Late-Season Brook Trout Tips

Brook trout angling is traditionally considered as an early-season fishing opportunity often forgotten about by the time mid-summer rolls around. However, some of the best brook trout angling can be had late summer and early fall, just before they close the gates on the trout season. It is the last kick at the can for these elusive fish, and armed with a few late-season tips, tactics, and knowledge of autumn trout behavior, an educated angler can enjoy some of the best fishing of the year.

Fall Behavior
Brookies are a cold water fish, and prefer conditions that are just right in order to feed, grow, and reproduce. Thus, during the summer months, trout can usually be found lurking in deeper water, seeking out any oxygen-rich areas they can find. These cool water species become almost completely dormant in the balmy water. As summer progresses, however, several key elements work in the brook trout’s favor. When the dog days of summer begin to pass, the days grow shorter and the leaves begin to wilt, and Mr. Trout magically returns to life.

Water temperature begins to drop below the 68-degree Fahrenheit barrier for the first time in over three months. The highly temperature-dependant trout now begin to rise up in the water column, searching out for available food and cover. In this pre-turnover period of the year, lake water remains stratified, with cooler water still at the bottom. And when the surface temperature dips, water density increases at the surface. This weight and density on top will eventually lead to a mixing of the lake, which results in one constant temperature throughout. In most regions, the trout season is over by mid- to late-September, and the spawn has commenced by the time turnover occurs

Bruce Rogers poses proudly with a beautiful brook trout in the 5-pound range he pulled from the waters of Northwestern Quebec.

Locations To Seek Out
Since lake productivity has begun to drop, submergent and emergent vegetation is actually starting to dwindle by September. That leaves fewer ambush sites for feeding trout to make use of, as well as less areas for forage (minnows) to take refuge. The first area of a lake you should pinpoint when pursuing fall brookies is the remnant areas of the summer weed growth. Even a small cluster of duck weed, or water milfoil could potentially hold several active fall fish, lying in wait for a quick meal. Seek out any obvious weedy areas that remain and you will surely find a few active fish.

There is one very important accessory that should be considered this year when tackling late season trout. Although modern electronics are sometimes viewed as extraneous; the use of a quality sonar equipped with a temperature gauge can certainly be an asset. Having the luxury of seeing a continuous readout of the surface temperature, as well as in-depth knowledge of underwater structure could spell the difference between a heavy fish bag, and one filled with only moss. Since these cold water Salmonids are most active, and therefore most easily caught, in water temperature between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 59 degrees F, being aware of surface temperature can really make a difference.

To properly scope out a lake means to cover water effectively. The easiest way to achieve this goal I have found is by trolling, be it in a canoe or a boat. The key is to find out where the active fish are located. Often times, late-season trout may be holding in just one or maybe two different areas of the lake. If you do choose trolling, try not to use an outboard motor (go with an electric), as the noise may discourage the spookier fish from approaching. You must think smooth and quiet when trolling for these intelligent and sound sensitive fish.

Late-Season Lures
Try different spoons, lures or spinners for late-season brookies. There are several opinions on what works best. Many die-hard trouters will swear by a certain spoon their entire lives, and never switch. Others will mix it up constantly, clipping on a large wobbler for trolling, then replacing it with a small minnow-type casting spoon.

I have discovered the Mooselook, Williams and Lake Clear wobblers, when rigged with a snelled hook and worm, to be excellent search baits. A No. 4 or No. 6 size hook should be tied on a strip of monofilament, 6 inches to 12 inches behind the spoon. William’s new Flasher and W55 Lite spoons are also quite effective at this time of year. When fish become extremely active in cold water, try going with the shorter 6-inch lead, but stay with a longer lead when the fish are shy. The flash of the spoon will bring them in for a “look see” while the worm provides them something to bite. This technique is equally effective in the spring and extremely popular.

Since this time of year is traditionally associated with the pursuit of big game, many sportsmen out there have already shifted their interest and efforts toward hunting. The end result is a lack of trout anglers on the water. Consequently, many of the good lakes are now prime for the picking. With little or no traffic or fishing pressure during the late season, a trout fishing niche has been created.

Armed with these few simple late season pointers this fall, you might enjoy your best brook trout adventure ever.

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