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Fish for Rainbows in Nebraska

Rainbow Trout being released
Justin Powell of Alliance releases a rainbow trout at Nine Mile Creek near Minatare, Nebraska, in 2018. | Justin Haag,  NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

By Larry Pape
Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

LINCOLN, Neb. — A rainbow trout is as beautiful as its namesake, no matter where it appears. But come mid-October, this fish will be swimming in city park ponds and state park lakes across Nebraska.

This is a rainbow anyone can easily catch. Here is how:

Fishing gear and bait – Keep it simple!

Simple rods and reels are best. Fancier ones work, but for young and old alike, the push-button spin-cast reels work well and are the most tangle-free. Since the trout we are after are less than a pound, 4- to 8-pound test line on these reels is more than strong enough.

Hooks should be fairly small with a tip-to-shaft gap of about the width of your little fingernail. Popular styles and sizes are Aberdeen or Bait Holder hooks in sizes 4 to 8. A bobber about the size of a small plum will float this hook when baited. Pea-sized split shot are used to give the baited hook weight when casting into the lake. Remember that smaller is better for hooks, weights and bobbers when trout fishing.

For those who can’t hold still and want to cast, cast, cast, spinners and spoons of less than 3 inches total length are very effective at luring trout. Be warned most come with treble hooks, or three sharp, pointy parts, which are trouble in the hands of a child and painful in the thumb of their parents.

All the bait you need is in your fridge or pantry. Canned corn is the No. 1 go-to trout fishing bait, followed by small, colored marshmallows. Wadded up pieces of white bread, small bits of lunch meat or boiled noodles all work.

Worms work well, too.

Trout fishing techniques

The classic rig we saw Opie use in Mayberry, still works today. Your bobber should be 12-to-24-inches above the split-shot weight, which should be 6 inches above the hook at the end of the line. Fish this set-up with a piece of corn on the hook cast out as far out as you can, and reel in periodically until you find the fish. The bobber will “tell” you know when you find them.

Sometimes trout are just plain lazy and swim along the bottom of the lake. If the floating rig isn’t working, remove the bobber and let the loose-line rig sink to the bottom. You will need to watch your rod tip for a jiggle to let you know when you have a bite. Watch other anglers and see what is working for them.

In Nebraska, you can use two fishing poles per person. Hint: Use the second to cast a spinner or spoon lure while the first one soaks with bait. These flashy lures attract trout, which instinctively grab at shiny objects. Cast often and retrieve these lures fast.

Once you snag a trout, be careful when removing the treble hook from the slick and wiggly fish. Holding the trout in a small towel will help no matter how you catch them.

Trout across Nebraska!

The best place to fish for trout in Nebraska is from a comfortable chair on a well-kept shoreline in a park close to a restroom and not far from the car. You can find exactly these kind of spots from Auburn to Alliance.

Pan sized, 8- to 10-inch rainbow trout are stocked annually during mid-October. The limit is five per day with a total possession of 12. Anyone 15 or younger does not need a fishing license. A Nebraska fishing license, the above gear, and an excuse to get out of the house is all the rest of us need.

If you are just getting into fishing and want more details, a helpful resource is Game and Parks’ Going Fishing Guide, available at OutdoorNebraska.gov/howtofish. For information on Fish Stocking, including the dates of upcoming trout stocking, OutdoorNebraska.gov/fishstockingreports or subscribe to Nebraska Game and Parks News Releases for a personal notification.


Photo: Justin Powell of Alliance releases a rainbow trout at Nine Mile Creek near Minatare, Nebraska, in 2018. | Justin Haag,  NEBRASKAland Magazine, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

Read more fishing tips

Kept fresh, trout make easy, tasty meal
Know your fish before you head to lake
With fishing bait, you don’t always have to keep it real
Fishing with basics of hooks, bobbers and sinkers
Beginner angler’s guide to rod, reel and line
Whether releasing or keeping, handle fish with care
How to plan successful fishing trip
Simple setup all that’s needed to get started fishing
Well-tied knots important for any new angler

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