Catch More Trout: The Littoral Zone
You want to catch more trout and there are ways to do that! There is an especially important sector of knowledge for those of you who fish lakes for trout. If you pretty much just go to the lake, take out a tackle box, and then throw out into the water and wait…well, we can greatly improve upon that. Understanding how trout operate in the littoral zone will help you catch more trout.
Every lake is different but there are enough similarities for us to make some general observations about them. Knowing the parts of a lake will help you understand the logical place for fish to hold on a given day, and that is half the battle to catching more fish. In this article I am going to review with you the different parts of a lake, especially the littoral zone, and how that knowledge translates to fishing and catching more fish
A typical lake has distinct biological communities linked to the physical structure of the lake, as illustrated below (credit: www.lakeaccess.org). The focus here is the littoral zone—that area near shore area where sunlight penetrates all the way to the sediment, meaning plants can grow and insects flourish. Plants provide cover for smaller fish (and feeding opportunities for larger fish). The insects that thrive in and around the littoral zone are a key food source for trout.
The littoral zone looks and functions very different from the open water environment.
The bottom sediment, or benthic zone, has a surface layer abundant with organisms. Most of the organisms in the benthic zone are invertebrates, such as insect larvae (midges, mosquitoes, mayflies, etc.) or small crustaceans. The littoral zone’s attraction to fish largely depends upon the organic content of the sediment, the amount of physical structure, and the seasonal runoff patterns, among other things.
A lake with a rocky bottom has a high diversity of potential habitats offering protection from predators, substrate for attached algae, and pockets of organic food. That explains why fishermen have great success along the edges of Utah’s Deer Creek Reservoir.
Utah’s Strawberry/Soldier Creek reservoir is a great example of a stable fishery. Many small streams relatively free of silt were damned to form one huge reservoir. Its terrain consists of shallow valleys of immense littoral zones. Strawberry’s elevation and temperatures are ideal for trout habitat. Biologists manage this reservoir by stocking and maintaining it as a prime fishery.
Where Trout Live
Trout thrive in colder water, spending most of the summer in the Thermocline, the water column where temperature drops rapidly as the water gets deeper. There are relatively few fish found below the Thermocline because of a lack of food and oxygen. Here’s a big clue for you: trout move between the cool depths and the food rich shallows wherever the two zones are closest together such as points, and drop-offs.
• Trout prefer temperatures between 50 and 58F.
• Temperatures greater than 64(f) are stressful. They stop growing at 72F and 77F is lethal within a few hr.
• Trout avoid high temperatures, but when hungry, they will enter warm water for short periods of time in order to feed.
• They hold in deeper cool water and move into warmer water during optimal feeding periods until the surface of the lake cools down in the fall.
• Optimal feed periods correspond to the times that their prey is most active and distracted by feeding.
When Should I Fish?
• Dawn and dusk.
• Solunar periods during the day (with stable weather).
• The beginning of a storm.
• When the surface temperature is between 52-58F, fish feed all day long with a hot bite during the solunar periods.
• Staging fish start to bite well as soon as they enter shallow water and become more selective as the feeding period progresses.
• You can catch trout in the thermocline (cooler, deeper water), but many of the fish you catch deep will die if you release them, so don’t target deep-holding fish if you are catching and releasing.
A Few More Things
In 1992 James W. Garrett and David H. Bennett conducted a scientific research study on brown trout movements. They monitored 16 larges brown trout in a cold-water reservoir. They found that radio-tagged fish moved out of the reservoir in late June when water temps reached 67-68F and inhabited tributary streams containing water below 60F. The next year, however, the big browns did not move to the tributary streams because the reservoir water temps were somewhat cooler.
Knowing why trout move (they prefer the cooler water) is a big piece of the puzzle. Armed with this knowledge, you know where to expect to find them, at what time of day, and under what circumstances. Knowing these little things can have a huge impact on your fishing success. Knowing trout movements, here are a few more tips to keep in mind when lake fishing for trout.
• Start with darker lures in the morning and use brighter colors as the day lightens up. Dark grey/blue/green, pinks/reds/, silver/gold patterns. Reverse the progression as the sun drops in the afternoon.
• The trout are very rock wall oriented early in the season, but move more to the bays as the water temperature drops.
• Handle fish as little as possible. Keep fish in the water to remove a hook (catch and release). Don’t try to release fish caught on a treble hook.