Traeger Smoked Trout

This is my old family way of making smoked fish which I have adapted for this simple smoked trout recipe that uses a simple brine. It is absolute perfection.

If you want to know how to smoke trout on a pellet grill smoker, this recipe for Traeger smoked trout will show you how — but you don’t need a Traeger or pellet smoker. The instructions and temperatures are the same no matter what smoker you have.

Note: These instructions are for whole smoked trout, but you can obviously use it to make smoked trout fillets or smoke other fish too; the results will be delicious.

Smoked trout with spices on a stone tray.

Every summer, we go to our secret fishing spot and catch the most amazing trophy speckled, lake, and sometimes rainbow trout from pristine waters surrounded by unspoiled Canadian wilderness teeming with moose and the occasional bear that comes into camp.

We fill the freezers with trout, and then I smoke it throughout the year — my favorite way to eat trout.

This recipe is adapted from my secret family recipe for smoked eel and fish caught in the Neretva River and Adriatic Sea, and I think it makes for the best whole smoked trout.

If you love smoked foods, BBQ, and wild game as much as I do, check out my recipes for smoked salmon jerky, smoked grouse, and dry-brined and smoked turkey.

I love smoked side dishes like tomatoes, bone marrow, and caramelized onions as well as smoked pork ‘nduja pasta. I even make smoked salt.

If you’re planning a party, check out my how much BBQ per person article and the section on trout.

And if you’re curious about how long smoked fish lasts and proper storage, check out that article.

Ingredients

Ingredients are pretty basic and straightforward and the results are perfectly smoked whole trout.

all of the ingredients needed for traeger smoked trout or whole smoked trout.
  • whole trout (or fillets)
  • kosher salt
  • brown sugar
  • fresh sprigs of rosemary
  • bay leaves
  • soy sauce (or amino acids)
  • black pepper
  • choice of wood for smoking (I like hickory but a fruit wood gives great smoke flavors)

See the recipe card for quantities.

Equipment

You will need a smoker.

Depending on how many trout you’re smoking, you will need a vessel large enough for the brining portion — btw, emptying out your refrigerator drawers and using them to brine is what I do all the time. You may have a refrigerator that can fit a bucket if you’re smoking a lot of fish too.

smoked whole trout on tray with coleslaw

Instructions

This is how you properly brine and smoke whole trout.

This method works for fillets as well, but you have to adjust the time spent on the smoker. This smoked trout recipe takes a bit of time to come together, but the majority of that is hands-off. The results are a delicious salty, smoky fish that is better than anything you can buy from the store.

Brine Your Whole Trout

The process of soaking the fish (or any meat) in salted water for a period of time causes the flesh to absorb some of the salty water through osmosis. This makes the meat moister when cooked, gives it a better consistency, and better flavor too.

To prepare your trout for smoking for BEST results, you will need to brine them first. 8-10 hours will suffice, but I think 12 hours is best.

And yes, it seems like a TON of salt.

Remember — the trout are not going to be absorbing the VAST majority of the brine.

Regardless, you still need to use the correct amount for the science of osmosis to take place — 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 1 cup of water.

Take your whole trout or fillets and place them in a glass or plastic dish, bowl, or pan.

Remember, the fish have to be able to be fully submerged in the brine solution so choose your vessel accordingly — as stated, you can use the deep drawers in your refrigerator too.

Pour 1 full measuring cup full of water over the fish, and repeat until they are fully covered and submerged in water.

Did you keep track in your head of how many full cups of water you used? Good. Remember that number. Discard the water, you will be starting with fresh water later.

Smoking

Here are the instructions for the wet brine and smoking which will be repeated in the recipe card below (the recipe card has a print option too.)

