The Best Time to Fish for Trout in a Lake (Complete Guide to Catch Lake Trout)


While trout can be caught at all times of day, there are certain points when success is more likely. Knowing the best time to fish for trout in a lake can give you a key advantage and provide you with almost guaranteed action.

What are those times?

Well, today, you will find out as I talk you through the best time of day to catch trout in a lake.

Generally speaking, the best times to fish for lake trout are when the light levels are lower. Two hours before sunset is a particularly good time, as is sunrise into the early morning. The fish are more active during both these times, with the evening being the most optimum.

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Complete Guide to The Best Time of Day to Catch Lake Trout

We all want to catch more fish, and as anglers, we’ll do anything to give us an advantage. The good news is that all you will need is a reliable watch to tell the time. Why does the time make a difference when trout fishing?

Here are the reasons that the time of day makes all the difference when fishing for trout in a lake:

brown trout is caught on a spoon-bait

Light Levels

Ever seen a fish blink?

No, me neither! Fish tend to shy away from bright conditions. If you’ve ever tried trout fishing on a really bright day, you’ll undoubtedly have seen that your catch rate goes down when the sun is up.

Fortunately, there is an answer.

There are always two points in the day when the light levels are low.

The morning and the evening. Trout have pretty good eyesight and will swing into action to take advantage of all of the creatures that aren’t quite awake in the dawn and dusk.

Water Temperature

Trout, like all fish, are cold-blooded, meaning their internal body temperature is regulated by the outside environment.

Want a general rule?

The colder the water, the less active the fish. If the water is too hot, the fish go sluggish too.

The answer?

You will have to choose a fishing time in the ‘Goldilocks zone’. Not too hot, not too cold… Just right.

In the evening particularly, the water has had all day to be warmed by the sun, meaning that the trout will be more active.

But Bob, you said the morning could be good too. Why was that?

Have you ever wanted to go for a sprint on a very hot day? No? Well, neither do the fish!

In the height of summer, the water might be too warm during the day and evening. However, the relatively cooler night period allows the water temperature to drop to a good level. This means that if you arrive in the morning, you’ll find the optimum water temperature for trout to feed.

Rainbow trout in fly fishing landing net

Fly Life

Another huge factor to be successful when trout fishing is to turn up at the times when there is the most food around.

If you’ve ever turned up in the morning or evening at a lake (especially during summer), there is a good chance that the water is alive with flies and bugs whizzing around. Trout love eating flies, so it makes sense that your hook is amongst them ready to catch.

Surface Conditions

This is another reason why morning and evening are the best time of day to catch trout in a lake.

Ever noticed how it’s rarely very windy in the morning and evening?

This reduces the ripple on the water. This means that flies and bait are more easily visible to more fish on the surface, offering the ability to catch them more readily.

Predators

While trout are predators themselves, they are not apex predators. Meaning, there are other things above and below the lake’s surface that like to eat trout.

When are trout most in danger of being spotted?

During bright conditions in the middle of the day.

As a result, they will tend to hide away if conditions get too bright, lest they become dinner themselves.

With lower light levels, trout feel more confident and will be much more active with less fear of predators, such as pike, or birds, being able to spot them.

rainbow trout in fishing net and fly fishing rod

Is it Better to Fish for Lake Trout in the Morning or Evening?

This can vary based on season, but it is marginally better to fish for lake trout in the evening as a good general average. Fly life will have had all day to hatch and develop, the water temperature is more likely to be warm enough, plus you can also fish into the night with great results!

The morning isn’t a bad time to try either. You will find relatively optimum conditions by arriving early, especially in summer.

And…

As an additional bonus, even if you don’t catch in the morning, you’ve got the rest of the day ahead to try and find success!

Best Time to Catch Trout in a Lake – By Season

As any experienced angler will tell you. Lake fishing varies depending on the season, and yes, this does influence the best times of day to catch lake trout.

Here’s the ideal time to fish based on the season, with all of the above factors in mind.

Spring

The optimum time to fish for trout in the spring is 2 – 3 hours before sunset.

While the season might be getting slightly warmer, water lags behind slightly. As a result, you’ll have mild temperatures with relatively cold water.

