Trout feed on many smaller fish, either of the same species or other species. Minnows make up a large part of a trout’s diet.
What Trout Eat Minnows
Any trout that has access to minnows will feed on them. That means nearly all freshwater trout eat minnows.
Some trout are more aggressive than others, and they will feed on minnows and smaller fish more than others.
For most trout, their diet would contain 80-90% insects, and the other 10-20% would be made up of minnows and smaller fish.
These numbers change the larger the trout get. Large trout tend not to feed so much on insects and become more ambush predators. These trout tend not to use their energy consuming many small meals and prefer to lay in wait for one big meal.
Some Species of trout that feed on minnows:
Brown Trout – Brown trout are not native to North America; they were imported from Germany in 1883. Minnows and other fish make up much of a large brown trout’s diet.
As they grow larger, they feed less and less on flies and other insects and more on other fish. However, small brown trout will also feed on minnows if the opportunity presents itself. I have caught many brown trout on Rapala minnows.
Rainbow Trout – Rainbow trout are the most well-known trout across North America. Many fisheries stock rainbow trout throughout each state. Stocked rainbow trout won’t eat minnows right after stocking. They will take a little time to get used to their surroundings and learn how to hunt effectively.
Once they are in the wild for a couple of weeks, they become much more skilled at catching minnows. Minnows will then make up around 10% of a rainbow trout’s diet.
Brook Trout – The Brook trout’s diet is similar to most other trout. Brook trout grow a bit slower than other trout, so they don’t feed on minnows as much. However, some brook trout can get large, with the largest known length being 86cm. Brook trout of this size will feed on minnows aggressively.
Lake Trout – Lake trout is actually a char but is considered a trout by many. Like most trout, lake trout start out feeding on small invertebrates. Lake trout grow quite fast and large, so it’s not long before they are feeding on other fish and minnows. Most anglers will agree that minnows are one of the best live bait for lake trout.
Species of trout that rarely feed on minnows:
Apache Trout – Apache trout are native to Arizona and a rather rare species. Not many anglers fish for apache trout, and in some areas, they are protected. However, if you were to fish for an apache trout, this is one species where you probably shouldn’t use a minnow.
Apache trout rarely feed on minnows or other fish species. Apache trout mainly feed on aquatic and terrestrial insects, so using a fly rod would be better to catch them.
Sea Trout – Sea trout rarely eat minnows, not because they don’t want to but rather because they don’t have much access to them. Minnows don’t tolerate saltwater very well and tend to stay in freshwater.
However, some minnows can be found in brackish waters like in estuaries and bays, where they cross paths with sea trout.
During their time in the river, sea trout will start out feeding on plankton; as they age, they will spend a brief time feeding on smaller fish before moving out to sea.
When they return to fresh water, sea trout generally do not feed.
What Kind of Minnows do Trout Eat
Trout are not particularly fussy when it comes to eating smaller fish; they will even eat smaller trout.
There are many species of minnows, and trout will eat them all, providing they are small enough.
If using a minnow for fishing, shiners are a good choice as they are much easier for the trout to spot.
Minnow is a term that is often misused to describe any small silvery fish. Minnows, in actual fact, belong to the Cyprinidae family, which includes carp.
Some of the more popular species of minnows trout feed on:
Other species that are not minnows that trout feed on:
Most trout that live in freshwater will feed on minnows. Some trout, like apache trout, do not feed on smaller fish so often.
Other trout like sea trout are aggressive and primarily feed on other fish but rarely get the opportunity to feed on minnows.
Minnows can be used as bait to catch most trout species, even sea trout.