  • Make the brine solution: In a large enough saucepan on medium heat, add your brown sugar and allow it to melt and bubble until dark brown. Immediately add 2-3 cups of water to stop the caramelization process and prevent the sugar from burning. WARNING: This can cause the sugar mixture to splatter, please do this with care, or remove the sugar from the heat and add water once cooled down.
  • Add the kosher salt, soy/tamari/coconut aminos (if using) and bay leaves.
  • Heat the water and stir until all of the sugar and salt are completely melted. Add more cups of water if necessary, but always remember how many cups you are adding.
  • Remove the solution from heat, pour it into the vessel you will be using to brine your trout, and then add the rest of the water as you previously measured. Allow this to come to room temperature completely — IMPORTANT — do not use warm or hot brine on your trout, it will cook the fish which you do not want.
  • When the brine solution has cooled down, fully submerge your trout in it and add a few teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.
  • Place your whole trout (or trout fillets) in the refrigerator to brine for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.
  • After the trout is brined, remove them from the brine and discard the liquid.
  • Rinse your trout with cold water to remove the brine from the surface. Failing to do so will result in an overly-salty fish.
  • Pat the fish dry with paper towels or tea towels.
  • Using 2-3 toothpicks per trout, stick them inside the fish cavity to keep it propped open while drying and smoking. Add a small sprig of rosemary into the cavity too
  • Place the trout on a rack to dry for 1-4 hours with a baking sheet underneath to catch the moisture. This step is crucial in developing the sticky pellicle which helps smoke adhere to the flesh. I usually go for 2 hours at cool room temperature, but the refrigerator is probably best.
  • Preheat your Traeger on the ‘Smoke’ setting for 5 minutes. Or whatever pellet smoker or other type of smoker you’re using.
  • Baste the trout inside and out with maple syrup using a pastry brush and place them, with their chest cavities propped open, directly on the grill grates.
  • Set your timer for 1 hour and every hour baste the trout with more maple syrup and check to see if the flesh is flaky.
  • Depending on the size, the smoking will take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4.
  • Do NOT surpass 4 hours until you are looking to make trout jerky. (I have a recipe for smoked salmon jerky which is delicious).
  • Do NOT let the temperate get above 200/220 Fahrenheit, and if it does place a bowl of ice water inside the smoker to regulate it.

How To Eat Smoked Trout

And what to eat with it.

I think the best way to serve whole smoked trout is with slices of lemon and crusty rustic sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil and potato salad or a simple cucumber and tomato salad dressed in a sharp vinegar.

Another great option is smoked trout with eggs, avocado, crème fraîche, and/or hollandaise sauce.

Or with cream cheese on a bagel — just like you would make with smoked salmon.

Trout Soup: add some smoked trout into a simple fish stock and soup, like my trout or salmon fish stock & simple fish veg soup recipe.

Smoked trout dip: combine 1 cup cream cheese, 1/2 cup sour cream, 1 tablespoon of (rinsed) capers, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, 1 tablespoon fresh herbs like parsley and dill, 1 teaspoon sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice with the zest of lemon. Combine these ingredients very well first and then add 1/2 to 1 whole smoked trout fillet with the skin removed. Mash the trout in with a fork.

Serve this dip alongside a cream cheese board or butter board.

Smoked trout salad: think tuna salad (or chicken salad) but with smoked trout instead — much tastier. I like to chop into very, very, very small pieces: carrot, celery, dill pickle, and then add mayo and some olive oil until creamy. Spices like mustard powder (or just mustard), sweet or hot paprika, black pepper, and salt to taste work perfectly. You can even add chopped apples or raisins here for a hint of sweetness. Serve on buttered rustic sourdough bread.

hand holding a speckled or brook trout above water

Storage & Freezing

If you’re wondering about proper storage, vacuum sealing, freezing, etc. I have a whole article that covers how long smoked fish lasts that covers all that in depth.

Basically, you’ll want to either store your smoked trout wrapped in plastic wrap and then inside an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 3-5 days. Or you’ll want to freeze it if smoking a large quantity; a vacuum sealer helps.

Related Recipes

Looking for more recipes like this one for smoked trout, check these out:

Top tip

You can keep it easy with a simple brine of just salt if you prefer. I do not recommend a dry brine for this method, but that’s just me.

smoked whole trout on tray with coleslaw

Smoking Trout The Right Way {Old Family Recipe}

Smoke your whole trout or trout fillets to perfection on a pellet smoker or whatever you prefer.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 2 hours
Overnight Brining: 12 hours
Total Time: 14 hours 15 minutes
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: North America
Keyword: smoking, speckled trout, Traeger Grill
Servings: 1 trout
Calories: 1812kcal
Author: Jana Dziak

Ingredients

  • 1 Whole trout gutted and gilled
  • ½ cup maple syrup for basting (optional)
  • 3 sprigs fresh rosemary

For The Brine

  • 1 tablespoon of kosher salt per 1 cup of water
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce or coconut amino acids
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon cracked black pepper

Instructions

Make the brine solution: In a large enough saucepan on medium heat, add your brown sugar and allow it to melt and bubble until dark brown. Immediately add 2-3 cups of water to stop the caramelization process and prevent the sugar from burning. WARNING: This can cause the sugar mixture to splatter, please do this with care, or remove the sugar from the heat and add water once cooled down.

