One of the most common discussions among anglers involves techniques for catching rainbow trout and other trout species. Some anglers fish for rainbows with fly fishing gear only and consider conventional tackle or the use of bait to be taboo. Other anglers use spinning tackle or fish with natural baits when targeting trout. Each technique has its advantages and disadvantages.
In some areas, fishing regulations dictate which types of gear may be used. On some streams, the use of live bait, cut baits, or even scented attractants is prohibited. In other areas, rainbow trout and other trout species are stocked specifically for harvesting with fewer restrictions.
Recently stocked trout are particularly susceptible to conventional artificial lures or live baits. Effective baits for catching stocked trout usually include nightcrawlers (earthworms), fish eggs, and a variety of insect larvae. Artificial lures are also popular for catching recently stocked trout, especially inline spinners or other flashy lures such as metallic colored spoons. In some cases, stocked trout seem to lack the inhibitions of wild fish and are easily fooled with almost any bright moving lure.
In coldwater streams and lakes, some stocked trout evade anglers and learn to survive in the wild, feeding on natural food sources such as aquatic insects and other small invertebrates. At this stage, semi-wild non-native trout can be much harder to catch than newly released fish. When targeting these trout, fly fishermen select fly patterns that closely resemble local insect populations.
Some rainbow trout continue to thrive in the wild for months or years after being released. As they grow larger, adult trout change their diet again and begin feeding on minnows, chub, shiners, sculpins, and other small fish. Anglers sometimes target large rainbows with crankbaits, inline spinners, or other artificial lures that resemble local forage fish.