BoatUS ANGLER: Fishing Tactics
Tips and Tactics for Speckled Trout
by Capt. Bill Lake, Bayou Guide Service
No one will argue that the speckled trout is one of the premiere game fish in South Louisiana! Not only is it great table fare but it is a terrific topwater fighter! When hooked, it will give you quite a show as it dances & thrashes wildly on the surface as it attempts to regain its freedom. Speckled trout are known by many different names such as spotted sea trout, specks, yellow-mouths, and paper-mouths.
"Specks" are found throughout the entire gulf coast and are easily identified. They are silver in color with olive-green tints on the back and numerous small black dots which extend over the dorsal fin and into the tail. The lower jaw is larger than the upper jaw which has two prominent canine teeth. In general, specks have an elongated body with a large mouth. The diet of speckled trout consists of small crustaceans, shrimp, and small fish such as pogies and croakers. The average size is 14-18" and weigh 1-3 lbs. Specks like shallow coastal areas near sandy and mud bottoms. South Louisiana has abundant bays and lakes that fit this description. Our estuaries are among the best throughout the entire gulf coast!
Summertime Fishing For Speckled Trout
The months of May, June, and July, are by far the best time to catch specks. Speckled trout start moving into our estuaries in April and the summer months provide non-stop action. This is their reproductive season & the only thing on their mind is "FEEDING"! This is when you will find large schools of hungry specks in the coastal bays & all along the barrier islands located south of Cocodrie. We have many fishing techniques you can use such as drift fishing, bottom fishing, surf fishing and wading. I like to utilize all four techniques, but I think drifting is more productive in the summer months.
DRIFT FISHING occurs over oyster beds, sand flats, rocky bottoms, and mostly near the numerous oilfield tank batteries and other related structures. My bait of choice would be a tandem rigged artificial Cocahoe minnow or split-tail beetle. To locate the specks, start at the surface and work your way to the bottom. Depending on the conditions (wind & current), the fish may be holding near the surface or suspended at mid level depths. If rough, specks will tend to congregate near or on the bottom.
BOTTOM FISHING with live baitfish such as croakers, pogies or menhaden, live shrimp and live killifish Cocahoe minnows) is also very productive. This is one of my favorite types of fishing as I'm a firm believer that this is the way to catch your trophy speckled trout! I like to fish with a no. 5 or 6 kale hook for the larger trout. Hook the baitfish through the lips or dorsal fin. Do not use any weight & let the baitfish swim as free as possible. If you're fishing in deep water or in shallow water where the current is too strong, use a Carolina rig with a small weight(1/4 or 1/2 oz.) to help hold the baitfish on the bottom. I promise you won't have a very long wait for the fish to find your bait! Try to concentrate your bottom fishing around the deeper oilfield structures in the open gulf or inland bays for best success.
WADING AND SURF FISHING is very popular & productive along south Louisiana's barrier islands. Timbalier and Last Islands are located south of Cocodrie, La. Specks are very abundant all along the chain of islands & can be caught in great numbers on the gulf side as well as the back side. I prefer to fish the gulf side & whether you wade or cast from your boat, keep in mind most of the fish will be located in the "GUTS" off the beach. This is a gully of slightly deeper water that is located usually between the first and second sand bars. The depth is usually 3-6 ft. and these guts run parallel to the beach. Speckled trout and numerous other game fish use these guts to travel along the beach while feeding. When fishing the surf, you need to learn how to "READ THE WATER"!
What I mean by this is to look for signs of game fish that may be present. Some examples would be, starting with the most obvious, is feeding sea-gulls. Find the feeding gulls and specks are sure to be present. Feeding pelicans are another dead give-away. Schools of hungry specks are feeding on the shrimp or baitfish sending them fleeing to the surface to escape. Another sign of feeding specks are called "SLICKS". These oil slicks floating on the surface are caused by the active feeding of game fish and regurgitation of baitfish. You will usually detect a sweet smell near the slicks. Fishing under and around these slicks are very productive for specks as most fish will be caught on the bottom as they wait for injured baitfish and/or the remains of baitfish falling from the surface. The best way to fish the birds or the slicks is to quietly drift or wade into the area being extra careful not to disturb the feeding fish. If you're in a boat equipped with a trolling motor, use it instead of running your outboard! The best lures to use in the surf are top-dog Mirr-o-lures, Johnson spoons, Zara Spooks, Ripplin’ Redfins, 52-M18 Mirr-o-lures, plastic Cocahoe minnows and live bait is always an option. Also fish any cuts, washouts or points with moving water all along the island chain. Pay particular attention just inside and outside of the tidal passes as these areas consistently hold great numbers of specks.
Winter Fishing for Speckled Trout
August and September are known as transition months for speckled trout in south Louisiana. The spawning season is over and the large schools of specks have broken apart. Specks start to migrate to the inland marsh, bays, lakes and the numerous pipeline canals and bayous. I love this time of the year because you don't have to travel far in search of fish. Specks will spend most of the winter months in the deeper canals and bayous as October through March is prime time! The techniques used for winter time speck fishing is quite different from the summer. Specks cannot tolerate the cold water as well as other game fish. As the temperature drops, they will move into the deeper "HOLES" seeking warmer water. Their metabolism slows and they are not aggressive in their feeding habits. Dead-end pipeline canals, or "POCKETS" as we call them, are usually the best areas to fish for winter specks.
I use a single artificial Cocahoe minnow on a 1/8 or 1/4 oz. jig head and work it along the bottom. The secret is to work it as slow as possible. The best colors are tuxedo, black/chartreuse, smoke/chartreuse and avocado. Do not expect a violent strike, but rather a gentle twitch. Watch your line closely and look for a slight movement to the left or right. Slack in your line might also indicate a fish is present. When you feel something out of the ordinary, set the hook firm but gentle. Remember, specks have delicate mouths and are easily torn by the hooks. Setting the drag properly is very important as you want the speck to run a bit, rather than have the drag too tight, resulting in the fish tearing its mouth.
Another thing to be aware of is that specks are sight feeders. You will need to locate good clean silt free water to be successful. Clean water can be hard to find in the winter months. Cold fronts play a major role in winter time fishing. With the passage of a cold front, the winds usually blow 20-30 mph for a few days. The combination of wind and extremely low tides will have the inland waterways looking like chocolate. It is extremely hard to catch specks in these conditions. As a rule, I usually don't fish until the third day after the passage of the cold front. By then the conditions have returned to near normal, making for a great day on the water! Now you should have a very good idea on how to get your share of speckled trout "SOUTH LOUISIANA STYLE" ! Take care on the water and good luck fishing!Capt. Bill Lake
Bayou Guide Service
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