How to Catch a Golden Trout (Secret Tips!)

How to Catch a Golden Trout (Secret Tips!)

The golden trout is also related closely to two rainbow trout subspecies. These are the Kern River rainbow trout, which is found in the Kern River system and the Little Kern golden trout, which is found in the Little Kern River Basin. These three trout are referred to sometimes as the golden trout complex. 

This fish has golden flanks with red horizontal bands on each side. Also on each side, there are around 10 dark, oval, vertical marks. They are referred to as ‘parr marks.’ The upper fins are golden yellow with lots of black spots while the lower fins have no spots and are red or orange. The anal, ventral, and dorsal fins also have white tips.

Most of their body is golden yellow but they are also covered with large black spots that radiate outward to the edge of their body. Although they have black spots on the front part of their body, it is the back part that is heavily spotted. The sides of the throat and head are a blend of golden yellow and rosy red.

The adult golden trout are 6 to 12 inches in length. They are considered a large golden trout if they are over 12 inches. Ones that have been transplanted to lakes can weigh up to 11 pounds. 

Also, be sure to check out our other publication: How to Catch a Rainbow Trout.

Where to Find a Golden Trout

The golden trout also referred to as the California golden trout, is of course a native to California. It is typically found in the Golden Trout Creek, which is a tributary of the Kern River, the South Fork Kern River, and Volcano Creek, which is a tributary of Golden Trout Creek. The golden trout is California’s state freshwater fish. You can find the golden trout at elevations from 6,890 to 10,000 feet above sea level. They are native to the Sierra Mountains in southern California. Often they are also found in creeks and cirques in wilderness areas at 10,500 to 12,000 feet above sea level. They prefer to have the temperature of the water to be between 58 to 62 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Head over to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife website to learn more about the California golden trout.

On the Kern Plateau, the golden trout can stand temperatures up to 70 degrees Fahrenheit in degraded streams as long as the water cools down during the night. The golden trout have also been introduced to other states, including Idaho, Wyoming, and Washington.

How to Catch a Golden Trout

There are many different areas in which you can fish for golden trout, which include:

  • Dams and falls
  • Rock and boulder pockets
  • Eddies
  • Merging currents
  • Drop-offs
  • Freshwater ponds and lakes
  • Outlets and inlets
  • Streams and rivers

When trying to catch a golden trout, you have to use a natural presentation to be successful. The golden trout will usually face upstream and wait for food to drift toward them so you will need to position yourself behind the fish and cast upstream. As the bait starts to drift downstream, you need to start to reel in the line but make sure that you are not reeling in the bait faster than the current is carrying the bait. If the bait moves too fast, it could spook the golden trout and they will not take the bait.

If you are using a spoon lure, it needs to be cast downstream and pulled upstream. The first reason is that a trout is attracted by their shimmy motion. It is hard to create this motion if it is tumbling downstream. The second reason is that the spoons are designed to replicate small fish. Small fish do not naturally tumble downstream. It does not matter how you are casting, you need to stay as low to the ground as possible so the golden trout do not detect you. If the trout detect you, then they may not resume feeding for hours.

Methods to Catch Golden Trout

  • Bait casting — this is a style of reel casting, which relies on the weight of the lure to send the line to the area you have targeted to catch golden trout. You have to use a ‘free spool’ or revolving-spool fishing reel that is mounted on the top side of the rod you are using. This is great to use with heavy lures
  • Fly fishing — this type of fishing uses a light-weight lure called an artificial fly and the line is cast using a reel, specialized weighted line, and a fly rod. The casting techniques of fly fishing are very different from other types of casting.
  • Trolling — this fishing method is when one or more fishing lines with bait or lures are drawn through the water. The motion of the boat causes the lures or bait to move, attracting the golden trout. In trolling, you are keeping your boat moving slowly.
  • Jigging — this is a very active method of fishing for golden trout. You have to pop or snap the tip of your rod up quickly in order to move the lure vertically in the water. You have the choice to use bait or not on your lures. The jigs come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes.
  • Spin casting — with this method of fishing for golden trout, you will use a spin casting reel. This is a good method for beginners because they are not that expensive and require easy maintenance. This is the easiest reel casting method to learn how to use. They can be used to cast heavy or light lures without having to worry about breaking your line. You will need a seven-foot rod and six to ten-pound test line, along with 1/16 to ¾ ounce lures. This is what you use if you like small lures and small baits.
  • Drift fishing — with this method, you need to use some weights to get the bait down to where the golden trout is located but it is the motion of the boat that moves the bait slowly through the water. You can also drift bait under a popping cork or bobber. The wind or current is what makes your boat drift.
  • Still fishing — this is a method of fishing that is enjoyed by beginners and professionals. You just need to put your bait in the water and wait for the golden trout to find it. This method is a good way to just sit and relax while waiting for the golden trout to bite on the bait.

Best Bait for Golden Trout

Anglers and fly fisherman have to match their lures to the types of food that is available at the higher altitudes where you will find the golden trout. The most effective bait is the midges and caddisflies. Many times you can catch these fish with spinners, worms, spoons, small crustaceans, different small insects, and salmon eggs. If you are using night crawlers you will need to cut them into pieces because of the size of the golden trout. With salmon eggs, you can use one per small hook.

Best Lures & Tackle for Golden Trout

You can use spinner baits, flies, spoons, and jigs to catch a golden trout. One of the most popular choices of a lure is metal spoons. They are produced in different shapes but all of them consist of a single treble hook and a weighted metal piece. Golden trout are small fish so you should use a spoon size of 1/32 and 1/8 ounce. If you are trying to cast into the breeze, you can crimp a lead split shot weight about two feet up the line. This will help you increase the length of your cast. For a golden trout, you need a spoon with a gold finish. 

Golden Trout Reproduction

Spawning for the golden trout takes place from early June to the middle of July when the water temperatures are around 50 degrees Fahrenheit. The female will dig a nest, also referred to as a redds, and deposit the eggs there for the males to fertilize. Once they are fertilized, the female will cover the nest with gravel. The embryos will hatch after 20 days but it will be a few more weeks after that before they emerge from their gravel nests. The golden trout are considered sexually mature about three to four years.

Predators of the Golden Trout

The main predator of the golden trout is humans but they do not have any natural predators because they like to actively feed during the middle of the day so they feel safe doing this.

Fun Facts about a Golden Trout

  • The golden trout was originally described as a subspecies of the salmon species.
  • It is the only species of the Salmonidae that have their parr marks remain prominent throughout their life because most species these marks will disappear at an early age.
  • When the golden trout is brought down from their habitats in the higher altitudes to be propagated into lakes at lower altitudes they will lose their brilliant colors and turn a steely blue
  • The golden trout is on the brink of being designated as threatened due to years of competition with other exotic species and over-fishing.
  • Because of the short growing season where they are located, the golden trout do not grow fast so many of them are small.
  • The golden trout is regarded as one of the most beautiful trout world-wide.


Catching golden trout on a fishing trip is one of the best ways you can relax and unwind. They are a great fish to fish for a family camping trip or just a bonding day for father and son. Golden trout are a good fish to eat and would make a great meal cooked out over a campfire or on a grill. The golden trout is a hard fighting fish, very crafty, but gives you an exhilarating rush when trying to catch them. They are certainly worth it.

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