Can Trout Smell? Making sense out of scents

If you fart in the water can trout smell it?  How about your bait?  When you think about it, trout are a lot like us in the sense that they too have circulatory, nervous, respiratory, and sensory systems.  Along the same lines then they should have the sense of smell.  If you look above their mouth you’ll see what looks like nostrils called nares. They don’t breath through them but have sensory receptors that can pick up scent.  So, the answer is yes.  They can smell your fart.  So, the next thought is what smells do they like so I can put it at the end of my hook (probably isn’t your fart).

Throughout the years I have tried all the scents I could think of.  Fish, shrimp, hormones, appetite stimulants, garlic, and whatever I can find at the tackle shop and home.  What really blows me away is trout seem to like the smell of powerbait which smells totally rubberishly weird.

Scents into categories:

  • Should naturally like (fish, shrimp, etc.)
  • Should naturally dislike (gasoline, bleach, etc.)
  • Neutral (rock, gravel, pure water, etc.)

If you’re a nut case like me you’ve done experiments in clear lakes where you can see the reaction of trout swimming around you.  No matter how much fish oil, shrimp scent, etc. that I dumped overboard the fish never seemed to care.  They just swam right along the boat in random directions as if nothing happened.  And if they don’t like the smell of gasoline, why are they swimming by the outboard engine with the oil slick in the water? They don’t seem to be care much about scents we think they should or shouldn’t like.

Scents often make no sense.  If you go back to the analogy of trout being similar to us and think about sitting in a rental boat that reeks of gasoline. Does it prevent you from eating your lunch?  How about something different as the alluring perfume of a beautiful woman.  Does that make you want to bust out a call for pizza?  Nope.

Do most animals learn or recognize the scent of danger?  Are trout wary creatures? Yup. Perhaps Mr. Trout also learns or instinctively recognizes that the human scent represents danger. Most animal hunters are acutely aware of wind direction as to not tip-off their quarry.  Maybe all those ‘trout attractants’ aren’t attracting trout so much as they are masking our scent.  In the meanwhile I’ll keep rinsing off my hands every so often in the lake just to be on the safe side and not eat beans when fishing.

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3 Responses to Can Trout Smell? Making sense out of scents

  1. Bob Casteel says:

    We fished the Toccoa River in April and opened up a couple of trout stomachs and found two small leaves and two cigarette butts end to end. The cigarette filters were white fiber only by this time with no obvious tobacco or paper wrapping. This leads me to believe a trout is a sight only feeder.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You’re right in that trout are primarily sight feeders, butt (lol) also will reject unusual scents. I don’t know why they are not opposed the scent of cigarettes. When I was a kid I used to read about the famous baseball player, Ted Williams who was an avid trout fisherman. He talked about getting skunked and in frustration tried using a cigarette butt and knocked them dead.

  3. Ben says:

    Try adding a garlic power bait to your fly you’ll catch in minutes

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