  • Add the kosher salt, soy/tamari/coconut aminos (if using) and bay leaves.
  • Heat the water and stir until all of the sugar and salt are completely melted. Add more cups of water if necessary, but always remember how many cups you are adding.
  • Remove the solution from heat, pour it into the vessel you will be using to brine your trout, and then add the rest of the water as you previously measured. Allow this to come to room temperature completely — IMPORTANT — do not use warm or hot brine on your trout, it will cook the fish which you do not want.
  • When the brine solution has cooled down, fully submerge your trout in it and add a few teaspoons of whole black peppercorns.
  • Place your whole trout (or trout fillets) in the refrigerator to brine for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours.
  • After the trout is brined, remove them from the brine and discard the liquid.
  • Rinse your trout with cold water to remove the brine from the surface. Failing to do so will result in an overly-salty fish.
  • Pat the fish dry with paper towels or tea towels.
  • Using 2-3 toothpicks per trout, stick them inside the fish cavity to keep it propped open while drying and smoking. Add a small sprig of rosemary into the cavity too
  • Place the trout on a rack to dry for 1-4 hours with a baking sheet underneath to catch the moisture. This step is crucial in developing the sticky pellicle which helps smoke adhere to the flesh. I usually go for 2 hours at cool room temperature, but the refrigerator is probably best.
  • Preheat your Traeger on the 'Smoke' setting for 5 minutes. Or whatever pellet smoker or other type of smoker you're using.
  • Baste the trout inside and out with maple syrup using a pastry brush and place them, with their chest cavities propped open, directly on the grill grates.
  • Set your timer for 1 hour and every hour baste the trout with more maple syrup and check to see if the flesh is flaky.
  • Depending on the size, the smoking will take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 4.
  • Do NOT surpass 4 hours until you are looking to make trout jerky. 
  • Do NOT let the temperate get above 200/220 Fahrenheit, and if it does place a bowl of ice water inside the smoker to regulate it.

Notes

Determining/Calculating the Exact Brine Water Amount:
Take your whole trout or fillets and place them in a glass or plastic dish, bowl, or pan.
Remember, the fish have to be able to be fully submerged in the brine solution so choose your vessel accordingly — as stated, you can use the deep drawers in your refrigerator too.
Pour 1 full measuring cup full of water over the fish, and repeat until they are fully covered and submerged in water.
Did you keep track in your head of how many full cups of water you used? Good. Remember that number. Discard the water, you will be starting with fresh water later.

Nutrition

Calories: 1812kcal | Carbohydrates: 330g | Protein: 75g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 197mg | Sodium: 2265mg | Potassium: 2042mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 311g | Vitamin A: 254IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 542mg | Iron: 8mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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Recipe Rating




47 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Did this recipe on 3/26/23 with great caught lake Sand Bass. It was like eating candy when they were done.
    SOOOO good!
    Since I did 6 fish, I tripled the recipe. I have already been asked for the recipe multiple times and sent this link.

    Thank you for sharing it.

  2. Do you think it would be ok to dry in sealed container in the fridge overnight? I’m trying to avoid setting my alarm for 3 am to set them up to dry for only 4 hours before cooking.

    1. I will say yes — probably! I’ve never tried it but it makes sense. Maybe put next to a box of baking soda to prevent fish smell from getting into any soft foods like butter or cheese. Feel free to update me if it works for you because I’m curious myself and also hate the overnight BBQ prep work.

