Taking full advantage of your state’s second stocking.
Trout fishing in the fall is a reversal of sorts considering the time of the year, the number of trout, and the number of venues being stocked. The one point of consistency is that the number of anglers is dramatically reduced compared to the springtime legions. In most cases, the stocked rainbows and browns are larger than those released in April and May. In fact, some states sweeten their loads with spent breeders, many in the 18- to 23-inch class. A win-win all around when it comes to enjoying trout fishing at a most glorious time of year. Welcome to the Indian Summer season with its arboreal finery, easy and refreshing weather, and rivers, streams, lakes, and ponds pretty much crowd-free.
In the Northeast, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New York, and New Jersey all offer autumn trout stockings to one degree or another during October. In some cases, New Jersey being one, also release trout during November.
While the venues are generally a cross-section of put-and-take waters such as those in county or municipal parks, for example, or rivers and streams that hold trout on a year-round basis, the added bonus is that, with the rapidly cooling water and progressing seasonal chill, any fish not caught will stick around until the following spring. Besides affording angling opportunities during the cold weather months on open flows, these stockings also provide through-the-hole jigging and tip-up (trap) action—another win-win.
Baits And Hardware
On still waters, it’s hands-down the Berkley doughboys, i.e., PowerBait, TurboDough, and Gulp soft baits when it comes to putting fish on the stringer. These smelly concoctions are available in myriad colors, and color mixtures convince countless stockies to commit salmonicide, especially rainbows. No less deadly are the PowerBait Nuggets. Also proven baits are salmon eggs (garlic, shrimp, cheese), garden worms, wax worms, and fathead minnows, all suspended under a small float; ideally, tapered or “cigar” style to slip under the surface quickly without much resistance. Even stockies wise up after a couple of days, particularly if pinched by a hook point. Another crusher is the M&M: a mealworm/mini mallow presented on a slip sinker rig, the same as the doughboys.
Spinners, small spoons, and downsized plugs will also catch lake and pond ‘bows and browns, as will the Trout Magnet (bubblegum, cotton candy, orange/chartreuse on a gold head) worked 12 to 18 inches below a small float. In this instance, we employ the Trout Magnet styrofoam float but pinch a size B split shot six or so inches above the lure for better casting distance.
In rivers and streams, the go-to autumn baits are the aforementioned salmon eggs, Gulp! Corn, Gulp! Eggs and Power Eggs, wax worms and garden worms, and the ever-deadly fathead.
Trout Magnets and the Trout Slayer, a miniature crayfish on the Magnet jig head (we prefer black), are trout-catching Godzillas. As per the flow and width of the water, these can be worked with or without a float. Another brown ‘n ‘bow wrecker is the pink Gulp! Earthworm rigged wacky style on Nos. 8 or 10 Octopus style hooks and twitched through pools and the slack water behind a current-breaking boulder or around the back end of a laydown. Simply deadly. Spinners and spoons in the deeper pools are practical, but pay attention to leaf flow, as thick clumps and/or long trails can make metal management difficult. Over the decades, what has worked for us is clipping one of the hooks from the treble and flattening the barbs on the other pair. This is a bit of a help preventing leaf snag. An option is a single Siwash hook on the hardware. Mepps offers several models with this setup. More effective in minimizing leaf connection, but it is a big hook compared to the standard treble.
Autumn is prime fly fishing time. Sure, aquatic insect activity is waning, but terrestrials, primarily grasshoppers, crickets, and ants are active. Surprisingly adaptive, stockies will zero on these and take a shot. We’ve watched trout released two days prior sniping at ants being blown off a laydown, and farther downriver, nailing a couple of hoppers knocked in from the high bank side grasses and brush. Dave’s Hopper, the LeTort Cricket, the Chernobyl Ant, and Umpqua Big Fat are the mainstay topwater patterns. Drifting the likes of the beadhead Copper Johns, Prince, and Pheasant Tail nymphs will draw sips, with strikes coming to the likes of Nos. 8 and 6 Muddler Minnow and black and olive Woolly Bugger streamers.
Don’t overlook stocked lakes and ponds for fly fishing opportunities. Stripping the aforementioned streamers and doing a twitch, short strip retrieve to Nos. 8 and 10 wets like the Queen of Waters, White Miller, and Black Gnat will ignite strikes from cruising trout.