The Best Hook Size For Trout (For Every Situation)


by Robert Ceran

Trout are among the most popular freshwater game fish, and in addition to being super fun to catch, they also make excellent table fare.

Due to this popularity, trout are stocked in more and more lakes, which of course means you and I have plenty of opportunities to catch them.

However, trout can be finicky biters, especially when they experience heavy fishing pressure in stocked ponds, and they tend to become hook shy in situations like that.

Because of this, I’ve found that you need to make sure you’re using the best size hook for trout.

In this article I’ll walk you through the best size hooks for trout to use for different types of baits and techniques, so you can choose the best option for your purposes.

What size hook for trout should you use?

The best size hook for trout fishing is a size 8 to 14 single hook, or a size 10 to 14 treble hook.

If you could choose only one option, it would be a size 12 single hook, which I’ve found works well for most baits and applications.

Since treble fishing hooks are bulkier than single hooks, it’s necessary to use smaller hook sizes for trebles.

The best size hook for trout fishing depends on two main factors: the size trout you’re expecting to catch, and the sizes and type of bait that you’re going to use.

Also, if you’re trying to catch trout in clear water, it’s usually better to choose small hooks that are easier to conceal inside your bait, so the fish can’t see the hook.

Compared to other fish species (such as bass and walleye), trout have relatively small mouths, and because of this you need to use small hooks to make it easier for them to get your baited fishing hook inside their mouth.

If you want to learn more about how to use trout hooks for the best results, check out our article on the most important trout rigs you need to know.

Trout hook size chart

Type of trout baitRecommended single hook sizeRecommended treble hook size
Powerbait8 to 1210 to 14
Worms8 to 14N/A
Corn10 to 12N/A
Salmon eggs10 to 12N/A
Spawn sac6 to 8N/A
Plastic bead10 to 12N/A

The table above shows the best size hook for trout to use with different baits, and compares this for single and treble fishing hooks. 

Based on my experience of catching trout for more than 15 years, these hook sizes cover more than 90% of all trout fishing techniques.

Now let’s dive into the details of what hook sizes to use for different trout baits.

Our Pick
Photo of Drasry Fishing Hooks Set

Fishing hook set

Set with 10 different hook sizes (#5 to #14) that cover all trout fishing sizes.

What size hooks for trout to use with different baits

While there is a wide variety of trout baits, the top 3 baits that account for more than 90% of all baits in use for trout fishing are powerbait, worms, and salmon eggs.

Let’s take a closer look at the best size hooks for trout fishing as it applies to each of these baits.

Best hook size for trout powerbait

The best size hook for trout powerbait depends on the kind of hook you use:

  • Size 8 to 12 for single hooks
  • Size 10 to 14 for treble hooks

Keep in mind that trout have small mouths, and if you’re using treble hooks you need to use a smaller hook size compared to single or double hooks, in order to give trout a chance to eat your bait easily.

Otherwise they’ll just nibble at the bait, without eating it properly.

When using powerbait nuggets, you have to adjust the size of the hook to the size of the trout nuggets that you’re using.

Ideally, you’ll want the fishing hook to be completely concealed inside the nugget, and if you’re using a bottom fishing rig, you need to use a smaller hook sizes to allow the nugget to float in the water.

It’s best to figure this out at home before you go fishing, by placing a baited hook inside a bowl of water to check if it floats or sinks.

Change to smaller hooks if necessary, until you get the right behavior. If you’re using a bobber rig, you can use a bigger hook, since you want it to sink down in the water.

What size hook for trout should you use with worms?

The best size hook for trout when fishing with worms is a size 8 to 14 single hook. If you’re using nightcrawlers, it’s usually best not to use the whole worm, but to cut off a 1 to 2 inch long piece, and then thread it onto your single hook.

The best kind of hook to use for trout fishing with worms is a baitholder hook, which has two additional barbs on its shank, preventing a worm from sliding down after you thread it on.

This feature is especially useful when using live bait, as you want the bait to be able to move, while staying in the optimal position for triggering bites.

What size hooks for trout should you use with salmon eggs?

The best size hook for trout when using salmon eggs is a size 10 to 12 single hook. It’s best to use a baitholder fish hook for salmon eggs, as they can be soft and tend to slide down the shank after you thread them onto it.

If you’re using a whole spawn sack as bait, it’s better to use a larger size 6 to 8 single hook. 

Also, if you’re using either corn or artificial beads as trout bait, you can choose the same hook sizes that you would for salmon eggs (in fact, beads are intended to look like salmon eggs and work best for drift fishing in rivers and streams).

What size hook for trout should you use with different types of hooks?

You can readily use a standard single hook for trout fishing, and many fishermen do fine using just these.

However, more experienced trout anglers often prefer to use more specialized fish hook types that work better for certain types of baits and techniques.

The most important of these are treble hooks, octopus hooks, and circle hooks. The latter two are specialized types of single hooks.

Some anglers also use double hooks, but these are not very common, and you don’t really need to have them in your tackle box, since you can cover most trout fishing techniques with either single or treble hooks.

The advantage of treble hooks is that they are better at keeping powerbait from falling off the hook, and you’re also less likely to lose a trout during the fight after hooking it with a treble.

Their main disadvantage is that they are bigger and bulkier, which means you have to use smaller hooks for treble hooks compared to single hooks.

Octopus and circle hooks both have relatively short shanks, which is great for concealing them inside your bait (such as a powerbait nugget or a salmon egg).

What size treble hook should you use for trout?

The best size treble hook for trout is size 10 to 14, which is smaller than what you would use for a single hook.