  3. Pingback: 100+ Keto Summer Recipes! (Low Carb) • Oh Snap! Let's Eat!
  4. Pingback: Smoking whole fish on pellet grill - Taunt On Water
  5. 5 stars
    Great recipe! I used it to smoke a (4) pack of trout from Costco ( I know… that is cheating) on my Traeger Silverton 820 w/ Traeger brand Cherry pellets! I followed your recipe (including the sugar in the brine, and maple syrup basting), and it turned out perfect. I used the super smoke feature along with a smoke tube. Smoking took approximately 2-1/2 hrs.

    Thank you for sharing!!

    1. Do not let the temperate get above 200/220 Fahrenheit, and if it does place a bowl of ice water inside the smoker.

  6. 5 stars
    This sounds fantastic! I have a few questions before I attempt it. I have fresh smaller Rainbow “stockers” in the 6-8oz range. You specify the 2 tablespoons of sugar and tamari amount “per trout”. Should I use this amount for the smaller fish as well or will it be too much? Also can I substitute teriyaki for the tamari?

    Thanks for a great recipe!

    1. Size doesn’t matter here fortunately! It all depends on how much water is actually used to fully submerge the fish you have. And you can sub with teriyaki or leave it out altogether.

  7. Do you know what happens when you add cold water to boiling sugar? I just found out the hard way… maybe wanna put a warning in your recipe.

  8. I never have heard of rinsing the fish and patting dry before. I prefer to let the fish air dry with a small fan over them for several hours, especially if smoking fish in the round. I prop open the cavity with a toothpick or small twig, and let those babies air dry, forming a magnificent glaze which we call the pellicle. Fish will look like they are still soaking wet but actually dry to the touch. Never had bad results with this method.

    1. I do like the fan idea, but I just lack the space to add yet another thing! If I wasn’t in a condo I would definitely do that. It works great with the air drying too, provided the temperatures are decent, you couldn’t do it outside in the summer months.

  9. 5 stars
    Useful information. Lucky me I found your web site by chance, and I am surprised why this twist of fate didn’t came about earlier!
    I bookmarked it.

  10. Loved this trout when I made it! I left out the coconut amino acid/soy sauce however, as I wasn’t sure whether you meant to have it on the ingredients list, as it is not in the instructions (same with the salmon).

    1. Thank you! And I appreciate you letting me know about that oversight so I can fix it, clearly my proofreading and editing failed on that aspect!

  11. Fascinating. Definitely bookmarking this page. Really valuable fishing info, thanks for posting.

  12. So weird. I was just searching for information about this stuff and you popped up. You must be doing something right. Thanks by the way, this really answered some questions I was wondering about.

  13. Great instruction of cooking this grilled Trout. I love this recipe. Thank you for share this.

  14. 5 stars
    Wow ! I’ve never done a whole fish before and the smoked trout is the best in outdoor grill!

  15. 5 stars
    I love smoked fish but have never tried to do it myself before. Thank you for the very thorough & detailed instructions.

  16. 5 stars
    What a fantastic recipe! Seriously looks amazing, and you are making me consider getting a Traeger grill!

  17. 5 stars
    Wo love this post! I’ve made whole hogfish before but never trout! Need to follow your tips and tricks!

  18. 5 stars
    Great recipe and much-needed, thank you! I have never brined fish before! This recipe was needed! 😉 My sister and BIL just got a Traeger, and they are LOVING it, plus they’re pretty machines lol. Pinning this post, and I’ll share it with them too. They fish and hunt but also haven’t brined fish before.

  19. 5 stars
    I love the nature photos you’ve taken — and that’s an amazing fish you’re posing with! I’ve never brined fish before, but I’ve done a bit of pickling with spanish mackerel (for fish dips) I need to try your method. I don’t have a Traeger (yet) but do have a smoker as well as a gas Weber — do you think I could accomplish the same with those?

  20. 5 stars
    Sounds like such a cool experience! All of your notes make it easy for a novice to get this perfect. Thanks for sharing.

  21. 5 stars
    What an amazing experience fishing you own trout and then cook it! I have never gone fishing but now I need to add this to my bucket list. Smoked trout is delicious.

  22. Thanks for this amazing tutorial! My neighbor just got a Traeger, and I can’t wait to try this out. Trout fishing in NC is how I spend time with my dad — he loves it, and we’ve been doing it since I was 3!

  23. 5 stars
    This is such a great tutorial for smoking trout. How great to have a remote secret fishing spot!