While fly life might get going fairly early in the day, the water temperature will still be cold.

For this reason, you will want to fish during the latter half of the day. Any time from midday onwards on cloudy days is ok too.

The water will have had the greatest chance to warm up. The fish will be their most active. And because there isn’t all that much daylight available, you’ll get maximum fishing time.

Towards the end of the spring, you can start bringing your times forward a little, and on the cusp of summer may want to consider arriving early morning too.

fly fishing rod and trout

Summer

The best times to fish for trout during summer are the very early morning for the first couple of hours and the evening all the way up to darkness.

Summer is peak time for lake trout fishing. By now, the water will maintain a stable and warm temperature, meaning that the fish will generally be active for most of the day.

If you can, try and arrive at the lake in summer very early morning (even considering arriving in darkness). As the sun comes up, the water will be alive as trout take advantage of their superior eyesight.

The evening also presents exciting opportunities. If it has been a hot day, the fish will have hunkered down, awaiting a drop in temperature, and they are bound to be hungry, leading to a bumper fishing session!

Fall

During fall, the best times for trout fishing are in the early evening.

Similar to spring, the water temperature lags behind the season slightly. However, it is slightly cooler. As a result, you will want to fish when the trout are most active, and the water has had the most time to warm sufficiently to stimulate fly life.

You’ll find that as the season progresses, you’ll probably have to arrive earlier with each month as there is less available light and the days get a little cooler.

Winter

Winter is the exception to all of the above rules. The best time to catch trout in a lake in winter is any time after midday.

While trout don’t like excessively warm water, they turn sluggish when the water is cold too. As a result, by fishing around midday, the sun has had the most opportunity to heat the water to an acceptable level.

brown trout cached in winter fishing near to ice fishing rod

Day or Night Fishing for Lake Trout – Which is Best?

While there are certain merits to night fishing, as a general rule, you’ll find that the daytime will outfish the night by a significant margin.

Unlike other species, trout are primarily sight hunters, and for obvious reasons, they can see more during the daytime. That said, nighttime can yield some fantastic results.

Why?

Bigger fish get big for a reason. They tend to be more cautious. At night, a lot of this caution disappears, giving you the ideal opportunity to bag yourself a real specimen. You’d better make sure you’ve got a reel that’s up to the task!

Catching Lake Trout Timings – FAQ

Still, got questions? Don’t worry about it. That’s what I’m here for.

Here are some things I commonly get asked about lake trout fishing and the best time to do so…

I fish using different methods, does the above guidance always apply?

If you take my advice on board, you will catch, regardless of the method. The above isn’t based on any single tactic, more on fish behavior. Which, as an angler, should be the primary consideration when trying to catch.

There are a couple of exceptions to the above. Ice fishing, in particular, is an all-day pursuit. You can see some of the gear I use to ice fish for trout here.

What is the best time of year to fish for lake Trout?

The best time of year to fish for lake trout is in the height of summer. The water is at its warmest, meaning the fish are most active. There will also be abundant aquatic life in and around the lake, encouraging trout to feed.

A close second is the early fall. The water is still warm enough to ensure good activity, and you’ll find the light levels a little less intense, offering extended periods that are great for lake trout fishing.

What is the best way to fish for Trout in a lake?

For me, there is nothing nicer than catching lake trout on a fly. Stillwater fly fishing isn’t too challenging and provides the ideal training ground for beginners before they try to catch trout on the fly in other areas.

How deep do lake Trout live?

Lake trout don’t ‘live’ at one specific depth. You’ll find they move up and down in the water column depending on the conditions and time of day.

Want a good general rule of thumb?

The warmer the water, the higher the fish.

Deep water warms and cools slower than shallow. As a result, you’ll find that the trout will huddle together in winter and can be found in deeper spots. In summer, they will go down deep when the sun is up and then appear in shallower sections during the cooler periods of the day.

Conclusion

The best time to fish for trout in a lake varies by season, but as a general rule, try and fish during less bright conditions and when the water has the best chance of being an optimal temperature.

There are no guarantees in fishing, but you will increase your chances to catch by arriving at the right time.

Want to learn more about the best time to fish for trout? Here’s another great article explaining their behavior.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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