Presented from Issue 106, October 2013
The way many start trout fishing is with a cheap little rod and a few worms. Bait fishing is one of the most enjoyable ways of fishing and often the least expensive too - no matter if it is trout - or from a jetty fishing for salt water species.
This article is on the simple basics of bait fishing for trout. There are several methods used to catch trout, and most novice trout anglers begin by learning to catch trout on light spinning tackle and bait fish first, before moving on up to the more advanced methods of trout fishing like spinning with spinners, hard body and soft plastic lures.
Some anglers like the challenge of using a fly rod and fish for wild trout in crystal clear lakes, rivers and streams. Some anglers spend many days (and years) trying to catch that trophy fish. As you get more experienced with your trout fishing then you may want to get into that type of trout fishing. But for now we are going to stick with basics and it’s not an expensive way to set yourself up, and that’s a good thing too.
For starters get hold of some IFS Angler Access Brochures of the many rivers in and around Tasmania that you can fish with ease. It’s always handy to study maps of the area that you may like to explore and fish one day as well. I used to sit down and go over and over detailed Tasmaps (1:100,000) for hours checking out rivers and marking them down as ones I wanted to fish. I have fished many of them now and continue to do so. Make sure you get permission to access private lands that do not have Angler Access on them. You will find most landowners are happy to let you fish on their property if you just ask for their permission first. Please note: Bait fishing is not allowed in National Parks throughout Tasmania.
Bait and Tackle
We all have different ideas on the best methods for catching trout and what baits to use. Anything that works is good that’s for sure, but the following will help you get set up for bait fishing.
- A lightweight fast action spinning rod around 1.8 mtrs to 2.1 mtrs in length is really all that is required for bait fishing rivers and most lakes. It doesn’t have to be expensive.
- A small spinning reel outfitted with 4 to 6 pound test line. I use 4 lb mono main line with a 6 lb trace. You can use 6 lb or 8 lb main line if you prefer. I just prefer to fish with light tackle.
- Size 4 or 6 bronze bait holder hooks are ideal. Hook sizes for Mudeyes are size 12 or 14.
- A few small/medium split shots and running ball sinkers for the odd occasion when you need to get your bait down in a section of faster flowing water.
It’s free if you want to collect it yourself.
- Earth worms and wattle grubs early season in flooding rivers.
- Wattle grubs, cockroaches, crickets, and grasshoppers later in the season as the river levels drop and weather becomes warmer and more settled.
Another excellent bait also is the mudeye — a bait that the trout won’t bypass. The mudeye is the dragonfly in the nymph stage of its life cycle and can be collected in waters that have reeds and any dead wood along the edges. IFS still strongly recommends against transferring flora and fauna of any type between water bodies. Around the end of October would be the time to start collecting them. They are best kept in a container half filled with cool clear water and keep them shaded, if any die remove them from the container as well. They can be kept in the fridge too. You can fish them under a bubble float or flick them out un-weighted and just let them drift and wait for the trout to snap them up. Place the hook through the unopened wing area just behind the head, this will keep them alive much longer.
Worms and are the best bait to use the early season and especially in flooded waters, and even more so when the rivers are spilling into the paddocks. This is when the trout will be in these areas gorging themselves on earth worms that have come out of the saturated ground. You will often see the trout feeding in these flooded areas by spotting bow waves and quite often there fins protrude out of the shallow water.
The common garden (earth) worm works a treat in these conditions. Depending on the size of the worms I usually thread two of them on the hook and flick it out into the area that they are feeding. Then it’s just a matter of waiting for the trout to pick up the baited hook. Give the fish a little line as it moves off and then when you feel the weight of the fish on the line lift the rod and set the hook. Do not have the reel tension to tight either as you don’t want to break your line and lose what could be your first trout for the start of your trout fishing days.
Once you have caught your first fish, I can assure you that you will want to keep on coming back to fish for them. Wattle grubs can be used at most times of the season as they are a great all round bait for trout. Later in the season once the weather becomes more settled and the days are warmer then the baits change as do the trout’s feeding habits.
Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to fish once the days get longer and warmer. River levels are much lower and the water is also clearer and this is when mudeyes, crickets, cockroaches and then later in the season from around January the grasshoppers come into play. In the deeper rivers quite often the wattle grub is used to good effect. This is where a pair of polaroid sunglasses are a must as they take the sun glare off the water giving you a good vision of what is in the river in front of you. With the clear conditions the trout will spook quite easy and the slightest movement will often send them on their way well before you can get a bait in the river. So remember it’s a low and slow approach.
When I bait fish a river in these conditions I always keep well back from the river banks and stay in the shade where possible. Trout will sit in the areas of shade that are on the water and it’s only a matter of flicking the unweighted baited line upstream and letting it drift back down. This method of fishing will often produced a feed of trout especially when you see them on the rise. February, March and even into April is when the grasshoppers work a treat on the trout. An easy way of collecting hoppers is to walk along the rivers edge (and not where you are going to fish) and pick them of the water as they very often land on the water as you disturb them. The other is to buy a child’s butterfly net and swipe it through the long grass and collect them that way. Keep them in a white plastic container with a few air holes in the lid, and place some grass in it and make sure to keep them in a cool place. The light container is ideal as if you use a tin or a dark container, then as soon as you open it they will head straight for the light and you will lose most of them.
When using the hopper for bait it’s only a matter of placing the hook through the back of it just below it’s neck. Approach the river quietly from downstream and cast the hopper upstream and let it drift with the flow back towards you should pick up a trout or two using this method as well. There is another alternative that you may want to try, and that is fishing for trout in the lakes of Tasmania. Before you do though, make sure the lake that you intend to fish is allowed to be bait fished. Check your IFS Tasmanian Inland Fishing Code Booklet to make sure you can fish your selected lake.
I am not one for fishing the lakes as there just seems to be too much water between the fish for me. If you do decide to give it a go, then you can use a few different set ups for fishing the lakes. You can use a light running sinker rig which is the most common set up with a hook below the sinker, and one set at least a metre above it. Same size hooks can be used and worms early season and wattle grubs, cockroaches, crickets later. Lakes like Arthurs, Rowallan and Cethana to name a few would be my preference to fish as they hold a lot of dead trees in them and these are the areas to bait fish. I have had success on the few trips I did to Lake Cethana many years ago. So the lakes are there if you wish to give them a go and several are open all year round as well. Make sure to check the IFS booklet to confirm which lakes are open all year. Night fishing is also very popular and you will often be rewarded with much bigger fish too. Larger trout often move into the shallow areas along the lakes at night to feed, so a night fishing session is always worth a try.
This article has been written from my experiences of bait fishing rivers over the many years (48) of my trout fishing days. Today I mainly lure fish by wading and spinning the rivers in the North of Tasmania. I still do my bit of bait fishing early in the season in flooded rivers and also I like to flick a grasshopper about late in the season as well.
Now here are a few pointers to remember:
- Flooded rivers,backwaters and paddocks are ideal for bait fishing with worms early season.
- Fishing flooded rivers look for a calm stretches along river banks or tree lined sections of river.
- Stay hidden when rivers are low and clear.
- Try not to walk in the water and spook fish when rivers are low.
- If you spot a fish try and make and accurate cast above the fish so bait will drift back to it.
- Warmer weather conditions fish early morning and late afternoon.
- Fish with light weight tackle and unweighted where possible.
- If lake fishing use light running sinkers and fish the heavily wooded areas.
- Give a night bait fishing session a try, you may get that big fish of a lifetime.
- To release a fish that has swallowed the hook, cut the line near the mouth of the fish, do not try and remove a swallowed hook unless you intend to keep the fish.
So there you have it, the basics of getting yourself started in the methods of bait fishing for trout. Bait fishing is one of the cheapest methods of fishing too, as the bait that you use is free as it’s just a matter of getting out there and collecting it. It is also a nice relaxing way of fishing too by just sitting back on a river bank enjoying the beautiful scenery that surrounds ones self while waiting for the trout to take the bait. Doesn’t get any better.