day it is advisable to switch to live bait. It is then that worm dunking comes into play. Rainbow trout have about 2,500 taste buds. That compares with about 9,000 in us. Trout are one of the least selective feeders. But, they soon turn to only baits that contain tastes commonly found in living tissue. The top of that list contains members of the worm family.

The more acclimated fish prefer live baits such as mealworms, red worms, maggots, minnows and nightcrawlers. A one-inch piece of nightcrawler threaded on a number 10 hook makes a good presentation. This bait is suspended beneath a slip bobber about 18-inches deep to start. The slip bobber is adjustable to place the nightcrawler piece at a specific depth. Ultimately the right depth is where one finds the fish are cruising in search of forage.

Fresh from the hatchery, trout feed in the top 1 to 2 feet of water. They are accustomed to eating pellets thrown to them. Due to the competition from other fish in the raceways, the pellets do not get a chance to sink much deeper. As the trout become use to their new home after stocking they become hold on the bottom in groups except to rise up while feeding. They also take live bait suspended just off the bottom.

Fishing on the lower depths requires a live bait rig. It consists of a hook with live bait at the end of the line. About two feet up the line attach a small split shot. Above that is an egg sinker that slides up and down the line. The split shot keeps it from going all the way to the hook. The egg sinker sits on the bottom. The two feet between it and the hook allows the live bait to float just off the bottom or in the case of minnows to swim around.

Most of the ponds with these 10 to 11-inch fish have relatively featureless bottoms. If there is any structure or vegetation available they soon find it and make it their home. Otherwise it is a good idea to fish facing into the wind.   The wind forces indigenous forage toward you.


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