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The weather remains hot and dry but the fish haven’t yet gone into the typical summertime pattern and are still very active. The last two weeks have featured a renewed speckled trout bite in addition to continued good action on flounder and redfish. Trout anglers are scoring with live bait at the jetties, piers and bridges.
Live shrimp is the most successful bait for enticing big numbers of speckled trout. That is because until they reach a large size, live shrimp make up the bulk of a trout’s daily diet. Usually if the specks are not hitting live shrimp, they are not there.
One of the difficulties in fishing live shrimp is that everything else in the sea loves it, too, including pesky baitstealers like pinfish and small croaker. So most veteran trout anglers like to use a float rig when fishing live shrimp, to keep it up in the water column in the trout’s feeding zone and away from small bottom fish.
Float rigs work great when fished from piers, around bridges, near jetties or close to any trout-attracting structure. Most anglers use a slip rig so they can easily adjust the depth. When a trout hits a shrimp on the float rig, the float simply disappears. You set the hook with a J-hook, treble hook or Kahle-style hook but not with a circle hook (setting the hook with a circle hook will pull the hook out of the trout’s mouth).
Live shrimp are available for sale at some piers and tackle stores although fishermen gather most of the shrimp themselves with cast nets. Hook the shrimp through the tail or the top of the head, but make sure you do not pierce the dark brain matter or the shrimp will die quickly. When using a float rig, popping corks are popular and successful as long as you keep the popping down to about one or two pops a minute.
Studies have shown that when big female speckled trout reach a certain size they begin to eat more fish than shrimp. This makes sense, because large trout are less active and more “lazy” (especially during the summer) and a big baitfish can make half a day’s food for them. Anglers looking for big trout choose their baits accordingly.
Trout anglers sometimes fish minnows under a float, but you will also see them use a lot of bottom rigs. You should try to use as little weight as you can get away with. A standard fishfinder rig with an egg sinker (or at least some sort of sliding sinker setup) is best for this. Never buy wire leaders at the store as wire cuts down on trout bites.
Mud minnows can be purchased at the tackle stores or caught in the shallows and make good trout bait. If you can find the tiger-sided type of killifish, they are very hearty and dynamic on the hook and will draw trout in. Hook mud minnows through the lips. Mud minnows don’t get very large as a rule, however, and are not the best bait for big trout.
Finger mullet are a popular trout bait, and if you want really big trout, you can even size up to the mullet, which are a bit larger than finger-size. Corncob-size mullet not too big can be the perfect bait for attracting large female lunker trout. Hook a mullet through the eye sockets or just above.
Some of the best baits for big trout are small pinfish, spot and croaker. You can catch these in your cast net or on a rod and reel with small cut hooks and cut bait. Serious trout anglers have long known these bottom panfish are beloved by large female trout. Hook these baits through the eyes and hold onto your rod if big speckled trout are cruising nearby.