The reason for this is simply that treble hooks are three times larger than single hooks, and you need to compensate for their extra bulk by using smaller treble hooks, which allows trout to get your baited hook inside their mouth easily (which is especially important when targeting smaller trout).

Also, if you’re using a treble hook with powerbait on a bottom fishing rig, you need to make sure the treble hook is small enough to allow the baited hook to float in the water.

The bigger the hook, the more likely it is to make your trout nuggets sink, so in general it’s best to choose the smallest hook possible. You can easily determine what size treble hook allows your powerbait to float by testing it at home in a bowl of water.

For average sized trout, it’s best to use size 10 to 14 treble hooks, but size 16 is sometimes necessary when fishing for small trout in creeks and streams.

But if you plan to release the trout you’re going to catch, it’s better not to use treble hooks, as they cause significantly more damage to the fish, making it almost impossible to release the fish without significant damage leading to delayed mortality of the trout.

What size hook for trout should you use when using octopus hooks?

The best size hook for trout when using octopus hooks is size 8 to 12. Since these hooks have a shorter shank, you can get away with larger sizes compared to other hook types. Many trout anglers like to use these hooks with salmon eggs or worms.

For many anglers the best hooks for trout are Gamakatsu octopus hooks, and if you plan on getting these quality hooks, you may want to choose the baitholder option that comes with extra barbs on the shank to keep your bait in place.

Gamakatsus are among the best trout hooks on the market, and work well with powerbait, salmon eggs, and worms.

They are also strong enough to land larger trout, which means you don’t have to worry about losing a trophy fish due to bending of the hook.

What size hook for trout should you use when using circle hooks?

The best size hook to use for trout when using circle hooks is size 10 to 12. The biggest advantage of circle hooks is that they set themselves in the mouth of the trout.

This means you don’t have to worry about setting the hook, which makes it one of the best hooks for trout fishing when using stationary bait presentations, and is especially useful if you’re fishing with several rods.

You just cast out your baited rig, and then put the rod in a rod holder with the bail closed. Another advantage of circle hooks is that most trout are hooked in the corner of the mouth, and you rarely end up with deep hooked fish.

What size hook to use for rainbow trout

The best all around hook size for rainbow trout is a size 12 single hook, or a size 14 treble hook. 

Since most rainbow trout are caught in stocked ponds and lakes, they all tend to be in a similar size range between 10 and 25 inches long.

These fish are best caught with a small powerbait nugget, salmon eggs, or worm fragment.

A size 12 single hook is small enough to hide completely inside a powerbait nugget or inside a single salmon egg, and this also works well for brown trout or brook trout.

A size 14 treble hook, on the other hand, can be a good choice for keeping powerbait on the hook more reliably, especially when using a bottom fishing rig.

How to bait a trout hook

It’s important to know how to bait your hook properly when fishing for trout, as doing it incorrectly can hurt your chances of catching fish.

The most important thing you need to pay attention to is hiding your hook inside the bait as much as possible, making it harder for shy trout to spot it.

That’s why I love using octopus hooks for trout fishing. Since they have a shorter shank, it’s easier to get the whole hook inside a trout nugget or a salmon egg.

If you notice that one salmon egg or one piece of corn doesn’t cover your hook completely, just add a second one, to make sure it’s completely hidden.

When baiting your hook with a worm, it’s best to cut off a 2 inch piece of worm, and then insert the point of your hook into the cut end of the worm, and then thread the whole worm onto the hook.

Make sure that the worm is stretched out, and not bunched up into a tight knot. This is why it’s best to use baitholder hooks for worms, as they prevent the worm from slipping down the shank.

Barbless trout hooks

If you’re planning to do practice catch and release, it’s important to use barbless hooks for trout fishing, since you’ll have a much higher survival rate of the fish that you release.

Especially when fishing for stocked rainbow trout, deep hooking is a common occurrence, and the only chance of removing the hook without killing the fish is if it doesn’t have a barb. 

Among the best hooks for trout fishing are barbless circle hooks, since they will tend to hook the fish in the corner of the mouth, where it’s easy to remove it without hurting the trout.

You can either buy barbless hooks for trout at the tackle store, or you can just use a pair of pliers to squeeze down the barb, and instantly transform any hook into a barbless one.

It’s best to do this in advance, but in a pinch you can also do it at the lake side.

Hook sizing explained

It can be confusing for novice anglers to choose the best size hooks for trout fishing, since there are two different systems in use – the aught sizing system and the number sizing system.

The aught system consists of a number with a /0 after it, and this system is mostly used for sizing the large hooks used for saltwater fishing.

The number sizing system is the one in use for trout hooks, since it is a number scale applied to hooks used for freshwater fishing.

With this system, the largest size is number 1, and hooks get smaller as the number gets higher. In other words, a size 14 is smaller than a size 12 trout hook.

In case you’re also a walleye angler, take a look at our article what size hook should you use for walleye?

Hook gauge

Another factor to consider is the gauge of the hook, which refers to how thick the wire is. This is usually referred to on a number scale of 1X, 2X, 3X, etc.

The higher the gauge number, the thicker the wire of the hook.

For average size trout the best hook gauge is 2X, while 3X or 4X is better for bigger trout, as they can end up bending your hook straight if it has a too low gauge.

If you fish in trout streams that also have steelhead runs, check out our article on the best hook size for steelhead.

Final remarks

This concludes our article on the best hook size for trout fishing. Make sure to take along a variety of different hook sizes in your tackle box when you go fishing, so you can adjust according to the conditions that you encounter on the water.

Always pay attention to the preferences of the trout, and let them tell you what works best.

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