How to catch holdover trout in a stocked fishery

How to catch holdover trout

Large number of small trout

To catch holdover trout in a stock pond or lake can be challenging.

Stock trout normally greatly outnumber and are more aggressive feeders than the resident fish.

The trick is to target holdover trout like they are wild fish.

In this guide we look at ways to catch large mature trout in fisheries dominated by hatchery fish.

Late winter into early spring fishery authorities release thousands of hatchery reared trout into hundreds of lakes and ponds across North America. Hatchery raised trout are often small. At release the average year old trout weighs around a quarter pound, and a two-year-old fish a more suitable eating size of two pounds.

Fishermen flock to stocked lakes. With dreams of an enjoyable day fishing and full bags. Meanwhile, the sports angler prefers the challenge, thrill and sometimes even the taste of naturalised fish. The stocked fish which survive the fisherman’s hooks gain significant weight and adopted many wild fish traits. However these older, mature trout are the ideal target for any fisherman hoping to win an opening weekend competition.

What do holdover trout eat?

Early spring stocked trout behave like hatchery raised fish, their diet not yet adapted to the natural food in the lake. Fishermen often catch stock trout on artificial bait, which imitates pellets rather than insects and prey fish. One popular example is the Berkley Powerbait. Scented dough baits are one of the best performing baits when targeting stock trout.

However, stock trout which survive the previous season and have overwintered gain considerable weight. Holdover trout have long since forgotten their hatchery diets. Like the wild trout, they have become fully reliant on the lake’s food chain. Which means the bulk of a naturalised trout diet will be insects and small prey fish.

Naturalised trout instinctually hunt fleeing baitfish, making hard lures such as spoons, jerkbaits and spinners more effective. Because insects are a large portion of a wild trout’s diet, they are more enthusiastic to take a well presented mayfly or nymph fly compared with a ball of scented dough. The bait fisherman can have a lot of success fishing nightcrawlers and other terrestrial insects.

Where to find holdover trout?

Schooling juvenile
Stock trout often seek protection in numbers

Recently released stock trout travel around in large schools, confused and not familiar with their new home they stick together. For hours after release, some newly planted trout stay close to the release site. At night, protected by darkness, most will move away from their release site. To find safety they head to the relative protection of open water. Fishermen often report stocked trout schooling around quite high in the water column out in the open. Overtime, as they explore, they can turn up in almost any part of the lake.

Resident trout have learned where the food is. They have established territories and feeding patterns in proximity to it. Stealthy fishermen can find resident trout cruising weedlines and around structure on the lake floor. Wary trout frequently hang out for protection in the submerged branches of fallen trees. Resident trout live much deeper in the water column compared with recent releases. Often choosing to live in the deepest parts of the lake or along steep drop offs.

How to catch catch holdover trout?

The easiest place to catch trout is where they feed. Fish drop-offs, holes, weed beds and river mouths. These places are prime feeding grounds for naturalise and wild trout. During the warmer months there is an abundance of insect life. So it is also well worth while checking lake shore vegetation for terrestrial insects. These insects lose their footing or get blown into the cool water below. Resident trout know that, so they patrol such areas in search for an energy rich meal.

When targeting holdover trout presentation is key. The bait or lure you are fishing with should reflect the natural prey found in the area.


Whenever spin fishing, I prefer to use small jerkbaits, spoons or spinners. All in natural colors work well. Although, in cloudy or discoloured water, bolder and even bright colors can more easily catch a trout’s attention. It is not always a good idea to fish a lure larger than the prevalent baitfish in the lake, that can spook wary naturalise fish, resulting in more strikes from curious stock trout.

Another good tactic for the spin angler is to suspend a fly beneath a float. A traditional nymph such as a pheasant tail or a small snail imitation should bring results.

Our comprehensive guides on catching trout on jerk baits and in-line spinners give a lot of technique specific information.


Fly fishermen are already well versed to match the hatch. So the traditional nymphs, dry flies, and streamers excellent at imitating a trout’s food. Suspending a pheasant tail nymph beneath a black gnat or royal fluff is my favourite way to target trout feeding along weedbanks or cruising the shallows.

When fishing a wet fly or streamer, I always resort to my old favourites; the grey ghost, woolly bugger or rabbit strip fly. Thousands of fly patterns and variations exist, so finding the most effective pattern for your local water might take time.

Catching holderover trout on Bait

Try fishing night crawlers near the bottom. The slopes leading into deep holes, or at stream mouths, are prime spots to target. Suspending nightcrawlers beneath a float and fish over weed banks. Hungry trout find it hard to resit a juicy nightcrawler. Another trick is to suspend a nightcrawler beneath a float, then use the current of a incoming river to carry it out into the lake.

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