- Special Sections
- Public Notices
Some local anglers have had tight lines and full bellies lately, as speckled trout have staged a nice run that will probably provide the best action until fall hits. Specks are being caught right now both from our ocean piers and around their usual inshore haunts. If you like to catch trout, this is the time to go after them, before warmer weather starts to curb their enthusiasm a bit.
Speckled trout are perhaps our most beautiful inshore fish, and the great taste of trout fillets doesn’t hurt their appeal to anglers. They hit a wide variety of baits and lures at different times, although those who target them specifically know their preferences well. Since they are an aggressive schooling fish, you can catch your limit quickly if you are in the right place with the right offerings.
Specks are available year-round in our waters, although they are harder to find when the water temps are get very hard or very cold. They can be notoriously unpredictable and fickle, but at the same time will stage consistent runs in certain places for weeks, usually in the early morning or late afternoon.
It is well known that speckled trout favor the edges of the day. They can often stage a morning bite and then disappear, and if you don't get there early you might not believe they were there at all. Sometimes they will appear suddenly and hit for 30 minutes or an hour, then disappear with maddening disregard for any late-comers.
Except for the biggest trout, which are all female and prefer fish themselves, the main diet of most specks is shrimp. They prefer them frisky and moving around, which is why live shrimp is the number one bait for trout. Live shrimp are expensive, or at least time-consuming if you catch your own. That is why it is not wise to fish them in an area inhabited by bait-stealers such as pinfish, which make them a bad investment.
Right now, anglers are catching specks off local piers using live shrimp suspended beneath floats. These are just bigger versions of the little corks you used to catch bream when you were a kid. The floats keep the shrimp suspended in the feeding zone, where roaming trout are likely to be hunting for them.
Float rigs vary, but the ones used on the pier generally make use of some kind of bobber-stopper to keep the bait in the right place. These can be store bought, or homemade goods like dental floss can be used. When a trout hits a live shrimp, the float usually just disappears and the fight is on.
Getting a trout, especially one of any size, up to a pier’s decks can be tricky. The family name of weakfish comes not from any deficiency in fighting ability but from a trout’s paper-thin mouth. Many specks fall off on the way up to the pier, practicing their own brand of catch-and-release. A pier net is handy when a really big trout is on the line.
Although live shrimp is the closest you get to a sure thing when targeting trout (there are no sure things when targeting trout), specks are also celebrated because they readily hit artificial lures. There is also a good trout bite going on inshore right now, and many of these anglers find it easier to target their quarry this way. If you don’t have live shrimp or don’t want to go to the trouble of getting them, you can still catch specks.
Trout have always been known for hitting a wide-variety of lures, and the choices these days can be bewildering. Most, however, are just variations on two old themes: plugs or jig and grub combinations.
Plugs like MirrOlures have always been favorites among trout fishermen, and there are plugs of every different style and color out there now for use on specks. Plugs give an angler great casting weight for long throws and target mostly keeper-size and larger fish. Catching big trout with a plug is great fun, as they really hammer the lure, but you have to take care to keep a light drag and have that net handy if you want to get them into the cooler.
The other traditional speck offering is a jig and grub combo. At one time, most anglers went after specks armed with green grubs impaled on red lead jig heads. That still works just fine in many instances, but those after trout now have many more choices. Synthetic baits that closely replicate the feel and smell of live bait (such as the Gulp brand) are now used almost exclusively by many speck fans. Also seen more and more are shrimp-like grubs, which have become so lifelike you might be tempted just to forget the fishing and throw them on the grill.
You never use a very fast retrieve for a speckled trout, although this time of the year they will hit lures fished at a quicker pace than in the late summer or in winter. You can vary what you do, and many folks employ a pull-and-pause method similar to fishing a plastic worm for largemouth bass, while others just throw a jerk or two into their retrieve.
Trout can give anglers fits as to what color or style of lure they will hit at any certain time, although since they seem to be in a feeding mood, now is the time to go after them. If you are going to try live shrimp from a pier for the first time, it is best to go up on the planks and observe how the experienced anglers do it. This will also help you observe how the floats are rigged and used, and no one will mind you watching as long as you don’t get in the way.
Speckled trout have to be 12 inches long to keep. If you are lucky enough to get there, you can keep 10 a day. Right now seems to be a great time to go after them: just make your choice between shrimp and lures, ocean and inshore and get to it. You don’t look a gift-horse in the mouth and you don’t question a trout when it is in a hitting mood.
JEFFREY WEEKS is a fishing columnist for the Beacon. Reach him at email@example.com.